There are plans for a Brabham-branded supercar, which would be promoted by a new Brabham Formula 1 team, following the McLaren business model.
The project would involve the purchase of the Force India F1 team, which is doing well at the moment, but will soon be sold because the two owners both have serious legal troubles in India. The main protagonist, Vijay Mallya, was recently placed under arrest in England on an extradition warrant.
Mallya was released on bail but now faces an extradition hearing on May 18. His partner in Force India, Subrata Roy, has similar (but larger) troubles in India and has spent much of the last two years in jail. Neither of them can realistically continue with Formula 1, but they want between £200 million and £270m for the team, and so selling it has not been easy. Reports suggest that they may have to accept as little as £150m, although one of the bidders may be willing to pay over the odds to secure the sale.
The price of the F1 teams will only rise if the new owners Liberty Media is able to convince all the teams to reduce costs and to move towards a franchise model. If that happens, the value of the teams will skyrocket. As Formula 1 is now listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange, interest in the sport is growing, particularly in the US investment market, where sports franchises are deemed to be very valuable.
The Brabham revival is believed to be backed by money from US investors and the plan is for the Silverstone-based team to be rebranded and used to promote a supercar company. This would be similar in concept to McLaren's business plan, which has proved to be very successful in the course of the last 25 years.
David Brabham, the son of three-time World Champion Sir Jack Brabham, is a former Formula 1 driver and Le Mans winner, and also won the Bathurst 1000 in Australia and was twice American Le Mans Series champion. In recent years he has been quietly working on securing all the necessary Brabham trademarks, with what he calls Project Brabham. He is not denying that there is a project.
"Brabham is a brand with more than 69 years of racing heritage and it is our intention to see the name back on track," he said. "Since Project Brabham was launched, we have received a lot of enquiries from different parties who have expressed an interest in licensing the name and we are evaluating a number of options. We have no further comment."
Sir Jack Brabham was the only man ever to win the Formula 1 World Championship in a car of his own construction (in 1966). The Brabham team was started in 1962 and took part in nearly 400 Grands Prix, winning 35 of them and four World Championships with Brabham himself, Denny Hulme (1967) and Nelson Piquet (1981 and 1983). In 1972, the team was acquired by Bernie Ecclestone, who ran it until the late 1980s when he moved on to take over the commercial rights for Formula 1.
Force India finished fourth in the World Championship last year on a budget of only around £105m. More than half of its income derives from prize money, with an additional 40% from sponsorship deals, leaving the owners to top up the funding if it's required. If F1 team budgets are reduced, the money will become profit.