The BRM Type 15 was a famous – perhaps notorious – Formula One racing car of the early 1950s, and the first car ever produced by the British Racing Motors consortium. The car was fitted with a revolutionary supercharged 1.5 litre V16 engine which produced considerably more power than any of its contemporaries. In addition the incredible noise of the car made it a favourite with crowds wherever it appeared, despite many disappointing race performances.
BRM founder Raymond Mays floated the idea of an all-British racing car project a couple of months before the end of the Second World War, and in July 1947 the British Motor Racing Research Trust was formed with the V16 engine already under development with designers Peter Berthon and Eric Richter expecting 500 bhp and at least 12,000rpm from their design. Mays had access to several of the Mercedes and Auto Union designs that had dominated racing in the late 1930s, as well as other relevant German wartime technology. Mays then set about persuading British engineering businesses of the merits of being associated with the project and in all more than a hundred companies backed the project with cash and help in kind in the form of parts, access to testing equipment and technical information. This led to an organisational nightmare which, combined with the difficult financial conditions of post-war Britain, meant that the first car was not ready to start running until December 1949. The car's first appearance at a race meeting came in a demonstration run at the 1950 British Grand Prix.
Racing at last
The first race entry for a Type 15 did not come until August 1950 with two cars down to take part in the Daily Express International Trophy at Silverstone. The much anticipated debut by the new machines could not have gone much worse. Of the two cars only Raymond Sommer's car was fit to make the start, and suffered a driveshaft failure off the grid, ending its involvement on lap one.
The car's second race meeting at Goodwood at the end of September was considerably more encouraging, with Reg Parnell winning both races against reasonable fields.
Stirling Moss later spoke of the Type 15 and did not have warm feelings of the experience of racing it; he called the car "without doubt the worst car I ever sat in- it was a disgrace."
Formula 1 World Championship
The BRM Type 15 competed in two Grands Prix valid for the World Championship: the 1951 British Grand Prix (where the car scored points with a fifth placed finish); and the 1951 Italian Grand Prix. That turned to be its last race in the World Championship as the rules were changed to Formula Two regulations for the 1952 season.