The sport’s governing body, the FIA, caught teams on the hop by forcing them to produce cars with flat floors, rendering illegal the downforce-generating ‘ground effects’ which had facilitated immense cornering speeds.
Brabham experimented with in-race refuelling in 1982, as it enabled their thirsty BMW turbo engines to consume the significant fuel volumes required while minimising the weight carried during races. Designer Gordon Murray committed to the idea for 1983, producing a compact car with a smaller fuel tank which would make refuelling stops a necessity at most circuits.
The team also stopped hedging its bets over its power supplier. Having run normally-aspirated 3.0-litre Cosworth V8s and Brabham’s inline-four 1.5-litre turbo at different times during 1982, it committed to the latter. The BT52 was presented at the company’s Munich headquarters on March 3rd, 1983.
The dart-like BT52, which raced in modified ‘B’ form from the British Grand Prix, was both dramatically fast and more reliable than its closest rival produced by Renault. Nelson Piquet wielded it superbly, securing his second world championship victory in the season finale at Kyalami.