2020 Brabham BT62 first drive: Track day hero

The fluids are warmed, removable front and rear bodywork reattached, and the BT62 is off its air jacks and sitting on slicks. Think ‘nicely appointed racecar’ for the interior, not ‘stripped road car.’ You step over a large chunk of carbon bodywork and duck under the 47-in high roofline that’s lowered a little further by a neatly integrated rollcage. The seats are laid right back – your backside is low, legs straight ahead, elbows bent to hold the steering wheel just below your eyeline – and they’re upholstered in leather and surprisingly deeply padded too. There’s a racecar-style digital display and an oblong steering wheel with, among other buttons, dials to control the level of stability control and ABS assistance.
The engine is thunderous and loud even in the cabin, but it’s not the oppressive, harsh nightmare you might expect. The clutch is meaty, but you can lift it delicately and the BT62 will creep down the pitlane without even a tickle of throttle. Electrically assisted steering underlines these user-friendly first impressions, being instantly accurate and with meaningful loading the moment you tease it off-center, but its lightness lends the Brabham an approachable, nimble feel. The brake pedal is altogether different: solid, not hugely communicative, but it still imbues confidence when you stand on it.
The V8 is defined by bristling, if far from edgy, throttle response, a spine-tingling roar that makes the Senna seem ordinary, and a linearity and drivability from low revs with none of the spikes of torque a turbo car might throw up.
After a cautious few corners on Rockingham’s infield (it’s circled by a bowl designed for races that never took off here), I progressively flatten the throttle, and rev the V8 out until the shift lights blink in a furious but hugely appealing torrent of V8 blare, rampant speed and transmission whine. Then I click the paddleshifter and – blam! – it’s like an aluminum baseball bat connecting perfectly with the ball – instant, mechanical and fierce, the intensity of acceleration seeming to simply repeat gear after gear.
The Brabham is definitely a serious kind of race car, but it’s notable how progressively it eases its driver in – there are no scary moments as I build up to speed, I’m just gradually educated that I could have pushed harder.