The Beast of Bourne.
Most people pass right by the "unlovely, unloved" BRM (as Steve Smith refers to it) as they click through their menu of car choices in GPL. After all, who wants to drive an "overweight loser"? (Steve Smith again)
But these folks are making a mistake, in my humble opinion. The BRM is a fascinating car. With a good setup, it's a blast to drive. Interestingly, it has a significant strategic advantage which, if you can capitalize on it, makes it possible to beat considerably faster cars.
And it's not all that slow, either; my quick times in the BRM at a number of tracks are faster than my best times in the Coventry and Murasama.
BRM's most successful car was the 1.5 liter V-8 of the early 60's. This car won the world championship in the hands of Graham Hill in 1962, and was the car which was most often competitive against the dominant Lotus the remaining years of the 1.5 liter formula. The BRM's V-8 engine was superb; indeed, a number of privateers ran Lotus chassis fitted with the BRM V-8 with some success.
For the 3 liter formula in 1966, BRM's Tony Rudd had the clever idea of adapting the successful V-8 to the new formula. Using a new crankcase, BRM flattened two V-8's into flat 8's and stacked one on top of the other, gearing them together to make an H-16.
This creative approach resulted in a powerful engine, but the engine had some serious drawbacks. It was heavy, and with the upper crankshaft way up there at the top of the engine, its center of gravity was very high. It was complicated, a nightmare to maintain. And it had a very narrow power band compared to its contemporaries.
Despite these problems, the engine can't be considered a complete failure. With the H-16 in a Lotus chassis that was considerably lighter than BRM's chassis, Jim Clark won the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen in 1966.
Jackie Stewart had some competitive runs with the H-16 in 1967. He was leading eventual winner Dan Gurney at Spa and might have taken away the Eagle's only Grand Prix win but for a transmission failure.
A big reason for the BRM's lack of success was the fact that it rarely ran well. But we don't have to cope with the real H-16's annoying reliability problems; in GPL, as long as you don't over-rev it, the H-16 seems quite robust.
Actually, although the data sheet in the Team and Player menus gives a redline of 10,000 for the H-16, I routinely run it to 10,500 with no problems. GPL doesn't seem to register engine damage until you get within 500 rpm of the rev limiter, and 10,500 is still more than 500 rpm below the point at which the BRM's rev limiter kicks in. It seems to make more and more power the higher it revs, and this extra 500 rpm gives it a reasonably broad power band, requiring less shifting.
Coupled with a short-wheelbase chassis, the BRM's massive engine actually presents some unique advantages in GPL. With all that weight concentrated high over the rear wheels - and weight transfer towards the rear aided by a short wheelbase - the BRM is almost a top fuel dragster off the line. If you can qualify the BRM on the front row, and get the revs and wheelspin right, you will leave all the other cars in your dust. The BRM warms up its tires fast too, and if you do an aggressive first lap it will be a while before anyone catches you.
And then they'll still have to get by you. With superb traction out of the corners, good top speed thanks to its power, and excellent brakes, the BRM is not an easy car to pass.
The BRM's braking deserves some note. With all that weight in the rear, the car has more evenly balanced weight distribution under braking than any other car. While my setups for the other cars have front brake bias set somewhere around 57 to 58%, my BRM setups are at 53%. This means that all four tires are working closer to their optimum, so even though it has more weight to haul down, the BRM has braking distances among the shortest of all the cars.
The excellent traction afforded by the BRM's weight distribution also minimizes one of the major difficulties in coming to grips with the GP cars in GPL: wheelspin. With the BRM, you can mash the throttle to the floor much earlier out of slow corners than with most other cars, and the BRM just lays that power to the road and goes.
Although it's very powerful - within 7 hp of the Murasama, the BRM is the heaviest car in GPL. It's almost 70 pounds heavier than the massive Murasama, and 275 pounds heavier than the lightweight Lotus and Brabham! This weight hurts it in the corners and in mid-range acceleration.
Also, crucially for its acceptance among GPL drivers, the BRM's mass and high center of gravity present unique problems in setup. I have yet to see setups by anyone else - default setups included - which do not allow the BRM's rear suspension to bottom hard in corners and under acceleration.
The result is a car that is prone to snap oversteer, and which is very difficult to recover from a slide once it has passed a certain slip angle. An evil-handling car, in other words.
But this can be cured.
For more details on my setup philosophy and what happens when the suspension goes onto the bump stops, see my Coventry discussion and my setup tips.
I explored techniques for coping with a heavy car's tendency to bottom its suspension when I developed the Murasama setups, but the BRM's high center of gravity forced me to even more extreme measures. While the Murasama required GPL's maximum spring rates front and rear and fairly stiff anti-roll bar settings to keep it off the stops at my preferred ride heights of 2.5" front and 2.75" rear, even that wasn't enough for the the BRM.
For most tracks, I've had to run the BRM's anti-roll bars to the maximum of 200 lbs./in. at the front and 180 at the rear, and at some tracks I've also had to raise the ride height. I prefer to keep the ride height low to minimize weight transfer, but higher ride height is preferable to bottoming due to the severe destabilization that occurs when the outside rear suspension goes onto the bump stop in a corner.
My setup philosophy has evolved in other ways since I developed my Coventry and Murasama setups. With my earlier setups, I used a slow steering ratio because I wanted to slow things down, make the car behave more calmly, to help me with the learning process.
However, with the BRM I've gone to faster steering ratio, 15:1 instead of 18:1, because this allows me to respond more quickly when the car starts to get sideways. Because its short wheelbase allows it to rotate more quickly, this is important.
These days I'm setting my nonlinearity slider at about 25% nonlinear (i.e. about a quarter of the way from the left end of the slot) rather than leaving it in the middle, at the default position. This reduces the dead zone around the center and also allows me to respond more quickly when I need to. Note that I'm using a wheel with about 270 degrees of rotation; if you use a different type of controller, you may need to use a different linearity setting.
Since I'm smoother on the brakes and turning in now, I can handle brake bias more to the front, which is more efficient. This is important for slowing down the heavy BRM.
I've gone to 19 psi at the front tires at all tracks; at 18 psi, the BRM just mashes those poor front tires down, and we don't get enough help from them in controlling chassis roll to keep the rear suspension off the bump stops.
Last, I've eliminated the asymmetrical camber I used in my earlier setups. I now use the same cambers left and right on almost all my setups. This may give away a small amount of mid-corner grip on right-hand corners, but I've decided that this is more than offset by improved braking stability and shorter braking distances, as well as enhanced traction under acceleration.
With these setups, the BRM rocks. On circuits which suit it, the BRM is ferocious, clearly competitive with the Murasama and Coventry in terms of lap times, and not far away from the Brabham and Ferrari. I've had some great duels on VROC driving the BRM against drivers in all of these cars, drivers who are typically about as quick as I am in equal cars. I've even beaten some Lotus and Eagles.
Compare my best BRM times below with my best times for the Coventry and Murasama.
Mexico City 1:52.98
Watkins Glen 1:07.57
As you can see, the BRM is best on fast circuits like Rouen and circuits which emphasize acceleration and braking, such as Silverstone and Kyalami. It's also surprisingly quick at twisty places like Mexico and Zandvoort.
When the going gets vertical, though, the BRM isn't happy. After some hard work on the setup and my driving technique, I managed a reasonable time for Mosport. I learned that I had to be careful to have the car totally straight when cresting the rise at the end of Andretti straight. If the BRM is the slightest bit sideways when it goes light over a hump, you're off the track in a flash. The Beast does indeed have a darker side.
The problem is much worse at The Ring. I gave up there after numerous crashes, although with more practice I'm sure I could do better.
As I said above, if you can put the BRM on the front row of the grid, when the flag drops you are gone. It's amazing how fast those other cars become specks in your mirrors. A fast driver will catch you eventually, but then, they still have to get past.
I feel the BRM is great preparation for the "glamour" cars. It's more challenging than the Coventry and Murasama, and I recommend you get comfortable with them first. Once you're ready for its quick response, the BRM's excellent traction reduces one of the major challenges of driving GPL's powerful GP cars - controlling wheelspin - and allows you to concentrate on smoothness and consistency in braking, turn-in, and shifting.
Kept off its bump rubbers, the BRM handles beautifully. It's smooth, precise, and responsive, its short wheelbase giving it much faster reactions and a more responsive feel than the Coventry and Murasama. It's good training for the lighter cars like the Ferrari and Lotus because it's so responsive.
You have to respect the BRM, however, because if you turn in abruptly or otherwise get it too far sideways it won't come back. All that mass out there in the back acts like a big pendulum; once you get it swinging, it's hard to stop it. Smoothness is important.
Also, even if the rear suspension doesn't bottom, the BRM is so heavy that it heats up its tires quickly, and when they get too hot their grip goes away. I believe it's possible in a long, banked, high-G corner (Stavelot at Spa is an example) to overheat the outside rear tire in a slide to the point where it goes off. When that happens, you're going for a spin.
With the BRM, you have to be consistent with your braking points. Unlike the Coventry, if you get in too deep, you can't just chuck it sideways and scrub off speed. The BRM is so heavy it will just keep on slidin'. It's much happier if you slow it down with the brakes.
Incidentally, as I mentioned above, I'm using a brake bias setting that is quite far to the rear. This is essential to get good braking distances with the BRM, but it means you have to be careful to modulate your braking so you don't lock the rears, especially if you continue braking after you turn in. If the car is getting sideways under braking, you're braking too hard. You'll find that you need to ease up on the brakes as you turn in [see the footnote], but if you do it just right, the forward weight transfer will help you rotate the car and get the nose down to the apex.
While you're adapting to the BRM, you might want to back off on the brake bias, moving it more to the front a click or two. However, once you get used to the BRM, try to develop the control necessary to brake smoothly with my brake bias settings. This skill will stand you in good stead when you move to the lighter cars.
You're also going to have to shift more than with the other cars. The bizarre left-handed six speed gearbox took me some getting used to. It's important to shift properly so as to keep the engine in the power band, because it's gutless below about 9,000 rpm (the Cosworth's redline!), but once it comes on the cam, that H-16 hauls!
If you respect it, are smooth and precise, and work hard to get the most out of it, the BRM is a delight. Perhaps the BRM's best circuit is Silverstone (how appropriate!), where its traction and braking get it in and out of the many 3rd gear corners with alacrity.
The Beast is also wonderful at Spa and Rouen. I can't think of many greater sensual pleasures in GPL than hurling the BRM around Rouen, mashing the throttle, rowing up through the gears, wailing up the hill through the trees, flinging it around the long glorious undulating corners.
The "BRM" sound that comes with GPL is one of the better engine sounds in GPL, but now there is a much better, more authentic sound available. A very clever fellow named Patrick has adapted a recording of Nick Mason's 1953 BRM 2.5 liter V-16 to work with GPL.
You can download Patrick's sounds from his site. I highly recommend all of them, but the BRM is really special. With a good sound card connected to a good home stereo system, and the volume on "realistic", it's positively spine-tingling.
One more reason to try to tame the Beast of Bourne.
I just wanted to drop you a note to say "Thanks" for giving my already-high keeness with GPL a big boost. I downloaded your setups for the BRM, which, up until now, I always classified as a truck!! :o)
Over the past week I have parked my Brabham in the garage and have been belting the BRM around Spa, the 'Ring, Silverstone and Rouen.
Great fun....and a totally transformed package. with Patrick's brilliant engine sound the BRM now is a delight to drive.
- Bruce Kennewell
Kudos on your BRM setups. I just gave Spa a go- my first timed lap was a 3:23.59, which will place me at the top of the BRM class on Schubi's fastlap board. Played around for a few minutes at Silverstone. Here I can brake later and accelerate earlier in your BRM than in any other car! Sub 1:30 should not be difficult. Thanks, I continue to learn from your wonderful setups.
- Eric Forster
Thanks for providing your insight into setting up the BRM..A car that is greatly unappreciated at this time.
- Jason Crossley
On to the BRM setups. They're fantastic! Well at least at Spa. It's my favorite so I went there first. I made no changes to your setup. I don't "hotlap" or "powershift," (it's a bad habit that I find hard to break when racing.) My first timed lap was 3:27.62 and the next was 3:25.73. When I nail a lap, I'm sure it will be in the low 3:24 range. I stopped there to go on-line and write this note because I just had to once again express my appreciation for all your efforts. Thank you so much! You make GPL much more enjoyable for me.
- Rick Boyd
I was on your site to pick up a few setups for GPL as I was racing against a friend of mine that considers himself and expert in any car racing sim.
I have been studying to pass the the last three exams out of 11 for the Toronto Bar and didn't have time to create my own custom set-up. Instead I used your BRM Monza set-up and was able to leave him behind in the dust.
- Glenn Williams
Very nice setups! And when using the wonderful new engine sound, also BRM started being a decent racing car. I enjoyed a lot driving in Monza and Zanvoort. And also Alison's explanation of the car, its characteristics and the setups were very enlightning. I could really feel the heavyness, short wheelbase, etc.
Thank you Alison for making also BRM an interesting choice in GPL!
These are fantastic set-ups. I love the BRM (for totally not-racing reasons) and now at last, I may not be winning too many races but I am competing!
Once again, thanks for the great set-ups...those of you who have steered clear of the BRM really ought to try it once more with these set-ups.
- Jeffery Tinney
The BRM is a good car and Alison's set-up are very good. I've altered a few things just to suit my driving style i.e. toe in and toe out plus I raised 1st ( because if you needed to use it I found it spun around; probably just me). Some times: Spa 3:20.63, Mosport 1:24.65, Glen 1:06.15, Kyalami 1:22.04, Rouen 201.
- Rick Pryddon
Alison's BRM Race Setups (3/1/98 - 5 kb) - Race setups for the BRM.
These setups go into the setups folder under your GPL players folder. For example, my setups folder is:
This setup collection was zipped with the paths to the track folders included. You can simply unzip the entire archive into your setups folder.
Note that these are setups for the GP car. It is possible to use them for the Trainers, although you'll need to rework the gearing.
To use a GP setup for a trainer, you simply need to change the filename extension. GP setups use an extension ending in 1, while the Advanced Trainer and Basic Trainer's setups end in 2 and 3, respectively.
Thus, to use my BRM Monza GP setup for the Advanced Trainer, create a copy of Ali_BRM_Monza.br1 and rename it to Ali_BRM_Monza.br2. Then revise the gearing to be appropriate for the lower redline of the Advanced Trainer engine.
See my Setups page to download my setups for other cars.
The technique of continuing to brake while turning, easing off the brake just the right amount to aid turn-in, is called "trail braking". It's a technique that was pioneered by Jim Clark and is taught in most racing schools today. It's more efficient than the old technique of braking in a straight line, and getting off the brakes before turning in, because it "fills the friction circle" - a concept introduced by Mark Donahue to (among other things) help understand why trail braking works so well.
For more information about these concepts, read Carroll Smith's Drive to Win, Paul Van Valkenburgh's Race Car Engineering and Mechanics, and Going Faster by Carl Lopez, all available from Amazon.com.