Friday favourite: The BMW-powered weapon that broke F2 records

The March-BMW 782 recently featured in Autosport's top 10 BMW Motorsport cars. Such was its dominance in the hands of Bruno Giacomelli during the 1978 Formula 2 season that he won eight of the 12 races and scored eight pole positions - tallies never surpassed in the series' 18-year history. The Italian explains what made it so special

Bruno Giacomelli, March Racing

For all his 69 Formula 1 starts — and 31 laps led — Bruno Giacomelli is probably best remembered for his exploits over the course of the 1978 European Formula 2 Championship with March. And his domination thereof. He looks back on that year as the highpoint of his career, and certainly the most satisfying season.

“That car is very much in my heart all these years later,” says Giacomelli of the BMW-engined 782 he drove to the European title with the works March team and the backing of the German manufacturer. “It was one of the best cars I ever drove, and I own two of them today, though not my championship-winning chassis. I don’t know what happened to that one.

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“I loved the Alfa Romeo 179B, the Formula 1 car in which I led at Watkins Glen in 1980. But from a results point of view the 782 has to be my favourite.

“After I’d won the championship in ’78, I told a TV interviewer in Italy that I was actually unlucky that year. The guy didn’t understand what I was saying because I won eight races. Then I told him that I could maybe have won all 12 rounds of the championships.”

It’s not a fanciful thought on Giacomelli’s part: he was on pole position for the four championship rounds he didn’t win. One of the races that got away was the Eifelrennen on the Nurburgring-Nordschleife, and it still rankles today.

“I was on pole position but I lost the lead at the first corner and then I had a spin,” remembers Giacomelli. “I came back and got into the lead. I was flying, completely at one with the car.

Giacomelli is flanked by Derek Daly and team-mate Marc Surer after another victory at Nogaro

Giacomelli is flanked by Derek Daly and team-mate Marc Surer after another victory at Nogaro

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“I was sure I was going to set a lap quicker than my pole time. Then, a wire came off the alternator or something [Autosport reported a charging problem]. That really pissed me off, because I really wanted to win on the old Nurburgring.

“I guess I was at my peak, I had a great car and good engines from Paul Rosche at the BMW factory — he was like a big brother to me. So I went into every weekend believing I could win.

“I know that we always got the most out of the car. I was engineered by Robin Herd [one of the founders of March, who led the design of the 782] and we had a fantastic relationship. He was such a clever guy.”

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Giacomelli claimed eight poles from the 12 races to go with his eight wins. He remembers a focus on qualifying by Herd.

"I’ve been told that many drivers were really enthusiastic about the 782, and that makes me very proud because I did all the development with Robin" Bruno Giacomelli

“For Robin the pole position was more important than the win,” explains Giacomelli. “Most of the time he’d go home to England after qualifying. It makes sense, because pole position establishes which car is fastest.”

Giacomelli’s love of the 782 goes beyond the success he enjoyed aboard the car and the joy of driving it. His role in what is regarded as the all-time classic F2 car gives him great satisfaction nearly half a century on.

“I’ve been told that many drivers were really enthusiastic about the 782, and that makes me very proud because I did all the development with Robin,” he says.

Giacomelli is proud of his role in developing the car which gave him his greatest career success

Giacomelli is proud of his role in developing the car which gave him his greatest career success

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“I helped develop the 772P the previous year, which was a kind of prototype for the 782, and then I drove the new car the first time it was on its wheels and then raced it to victory when we ran it at the final round at Donington Park in ’77.

“I even helped design some of the parts of the car: Robin said that in interviews before he died. I had input into things like the shape of the mirrors and the position of the gauges, and I’d even say to Robin, ‘why don’t we do this with the sidepods’.

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“I look back on ’78 as the best year of my career. My only regret is that I didn’t get to work with Robin in F1.”

Giacomelli began his season as he meant to go on with victory at the Thruxton opening round

Giacomelli began his season as he meant to go on with victory at the Thruxton opening round

Photo by: Motorsport Images

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