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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Main engine builder dies aged 74

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Few can match the file of his Lincolnshire-based Neil Brown Engineering firm, which constructed engines that had been victorious in European and British Components Ford 2000 within the Eighties, through domination in British Components 3, a number of DTM and British Touring Automobile Championship title successes, to servicing the spec engines in British Components 4.

From his early days at BRM and Vegantune, then one of many prime Ford twin-cam engine tuners within the 1600cc Components 3 period, Brown fashioned NBE in 1973, initially engaged on Ford F3 and Cosworth BDA Components Atlantic powerplants. But it surely was after the launch of the Pinto-engined FF2000 class in 1975 that his firm actually got here to prominence in single-seaters.

NBE was additionally contracted by Ford within the late Seventies to organize the three.0-litre V6 engines powering the Group 1 Capri, and Gordon Spice gained British Saloon Automobile Championship class titles with Brown-built powerplants, which additionally triumphed within the Spa 24 Hours.

After Pacific Racing and JJ Lehto gained the European and British FF2000 crowns with NBE energy in 1987, they graduated to the British F3 Championship in 1988. Workforce boss Keith Wiggins selected the promising Toyota engine – already successful races with the official TOM’S GB-supported Intersport Racing workforce – and requested Brown to organize it. Lehto went on to assert the crown.

West Surrey Racing’s F3 take care of Mugen Honda for 1989 led the Japanese firm to nominate NBE as its preparation home for European motorsport. The workforce’s Mika Hakkinen was the primary to assert a title with NBE-supplied Mugen engines, in 1990, and NBE powered each British sequence champion however one with its Mugen {hardware} as much as and together with 2005.

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Mugen and Honda took stakes within the firm, which powered the producer’s entry to the Tremendous Touring area in 1995. Drivers together with Gabriele Tarquini, Tom Kristensen and James Thompson gained races on the wheel of NBE-powered Accords, with WSR working the manufacturing facility BTCC workforce from 1998-2000.

From then on, NBE was inextricably related to Honda within the BTCC, its engines powering Workforce Dynamics pair Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden to 3 titles apiece. When the present NGTC components was launched, WSR additionally returned to NBE to construct its turbocharged BMW engines, which have been pushed to 3 drivers’ crowns by Colin Turkington.

Takuma Sato gained 2001 British Components 3 title with NBE engines on his method to Components 1 the next season

Photograph by: Sutton Pictures

With NBE including the Toyota engines for Speedworks Motorsport to its roster for 2023, that signifies that it now powers 10 automobiles within the BTCC (4 BMWs, three Hondas, three Toyotas) – greater than the official TOCA buyer engine.

NBE has additionally loved great success within the DTM. When Abt Sportsline started its Audi undertaking in 2001, Brown’s firm constructed the 4.0-litre, 90-degree V8 powerplants, and continued within the position as soon as the Ingolstadt marque returned to the sequence in an official capability, successful quite a few titles.

The British F4 Championship moved underneath NBE’s remit in 2018, when the corporate changed Sodemo in servicing the Ford EcoBoost engines. This transferred to the brand new Abarth-powered period ranging from 2022.

The corporate had lengthy since moved again underneath the possession of the Brown household, daughter Fiona working full-time and son Matt on engine mapping. “Neil was nonetheless there on daily basis,” remembers Fortec Motorsport boss and fellow Lincolnshire man Richard Dutton, his buddy since 1974.

WSR chief Bennetts, whose workforce gained an additional Mugen/NBE-powered British F3 crown with Rubens Barrichello in 1991, recollects: “Mr Hirotoshi Honda came visiting in 1988 and we had a gathering, and he requested me which engine builder to make use of.

“I believed we had been going to have engines straight from Japan, however he needed to arrange a European department, so I took him to Neil Brown, Mountune and Nicholson McLaren. He then mentioned, ‘Which one would you like?’ and I mentioned, ‘It’s your cash, Mr Honda!’

“With my background in engine constructing, Neil and I had an excellent rapport collectively. He was very intelligent, with an excellent understanding on how engines work and the event aspect.

“We had some actually good instances collectively, so it is a actual disgrace. He was an excellent bloke.”

NBE powers 10 cars in the BTCC including Turkington's BMW run by WSR, a long-time client

NBE powers 10 automobiles within the BTCC together with Turkington’s BMW run by WSR, a long-time shopper

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

As Mercedes and Volkswagen started to dominate F3 within the late 2000s, T-Sport remained the primary Mugen/NBE loyalist and Sergio Perez vied for the British crown in 2008. When the FIA opened its European championship to racing engines along with production-based blocks in 2014, T-Sport used the brand new NBE unit. With out producer help outcomes had been scarce however, as soon as a recognised expertise bought on board within the type of Nick Cassidy, the mix completed third within the blue-riband Macau Grand Prix.

“It was all the time straightforward to take care of Neil,” says T-Sport supremo Russell Eacott. “If he mentioned that’s what he was going to do, that’s what he did. He mentioned that engine [in 2014] was going to be good, and it was. He all the time taken care of us.”

Brown had dabbled behind the wheel as a younger man, however on the age of 63 took up racing in historics with the assistance of Dutton, who had purchased an FF1600 Titan from a mutual buddy. He requested Brown to organize his engines for FF1600, FF2000, Sports activities 2000 and, later, Volkswagen powerplants in British F3 – first for Dutton as a driver himself, then for his more and more profitable Richard Dutton Racing workforce.

“We had been very shut, we used to go on vacation collectively,” says Dutton. “I taught him to waterski earlier than he bought higher than me, after which I taught him to drive basic automobiles earlier than he bought higher than me!”

“I bought this cellphone name from him and he mentioned, ‘Are you able to come over? I’ve bought a set of basic automobiles I need you to race with me.’ He had this ex-Moss Cooper 500 and I mentioned, ‘I’m not driving that!’

“He mentioned, ‘If you happen to do basic racing, what do you assume we must always do it in?’ I mentioned that after I was 14 I used to climb over the wall at Mallory Park to observe Graham Hill and Jim Clark in Lotus Cortinas, so one in all them. And he mentioned he used to construct these engines for BRM.”

One other string was added to NBE’s bow, with the corporate supplying vastly coveted twin-cam powerplants within the historic area to Cortina racers, in addition to A-Collection items, predominantly in Austin A35s. Dutton and Brown gained a race collectively in a Cortina as just lately as final summer time at Thruxton.

“Each fast Cortina has a Neil Brown engine,” provides Dutton. “He would keep late and work on the engines himself. I’m a bit mad with him – it’s not proper – as a result of we had been speculated to do the Silverstone Basic [Festival] collectively this month.

“Neil’s a real legend. I’ll race by myself with out him. No one can change him.”

Brown was due to race at this month's Silverstone Festival with Richard Dutton

Brown was on account of race at this month’s Silverstone Competition with Richard Dutton

Photograph by: JEP

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