A JACK BRABHAM RETROSPECTIVE
He was so much more than just a robust and enormously successful racing driver with a quiet, modest and no-nonsense personality. A talented and practical engineer, he was always far more interested in developing the cars he drove than seeking the limelight. He was also an astute businessman who, with his friend and fellow Australian Ron Tauranac, founded and ran with great success the Brabham race car company. He must have had mighty powerful genes, too, for all three of his sons, Geoff, David and Gary, have had successful racing careers, with Geoff and David both having won at Le Mans. And I’ll never forget his glow of pride when they won the fabled Bathurst 1000 in 1997 for BMW. And now Jack’s grandsons, Matthew and Sam, are both British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Stars.
So how did this unknown Aussie come to be such an icon, a three-time world champion, as well as being the only one to do so in a car bearing his name? Answer: Dean Delamont, the then boss of the RAC, was enormously impressed by the quiet young Australian who had dominated both midget-car dirt-track racing and
“There has never been anyone else like Jack. Engineer. Driver. Team owner. Multiple champion. Founder of a racing dynasty”
Tarmac events Down Under, and persuaded him that it was worth giving Europe a go. Which Jack adventurously did in 1955, at a time when Australia seemed far more remote from the rest of the world than it is now, initially working as a mechanic at Cooper in Surbiton in return for being allowed to build his own car there.
He grew to be part of the scenery, respected for his practical engineering and development skills and, before long, also became the team’s top driver. The rest is history. He won his first world championship in 1959 – the first for a mid-engined car – by pushing his Cooper across the line at Sebring when it ran out of petrol. But following his second title in 1960, the Cooper magic faded and businessman Jack resolved to start his own production race-car company with Ron Tauranac. Brabham was now a constructor.
From 1966, F1 regulations required a threelitre engine. Jack duly commissioned the Repco company in his native Australia to produce a simple and reliable V8, which not only propelled him to his third title in ’66 (a glory year for Jack, who also won the British F2 championship with no fewer than ten victories in his BrabhamHonda), but also made his team-mate, Denny Hulme, world champion the following year.
Jack’s career spanned three decades, from 1955 to 1970 when he won his last GP in South Africa and nearly won in Monaco and Britain, too. He raced against Fangio, rivalling and beating Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Dan Gurney (who raced and won for Jack’s Brabham team for three years, of which he speaks with great pride and affection), and the other greats of his time.
But that wasn’t all. Just as it was Jack and Cooper who changed F1 from front-engined cars to rear-engined machines, so it was Jack and Cooper who first staggered the powerful American racing world, with its antiquated frontengined cars, by going to Indianapolis in 1961 and running third and finishing ninth at the fabled Indy 500. Together they started another revolution – and before long, America followed.
There has never been anyone else like Jack Brabham. Engineer. Driver. Team owner. Multiple champion. Businessman and founder of a racing dynasty. You made your mark, Jack. You’ll be remembered always with enormous admiration and deep respect.