The Ex – Dave Morgan, 1972 European and British Formula 2 Race Winning 1971 Brabham BT35

The Ex – Dave Morgan, 1972 European and British Formula 2 Race Winning 1971 Brabham BT35

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.

After the successful BT30 Formula 2 car which evolved from the BT23C, Brabham continued on the same line for the next models, the BT35 and BT36. Taking cues from the BT34 Formula 1 car, the BT35 was typically destined to be for Formula 3 or 1600cc Formula Atlantic, while the BT36 was assigned as the Formula 2 contender, often with Cosworth BDG engine in line with the new 2000cc regulations for 1972.

BT35-8 was originally supplied for Formula Atlantic to Ed Reeves who ran the car with 1600cc Cosworth BDA engine. With Arch Motors frame number AM71-7, BT35-8 was fitted with the larger Hewland FT200 gearbox, number FT200-599. The first round of the Yellow Pages Formula Atlantic Championship was missed as the new car was not ready in time, so BT35-8 instead made its debut at Castle Combe for a non-championship race on the 12th April and Reeves finished 5th.

At the first championship round which Reeves campaigned BT35-8 in, success was found. On the 2nd May at Brands Hatch he took 3rd place. Reeves then continued racing BT35-8 in the Yellow Pages Formula Atlantic Championship with the following results:

30th May Brands Hatch Q: 10th R: 10th

31st May Snetterton Q: 12th R: DNS

20th June Brands Hatch Q: 6th R: 2nd

27th June Snetterton Q: 5th R: 9th

3rd July Oulton Park R: 4th

4th July Brands Hatch R: DNF

1st August Snetterton Q: 1st R: 6th

15th August Mallory Park R: 5th

28th August Oulton Park Q: 5th R: 14th

12 September Brands Hatch R: 8th

For the round at Oulton Park on the 18th September, Reeves had the young hot-shot Dave Morgan pilot BT35-8 for him. Morgan got off to a good start in qualifying 5th, and went on to finish 4th in the race claiming £24 in prize money. At Silverstone on the 3rd October, Reeves drove himself again but retired from the race with head gasket failure on the Dave Wood Cosworth BDA engine.

A week later at Castle Combe, Morgan took the controls once more. After qualifying 7th, he came through in the race to finish a fine 3rd and took £32 prize money for the team. The final outing for BT35-8 in 1971 was at Snetterton on the 10th October 1971, where Reeves drove once more and finished 8th.

For 1972, Reeves ordered a new BT38 to campaign in the now enlarged 2000cc Formula 2 series. BT35-8 was re-engined with a Dave Wood prepared Cosworth BDE 1840cc unit for the first round of both the European and British Formula 2 championships at Mallory Park on the 12th March.

The various Cosworth engine builders were having problems expanding the 1600cc BDA to 2000cc due to the rule that meant material could not be added to the cylinder block. As a result of this, most of the grid were of 1840cc capacity BDE specification at the opening round, and several of the 45 entered cars did not arrive because of the shortage of  available engines.

With the number of starters for the short Mallory Park circuit limited to 20, qualifying was of upmost importance for each of the entrants. Pole position was taken by graded driver Ronnie Peterson in his works March, with Dave Morgan hot on his heels just two tenths behind in second place followed by Carlos Reutemann, Wilson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda, Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Jody Scheckter.

Period reporting described Morgan’s practice efforts as “the star of practice was undoubtedly David Morgan. This driver had hardly been heard of before except in Formula 3 and Atlantic circles for this was his first Formula 2 race.”

In Heat 1, Peterson got away from the start ahead but was overtaken into the first corner by Reutemann, followed by Scheckter, Morgan, Fittipaldi and Lauda. Reutemann opened up a small lead initially before the soft R26 Firestones used by the majority of the leaders began to go off. Morgan had opted for the harder R26 compound, with larger diameter front tyres and came into his own as the others struggled. By lap 35, Morgan was in the lead and two laps later the Goodyear shod Lauda took second. Morgan held Lauda at bay and took the win after 50 laps by 4 seconds.

For Heat 2, Morgan lined up on pole position with Lauda’s works March and Reutemann’s Rondel Brabham BT38 alongside. This time, Reutemann had Goodyear rear tyres mounted in a bid for improved longevity. After a fast start, it was Reutemann with Lauda and Morgan in second and third. Despite initially creating a comfortable gap, Reutemann fell back into the clutches of the chasing pair as his tyres still suffered. Lauda made attempts to get ahead but then lost third gear which hampered his efforts. At the conclusion of the 50 lap heat, Reutemann held on to take the win, with Lauda and Morgan in close succession.

With a much smaller gap to the winner in Heat 2, Morgan took the overall win in his first Formula 2 race, in the European and British Championship round. Even more impressive when you consider the extensive quality present that day with various works outfits, and that this privateer team were in a year old and upgraded car.

The win at Mallory Park meant that Morgan headed into the second round of the John Player British Formula 2 Championship with number 1 and as leader of the European Championship. This time racing with the now delivered BT38, he finished 4th before going on to complete the rest of the season. Morgan finished the season with 6th in the  European Championship and was ranked in the Autosport Magazine top ten. Further accolades followed, with Morgan being presented with the Grovewood Award for Britain’s most promising racing driver, and with that a cheque for £1000.

When Reeves’ BT38 was delivered in April 1972, BT35-8 was sold to John and Chrystal Millard in Australia. Millard painted the bodywork maroon, fitted a 1600cc Ford Twin-cam engine and raced the BT35 in Australian Formula 2 as shown by the CAMS log book. After competing in several events including the 1976 Australian Grand Prix meeting at Sandown Park in September 1976.

Millard sold BT35-8 to Denis Lupton, Melbourne, after a minor accident at Sandown in April 1977. Lupton kept BT35-8 in storage and never raced the car. In 1999, after 22 years with Lupton, BT35-8 was bought by Bryan Miller, the Hewland Agent for Australia. Miller restored BT35-8 to it’s former glory, in the Ed Reeves turquoise and yellow livery, and went on to race it in Australian historics with a correct 1840cc Cosworth BDE engine. Miller also had a CAMS Certificate done for BT35-8 in 2004.

In April 2014, Miller sold BT35-8 to John Hughes, the best friend of Dave Morgan, who shipped the car back to England. On arrival back in England, 42 years after it originally went to Australia, BT35-8 went to Simon Hadfield Motorsport. Mr. Hughes tasked them with undertaking a complete restoration. BT35-8 was stripped down to the bare chassis, which was then shot blasted and repaired where necessary. Part of the brief in the rebuild was to be as period correct as possible, reflecting the details present at Mallory Park in 1972.

The Cosworth BDE engine went to George Wadsworth for rebuild, and new fuel tank cells were fitted along with new Willans seat belts and a lightweight Lifeline fire extinguisher. The Hewland FT200 fitted in BT35-8 remains the original, number 599, as do the brake calipers and the bodywork.

Winner of the inaugural European and British 2000cc F2 round at Mallory Park in 1972 against an absolute all-star field, BT35-8 is a historically significant example of arguably one of Brabham’s most attractive designs. Benefitting from ample power and light weight, slick tyres and early aerodynamics, BT35-8 will be a joy to drive and is eligible for both the HSCC Historic Formula 2 International Series and Peter Auto’s Euro F2 Classic.