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It is with great regret that we have to inform Members of the death last Friday 4th August of Neil Brown after suffering a massive stroke a few days earlier. An Associate Member since 2017, Neil would have had his 75th birthday on 8th August.

A native of Lincolnshire, Neil started out as an apprentice at BRM in Bourne although his lowly status meant that he was not allowed to work on the famous team’s Formula 1 cars. Instead, he was responsible for building the Lotus Ford Twin Cam engines for the Lotus Cortinas raced by Jim Clark and Graham Hill amongst others in the British Saloon Car Championship. This type of engine came to be favoured by many teams and drivers competing in the 1600 cc Formula 3 which was introduced for 1971. Neil moved to Vegantune, also a Lincolnshire-based company with ex-BRM personnel, before setting up on his own in 1974 when Formula 3 moved to 2.0 litre engines for the first time, still using the Lotus Twin Cam unit. Rebuilding and maintaining Cosworth BDA engines was also a speciality.

Initially working on his own from a small workshop at the side of his house before being joined by another ex-BRM engineer, Roy Forman, the quality of the small firm’s work was such that Neil secured a major contract with the Ford Motor Company to build Ford Capri 3- litre Group 1 engines which were used to win the Spa 24 Hours and three consecutive British and European Group 1 Championships in 1979, 1980 and 1981.

When Formula Ford 2000 was introduced in 1982 using the Ford Pinto engine, Neil’s growing reputation attracted an increasing stream of business from aspiring young drivers. Throughout the 1980s, there were many race wins and championship successes in FF2000, Sports 2000 which also used the Pinto engine, and Formula 3. In 1988 JJ Lehto won the Lucas British Formula 3 Championship using engines built by Neil. The Toyota F3 engines used by Tom’s GB were entrusted to Neil’s company which expanded its operations to include rebuilding the Cosworth DFV engine for Formula 3000. After being appointed Mugen-Honda’s European agents for its Formula 3000 and Formula 3 engines, Neil Brown Engineering won 15 British Formula 3 Championships from 1990 to 2005. Among the champions using Neil Brown-maintained Mugen Honda engines on their way to Formula 1 were Mika Hakkinen, Rubens Barrichello, Ralph Firman, Antonio Pizzonia and Takuma Sato. When new regulations were introduced for the FIA European Championship, Neil Brown Engineering led the way in designing and developing its own engine to take on the might of Mercedes and Volkswagen.

In 1993 Neil embarked on a joint venture with Mugen which led in turn to involvement with Team Dynamics, the Honda-backed factory team in the British Touring Car Championship and eight driver championships. In 2001 Neil Brown Engineering were contracted by Audi Team Abt to develop a 4.0 litre V8 engine for the DTM which led to victory in the 2004 series. This was followed by further titles in the drivers’ and/or constructors’ championships in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011,1013, 2014 and 2016.

In 2000 Neil sold his company to Mugen only to be offered it back when Honda temporarily pulled out of motor sport in 2009. A few years later, at the age of 63, Neil decided it was time to go racing himself. After discussing the various options with his long-standing friend and customer Richard Dutton, Neil decided against single-seaters and acquired a Lotus Cortina in a kind of return to his earliest days at BRM. Never someone to do things by halves Neil, coached by Richard Dutton and Oli Webb, was immediately winning races in Historic Touring Cars both in the Cortina and in a Ford Mustang.

For many years Neil was a dedicated helicopter pilot, preferring this mean of transport to the public highway. He was also a keen water skier.

Invariably approachable and friendly, Neil was a perfectionist whether in his approach to engine design, building and maintenance or when racing. The standards which he set have laid the foundations for the growth of Neil Brown Engineering into a company in which major manufacturers such as Honda, Audi and Ford put their trust. Until his final illness Neil was fully involved in the business which will be carried on by his daughter Fiona, son Matthew and by sales and workshop manager Wayne Mathurin. 

To Carole, Neil’s wife of 25 years, his family, many friends and colleagues, the BRDC extends its most sincere condolences. Funeral details will be notified to Members when known.

The Club regrets to report on the death of Neville Hay, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1993
The Club regrets to report on the death of Alan Minshaw, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1984
The Club regrets to report on the death of Ray Thackwell who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1957
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