In 1983, BMW became the first turbo world champion in the first class. In part 7 of our series, journalist and former BMW spokesman Uwe Mahla writes about why Brabham-BMW had the fastest car in the last race for the title.
In addition to the tragedy of the personal reasons for the failure of the driver of Brabham-BMW Nelson Piquet, such as a blocked air intake, a clogged injection valve, a broken gas cable or a bump from Alain Prost, it can be said: until late. The 1983 Grand Prix season saw title contenders René Arnoux (Ferrari), Alain Prost (Renault) and Piquet close at the highest level. Three stars, racing cars and engines seemed to be the same.
From the Zandvoort race onwards, however, it was clear that Nelson was slightly ahead of the other protagonists. While in the Dutch mountains he could not show his superiority despite the extreme position because – as indicated – Prost agreed to beat the opponent. But some quality could not be ignored. What happened?
Former BMW engine pope Paul Rosche recalls: “The problem was the high-speed squeal. Like Ferrari and Renault, we realized that we could somehow get extra performance through fuel.”
“Like them, we first tried water injection, but we quickly reached the limit.” In typical Rosche fashion, the original Mwambavarian composed: “When we increased the amount of water from one to two, then to three and finally to four percent, there was a great explosion – then we knew that water does not burn.”
The train of thought was: No high-speed crank equals high boost pressure equals high performance. So the BMW technicians went looking for fuel that was just a little, but definitely below the octane limit specified by the regulations.
Together with experts in this field, they managed to create such an oil, which unfortunately did not contain lead. The official fuel analysis after the official demonstration from the competition proved without a doubt that the BMW felt the limit very accurately and observed.
The work of genius, in which they had discovered the possibility of fuel regulations without the same compromises as their counterparts in the areas of chassis and engine technology, was to be the final part of the picture of a winning Formula 1 racing car.
In the next episode, read how Nelson Piquet drove at Monza.