In 1986, Benetton Formula — the team that would become Renault and later Lotus F1 — had the B186-05. Powered by the 1.5-litre, highly turbocharged BMW M12/13, it was an enormously powerful Formula One car, developing nearly 1500 horsepower in qualifying trim and clocking a fastest-ever 352km/h down the main straight at Monza. That engine is widely regarded to be the most powerful ever used in Formula One. Seven chassis in total were built throughout the 1986 season by Benetton, two were destroyed, and of the five left, one is up for sale — in Sydney.
Image credit: Wikipedia, CC BY SA 2.0
Chassis no. 5, the one driven in 8 grands prix throughout the season and pushed to that maximum recorded speed by Gerhard Berger at the 1986 Italian GP, is currently owned — and raced — by Les Wright, a historic racing enthusiast. Wright has the car up for sale at the moment in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, and he’s asking a cool $350,000.
It is fully restored to the condition it was in during its Formula One racing season, and has run in historic events around the country, including at both Phillip Island and at Eastern Creek. Of course, it doesn’t need all its power for these races, but it’s capable of some pretty amazing performance figures.
Although it’s now apparently running at around 800 horsepower (596kW) under 3.3bar of boost and with a conservative rev limit of 9700rpm, the engine specification as tuned by Benetton F1 race engineer Heidi Maher was able to push much higher numbers in its maximum power qualifying configuration. The engines ran on toluene and could develop an enormous 1500hp (1118kW), and qualifying engines would only last around a maximum of five laps at full power before degrading or destroying themselves
The restoration process of this particular F1 car was not easy or simple. Information on the cars is scarce at best, and Wright turned to the internet a few times to ask fellow F1 enthusiasts for help. Of the five remaining chassis, BMW has one, and were less than helpful with providing details or photos to help Wright in the rebuild process of the engine’s linkages — “in response to my emails, they reply “We have no information.” One remaining Benetton B186 is in Munich, one is in a museum in Ireland, and — the other two are apparently unaccounted for.
These cars are fragile, and even during its current ownership, regular refurbishment has been necessary. A racing incident during a historical run destroyed the transaxle, and Wright had the repaired housing 3D scanned during its rebuild to get an accurate record of its dimensions and internal layout for any future construction work. The engine and accompanying Bosch engine management system, described by former Brabham F1 engineer as “stone age”, had to be rebuilt when the car was purchased. But it’s in running and racing condition now, and it could be yours.
$350,000 may sound like a lot of money, but this is a piece of racing history. Of course, if that’s not enough money, the 1992 B192-06 Benetton that Michael Schumacher drove to his first ever podium at Mexico — the same circuit where Bergher’s B186-05 placed first — is going up for auction and is expected to reach £300,000 — about $540,000.
Even if you can’t afford Australia’s only Benetton B186, you can at least enjoy seeing it running. Here’s Wright’s car running in a historical race, chasing down an equally rare Ferrari F156/85:
And here’s Benetton, a few years after the 1986 season, in How To Build An F1 Car:
All images credit: Les Wright / My105.com