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Is Brabham's T92 the best M3 yet?

2009-06-10 08:16
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer BMW
Model T92
Engine 4.4l V8
Power 373kW @ 8 300r/min
Torque 480Nm @ 5 700r/min
Transmission Six-speed manual
Top Speed 302km/h
Tyres 265/35R19 and 315/30R19
It's no secret many BMW acolytes are disappointed by the Bavarian manufacturer’s decision not to expand the current E92 M3 range with a stripped out, manic, CSL derivative.

Thanks to a German banker and car fanatic with a strong sense of BMW’s motorsport heritage, you can now have the closest thing to a contemporary E92 CSL.

Built by Brabham Racing, the moniker reads T92. It retails for a rather embarrassing to explain $310 000 and will be limited to 50 units.

Not your average aftermarket converted BMW then? Indeed, this is hardly a wheelspacer and ECU chip job. Not even nearly.

What's in a name?

Brabham Racing? In Germany? Indeed, the confluence of location and branding seems at odds.

But Sir Jack Brabham (the robust, Australian triple F1 world champion) did run a moderately successful F1 team back in the day, with cars designed by Durbanite Gordon Murray and powered with BMW engines.

In 1983 Sir Jack’s BT52 F1 racer fully captured the imagination of a young Michael Trick. A quarter century later, Trick has a roadcar to pay homage to the Brabham name.

Sir Jack though, is not the least bit happy about it, despite having no legal recourse. Bernie Ecclestone (he’s always involved, isn’t he?), who owned the Brabham team, never told Jack to renew the naming rights when he left Brabham to head on to greater mischief as F1's boss.

Just cast an eye along the lines which curve around the rear wheelarch - has any BMW ever looked quite as menacing?

Naturally aspirated narcissism

Michael Trick bought the German naming rights to Brabham in 2004, and the global rights a year later. This set about an engineering and design obsession which has rendered quite possibly the greatest naturally aspirated BMW M3 ever built.

From the outset Trick did not want to transplant the M-division's larger 5l V10 engine to create a simple M3 hotrod, design purity and engineering excellence were to be the guiding principles.

Engine development for the Brabham T92 took two years, which is hardly surprising when you consider the expertise BMW’s M division has access too. Improving on perfection is hardly the work of a moment.

If Pierre Spies was a car, he would be a Brabham T92.

Responsible for the T92’s sinister 4.4l V8 engine is a man mythically destined for the job. Oliver Nowack is a Nürburgring native, and plied his mechanical engineering trade as a BMW tuner for as long as he can remember.

Oliver’s father, in a stroke of serendipitous irony, was mentor to probably the greatest engine designer of the late 20th century - Paul Roche.

"Camshaft" Paul, as Roche is affectionately known, was responsible for BMW’s apocalyptic turbocharged F1 engines, and the 6.1l V12 which powered Gordon Murray’s F1 roadcar.

BMW power, the old school way

Oliver stubbornly applied himself to the Trick's problem - how to improve the M3's V8 without forced induction or melting the internals. First off, he increased internal architecture of the M3’s stock 4l V8 by adding 1.3mm of bore and 5mm of stroke, rendering a new swept capacity of 4.4l.

To balance the increased loads the additional engine capacity would render, pretty much all moving parts were re-engineered.

A new forged crank, accommodating low-friction pistons, and radically reprofiled camshafts, driving 0.5mm larger valves operating in a significantly flow optimised cylinder head, were key elements contributing to the T92's M5 rivalling power figures.

Modified throttle bodies and a four-into-one custom Stüber exhaust are all dictated by a delicately reprogrammed ECU unit.

With new hydraulic lifters the rev limit has gone into the rarefied engine speed void beyond 8 000r/min, where only Ferraris and Honda S2000s have traditionally operated. Producing 373kW at a conrod snapping 8 300r/min, Nowack’s Brabham engine is simply one immoral piece of German engineering.

Rotational force peaks at 480Nm, and Trick says if you are agile enough with the six-speed manual gearbox off the line, a 0-100km/h sprint under four seconds is well within the realm of the T92’s capabilities.

Hardly surprising then, to hear Brabham Racing intends to break the lap record at the Nürburgring modified production cars, set at 7:20 by a 2009 Dodge Viper ACR, last year.

BMW M5 V10 power in a M3 chassis, with naturally aspirated, 8 500r/min acoustics. How long do you think you'll keep your license with a car like this on roads like that?

Mad carbon-fibre bodykit - and wheels too

Beyond the malevolence of the engine conversion, T92’s bodykit and wheels render simply the most outlandish M3 façade imaginable.

The wheelarches are so bulbous, it appears Brabham left a prototype T92 in the desert and when it had morphed in the sun to their satisfaction, recollected the car and pronounced the styling a superb fit.

One can understand the reasoning behind the generously expanded wheelarches after perusing the specification sheet and duly noting T92 rolls on Dunlop’s finest, in the form of 315/30 profile Sport Maxx GTs on the rear axle.

Whereas BMW’s stock M3 has an eloquent power dome adding some curvature to the bonnet, Brabham’s T92 features an unashamed power bulge of pornographic proportions.

Around the rear, BMW's standard bumper has been binned in favour of something more accommodating of the Stüber exhaust's massive dual ends.

But those wheels are likely to leave many fans weak at the knees. With their 19-inch diameter, it's clear Trick wanted them to be of a dynamically functional size, rather than being silly 21-inchers.

Their exquisite forged two-piece alloy construction, embellished with nine-blade carbon-fibre spokes, is simply otherworldly.

Keeping the alloy/carbon-fibre wheels in place is a Neuefeind coil-over damper set, with specially calibrated anti-roll bars to contain dynamic loads.

Wheels are in fact two-piece alloys, decorated with nine carbon-fibre blades. Brabham will be offering one-piece solutions soon.

Hiding behind the mags are hugely impressive stoppers.

Measuring 380mm on the front axle and 350mm aft, the monobloc discs are actuated by six-pot calipers. T92 should stop with the suddenness of a heart attack, especially considering the carbon-fibre bodykit has trimmed 150kg of mass.

Interior refinements include a liberal application of leather and Alcantara to all non-buttoned or switch-void surfaces.

Realistically though, when have a 4.4l V8 up front, revving to 8 500r/min and striking crescendo through an exhaust system with oil-pipeline diameter plumbing, the last thing you’ll notice is whether the sunglasses holder is Alcantara trimmed.

Sir Jack might be a very unhappy chappy about a German company using his name, but in terms of performance and heritage, Michael Tick’s Brabham T92 does absolutely nothing to bring the Brabham name into disrepute.



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