The buzz ahead of the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year has been the return to running of the iconic 2009 championship winning car – the 2.4 litre, V8 Brawn GP BGP001. The 002 chassis that Jenson drove, owned by Ross Brawn, and stored safely away in his garage up until very recently, has been brought back to life by D3 Racing Solutions, along with a little help from some old friends. In the second of her pieces from the event, Sarah Merritt caught up with Frazer Deane of D3 Racing, the man who Ross entrusted with the task of breathing life back into this beautiful car for Goodwood.
Frazer, it’s great to be able to grab some of your time here at Goodwood as I know you are very busy with the car. Can you tell us how it was you came to be involved in this project?
“Mercedes heard that Ross wanted to run the car and my name was put forward. I was invited over to Ross’s house and he took me to see his private collection, and it was then that I first saw the car, sitting in the corner, under a cover, and it all started from there.
I’m a very particular person, and I like everything has to be done correctly, so for me to be involved, I really wanted the best people on the project too. I know so many people, on all sides of Formula 1, engineering, design, so I was able to talk to some – I approached Nathan (Divey, Lewis Hamilton’s number 1 mechanic, who had previously worked at Honda, and then Brawn as number 1 for Rubens Barichello) and said “do you want to come and help me run the Brawn?”, and he said “of course I do!” A few other people came out of the woodwork too, and were keen to get on board – obviously if it wasn’t for that car, and Ross, the factory could have been closed, and I think that’s part of the reason that people couldn’t do enough for me and this project. I had people coming to help in the evenings, suggesting things or saying “don’t do it like that, do it like this”, so we’d got a good group together.
We had to get Mercedes HPP involved as well for the engine side of things, so we had two engineers come over to my workshop and we fired it up – it hadn’t been fired up for four years, and to do that is a massive task. (Click here to see a video of this) You have to bleed all the system, you have to fill up with oil, as obviously the car had been drained of all liquids bar water as oil would eat into the components…then we put all the pre-heaters on it. It takes about two and a half hours to start one of those cars. She took a while to fire up as you have to get all the pressures right in the water system, but once you have those pressures, you’re away. So we fired it up and…well, that was just amazing, to have the Brawn fired up in my little workshop….I never thought I’d be running a championship winning F1 car in there.”
I bet! So what sort of things would you normally have in your workshop, Frazer?
“I build and restore racing cars and I run them. D3 do a lot of design and manufacturing work too, and recently been involved with some work for current F1 teams. People come to D3, and if they want something designing and manufacturing, I can do the whole lot for them.”
Earlier in the year, I was chatting to Dickie Stanford about Williams Heritage cars, and he was explaining how if he need a part, that often has to be manufactured from scratch for their use. I was wondering how that would work for you on this project? I know the car isn’t as old as some of the heritage ones, but it isn’t current, so does that present you with problems? I take it you could be supplied information/schematics from Mercedes?
“Yes, we were able to get information from Mercedes, and absolutely, there’s not much in the way of parts. There’s no wishbones, there’s only two sets of wheels in existence, so these that we are using have actually come from the Brawn car that is under the wind tunnel at Mercedes, and that is currently on stands. We’ve got the spare tyres, and we have to give those back unfortunately. We even had to make the wheel nut sockets to take the wheels off, as we hadn’t got anything at all – not even jacks! Ross was given the car with 4 wheels on, and the nuts done up hand tight, and that was it. However the car was built to a very high spec – in theory if you fuelled it, it could do effectively do a grand prix, it has all of the telemetry sensors, which a lot of show cars wouldn’t have. Regarding spares, if something breaks, we’d have to get moulds made, and re-manufacture it.”
Which must be an expensive process? I know when I’ve bought car parts from factory tours, as fans we have paid a nominal amount for a bargeboard or an exhaust, but that doesn’t take into account the man hours of design and manufacture, or the type of materials that might have been used.
“During racing, they are “lifed”, and that would have been the case with the wishbones on the car now, but obviously there aren’t any more of them. You can’t just decide to have a wishbone manufactured in two weeks, it’s a massive process, so we’ve had the carbon fibre wishbones “NDT”-ed (NDT refers to non-destructive testing) checked over, and luckily there’s no cracks. There are things you can do to them, you can re-wrap them, it depends what part they are. The only thing that worried me when I went to pick the car up, was how it had been lifted around for three years – I didn’t know, had it been to a show, how had it been pulled around – because you can’t just lift them up on the wishbones. We also had all of the wheels crack tested, because it’s alright having two sets of wheels, but if one was cracked, we’d have to use the other set, which means we hadn’t got two sets for the weekend, that would make it impossible to run the car.
“I just went through it all, I found a slight problem with the clutch, the bearing on it had gone, so that was sourced and fitted. Even fitting the clutch on one of those cars, it’s just epic, you wouldn’t believe what goes into it. On a road car, you’ve got a foot pedal, and you’ve got a hydraulic piston on the end of it, but of course on a Formula 1 car, there’s no pedal, it’s all hydraulic, so you have to get a big hydraulic rig to pressurise everything, and bled the air out of the clutch end. It’s a huge task, and I had to get someone involved to do that. I’m not a person to say I can do everything, I am always learning, and my old man always told me to listen to what people have to say. So I rang up a friend at Mercedes and told them my issue, and they helped to sort this out and come and do it. The key to all teamwork is to get the right people involved, and it’s a massive project for me to run the car, I’ve had sleepless nights! I can relax today now that we’ve successfully done a run!”
Would it please you to know that when I spoke to Ross, he was hoping that there would be more opportunities to run the car in the future?
“It would be great to see it kept running. One of the things that I was concerned about at first was knowing that the car would be insured whilst in my workshop – I thought to myself, how do you put a value on this championship winning car? I spoke to Ross, and he clarified that it was covered under his insurance, as otherwise that might have put a stop to the project from the start.”
And if Jenson was to pop by the garage and fancy a drive?
“Unfortunately he wouldn’t fit in it, I think he’s taller than Martin, so it’s got some shorter pedals.”
So Frazer, what is your next big project after this?
“Do you know, I haven’t got anything immediately – this has eaten up all of my time. The car has been in the workshop for two months, and in that time I have got married and not been on my honeymoon yet, so that’s the next thing!”
It was a privilege to chat to Fraser and his team, and of course to get so close to the BGP001 and see it running, restored to its Brazil 2009 livery from the day that Jenson won the title and we all recall him singing “We are the champions” over the radio. I also loved the fact that the team working on the car were authentically attired in Brawn GP team kit that had been made for the occasion! Lets hope we get to see it out on track soon, and perhaps the champ might get a chance to reacquaint himself with an old but very faithful friend.