Vale Sir Jack Brab­ham

F1 Racing - - INSIDER - Steve Nor­moyle

Three-time For­mula One world cham­pion Sir Jack Brab­ham has died, aged 88. From an un­likely and some­what re­luc­tant be­gin­ning in the late 1940s in a speed­way midget on the dirt ovals of NSW, Brab­ham grad­u­ated to hill­climbs and then road rac­ing in the early ‘50s.

He built up an as­so­ci­a­tion with the Cooper mar­que rstly as a cus­tomer, but later be­com­ing an in­te­gral part of their grand prix ef­fort.

A Royal Aus­tralian Air Force me­chanic dur­ing the war, Sir Jack was equally mo­ti­vated by the tech­ni­cal chal­lenge of mo­tor rac­ing as the ac­tual on-track com­pe­ti­tion, and in­deed at Cooper he was as much en­gi­neer as driver.

On the tech­ni­cal side he found a condant back in Syd­ney in Ron Tau­ranac. Dur­ing his time at Cooper, which saw Brab­ham net back-to-back world cham­pi­onships in 1959-60, the two Aus­tralians worked to­gether via let­ter cor­re­spon­dence to de­velop the Cooper pack­age.

In this re­gard Brab­ham, with that re­mote in­put from Syd­ney, played an in­stru­men­tal role in the mi­dengine revo­lu­tion that swept the sport at the start of the 1960s.

This was lit­er­ally the case at In­di­anapo­lis in 1961. Brab­ham’s rookie ap­pear­ance in the Indy 500 that year in a mid-en­gined Cooper was so im­pres­sive that it al­most sin­gle-hand­edly marked the end for the clas­sic front-en­gined Indy Road­ster.

A mea­sure of the im­por­tance of the Brab­ham/Tau­ranac as­so­ci­a­tion is ev­i­denced by Cooper’s sud­den de­cline af­ter the Aus­tralian pair left in 1962 to es­tab­lish their own team mak­ing their own cars. Soon the new Brab­ham mar­que would be­come the big­gest cus­tomer rac­ing car man­u­fac­turer in the world.

At the age of 39, Brab­ham con­sid­ered re­tire­ment in 1965 but opted to con­tinue in or­der to ll the void left by the un­ex­pected de­par­ture of Dan Gur­ney from the Brab­ham F1 team. In the mean­time Brab­ham had ar­ranged with the Repco com­pany back in Mel­bourne to de­velop a Buick V8 block into a race en­gine for the new 3-litre for­mula, set for the fol­low­ing year. The Brab­ham-Repco com­bi­na­tion proved the one to beat in 1966, with Brab­ham be­com­ing the only man to win the world cham­pi­onship in a car of his own man­u­fac­ture. He nar­rowly missed out the fol­low­ing year, but team-mate Denny Hulme made it con­sec­u­tive ti­tles for the Brab­ham team. Brab­ham re­mained com­pet­i­tive even in his nal year in For­mula One, in 1970, at the age of 45. In­deed, had a few things gone dif­fer­ently that year, he might well have scored a fourth ti­tle.

Sep­a­rate from his un­ques­tion­able sta­tus as one of the great­est driv­ers of all time, Brab­ham should be recog­nised for the key role he played in the mid-en­gine revo­lu­tion that changed the sport for­ever and es­tab­lished a ba­sic rac­ing car driv­e­train congu­ra­tion that re­mains the op­ti­mal lay­out more than 50 years later. On the track, the Brab­ham leg­end lives on. Sons Ge­off, Gary and David en­joyed suc­cess­ful ca­reers of their own, with both Ge­off and David claim­ing the Le Mans 24 Hour among their many achieve­ments. Mean­while, third gen­er­a­tion Brab­hams Matthew (Ge­off’s son) and Sam (David’s son) are cur­rently show­ing all the signs of con­tin­u­ing the mo­tor rac­ing dy­nasty started 66 years ago by their grand­fa­ther.

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