The Ex – Bob Gerard Racing, Robin Widdows, Brian Hart, Multiple Race Winning 1968 Brabham BT23C Formula 2
It is difficult not to get swept up in the passion and history that surrounds Jack Brabham and Brabham cars. Jack Brabham is one of the great names in motor racing history. Three times world champion, a true racing hero; he epitomises probably the most iconic eras of Grand Prix racing, not only for his achievements behind the wheel, but also for his incredibly successful career as a race car manufacturer. In 1966, he became the first man ever to win the Formula 1 World Championship in a car bearing his own name. A force to be reckoned with from their outset in 1962, Brabham cars went on to dominate across the Formula’s; from Formula Junior through Formula 1, Formula 2 and Formula 3.
By the time Formula 2 moved from 1,000cc to 1,600cc in 1967, Formula 2 was in its heyday, with many of the great names in Formula 1 also driving in Formula 2 at the same time. This was also a time of great success for Brabham. Renowned for strength and reliability as well as speed and finesse, Brabham had won the 1966 Formula 1 World Championship and were on a roll. After the success in Formula 2 of the Brabham BT23 in 1967, an improved version was introduced in September 1967, the BT23C. Jochen Rindt went on to dominate the 1968 Formula 2 season in his Roy Winkelmann Racing Brabham BT23C, winning six races of which four were European Trophy races.
This car, BT23C-12 was originally supplied by Frank Williams, in red gel coat, to Scuderia Picchio-Rossa, to be driven by Corrado Manfredini in the 1968 European F2 Championship. He and his results can be seen below:
03/06/1968 XVI London Trophy – Crystal Palace 10th Heat 1
23/06/1968 GP Della Lotteria di Monza 9th
14/07/1968 Langenlebarn 10th
28/07/1968 GP Van Zandvoort 13th Heat 2
25/08/1968 GP del Mediterraneo 12th
13/10/1968 Hockenheim 10th
27/10/1969 GP di Roma -Vallelunga 15th
In 1969, the car appears to have gone back to Frank Williams and was raced by Malcom Guthrie, in Guthrie’s grey and maroon colours, under the entry of Frank Williams Racing Cars. Guthrie raced the car until June, 1969 when he switched to a BT30 F2 car. His results are as follows:
07/04/1969 BARC 200 – Thruxton 18th
13/04/1969 Deutschland Trophäe – Hockenheim 10th Heat 1
27/04/1969 Eifelrennen – Nürburgring 8th
11/05/1969GP de Madrid – Jarama 13th
Bob Gerrard acquired BT23C-12 in June 1969, and the fortunes for the car began to change. Painted bright green, the driving was alternated between Robin Widdows and Brian Hart (soon to be successful engine builder in his own right) for the reminder of the 1969 season. They took a victory a piece, with a photo finish 2nd for Widdows, beating such names as Rindt, Stewart, Siffert, Beltois, Cévert, Bell and Hill to name a few. The results are as follows:
08/06/1969 – Robin Widdows Grote Pris Van Limbourg – Zolder RTD Heat 1, 7th Heat 2, 13th OA
15/06/1969 – Brian Hart Rhein-Polalrennen – Hockenheim 1st
22/06/1969 – Robin Widdows GP Della Lotteria di Monza 1st
29/06/1969 – Robin Widdows GP de Reims 2nd to Cévert in a photo finish
13/07/1969 – Brian Hart Langenlebarn 7th
24/08/1969 – Brian Hart GP del Mediterraneo – Peregusa 10th
14/09/1969 – Robin Widdows GP D’Albi 6th
12/10/1969 – Robin Widdows GP di Roma – Vallelunga 3rd Heat 2
Gerry Tyzack acquired BT23C-12 in 1970. Tyzack broke four British national speed records at Elvington with the car that same year, and also won the Brighton Speed Trials.
The ownership history for the car after Tyzack is reported by Allen Brown of OldRacingCars.com as follows:
1971 Robin Darlington, CT
1986 Adrian Thoma
1988-9 Kelvin Lambeth as per D.M
1990 Monte Shalett
1998 Mark Leonard / G.P. Motors, La Jolla, CA
2008 Harindra de Silva
The history file that accompanies the car features photographs of BT23C-12 taken Peter Denty’s workshop in the 1980s when being raced in the HSCC by Adrian Thomas. In more recent times BT23C-12’s last owner, Mr. De Silva, a keen collector and racer, had the car professionally prepared by Scott Durnek and his team at Virtuoso Performance. Scott completely rebuilt the Cosworth FVA engine and it has done very limited mileage since.
Upon returning to the UK, Simon Hadfield Motorsport were tasked by the current owner with completely restoring the car back to its 1969 Bob Gerard race winning specification. The car was stripped back to a bare chassis, with any repairs done where needed. The engine was checked over, dyno’d and set up on UK fuel by Craig Beck Racing. The gearbox was overhauled by Tony Wilson, and the shock absorbers were completely rebuilt by Ian Gardiner. A new nose section and under tray were fitted, along with new drive shafts, new wishbones where necessary, painting and plating. The car has also been put back on its period correct tall profile Dunlop tyres. During the restoration, paint archaeology was undertaken, with the paint on the original cockpit bodywork being sanded back to reveal each livery that the car has been in from new, right down to the original red gel coat.
The car is accompanied by the aforementioned extensive history file, front and rear wings, auxiliary fuel tanks and a number of spare wheels. This is a stunning example of one of the most successful cars of what in arguably the most exciting eras of Formula 2. The time when current Formula 1 champions regularly raced in both Formula 1 and 2 over a weekend. As was evident in period these cars were very much on the pace of their Formula 1 counterparts. It was racing at it purest and most beautiful, before the cars got cluttered up with aerodynamics.
This is a fast end exciting car to drive, with its potent Cosworth FVA engine (effectively half of a DFV), producing circa 221bhp, the sound is fantastic. As the world continues to wake up to the significance and appeal of these beautiful cars and with the price of their 3-litre counterparts continuing to saw, this is a rare opportunity to acquire such a well prepared example with a rich period race winnig history.