Tau­ranac on Brab­ham

F1 Racing - - THE FEATURES -

Brab­ham has said it was a mis­take to call it quits at the end of 1970, and that he could have gone on an­other four or so years. Tau­ranac reck­ons Jack might well have lasted that long, be­cause of the dif­fer­ent type of driver that he was

RT: Who knows? He was still quite good then. The thing about Jack was that while the other driv­ers used to drive as fast as they could all the time, Jack looked af­ter the car and wasn’t ever run­ning at that limit. He doesn’t get the same re­spect that other driv­ers did. So with his way of driv­ing, I think he could have driven a lot longer, and he prob­a­bly had a dif­fer­ent life­style that would have helped. He was never a drinker, but all the oth­ers were. They had a com­pletely dif­fer­ent life­style to what Jack did. Jack was a bit like me, he worked all the time. You saw a lot of driv­ers dur­ing that era, a lot of the all-time greats. How would you rate Brab­ham against people like Clark and Ste­wart? Well, it is hard to give a judge­ment in terms of out­right speed be­cause Jack looked af­ter the car, but the other people knew noth­ing about that – they just drove flat out. Jack only went as fast as nec­es­sary to beat the per­son, and if he couldn’t beat the bloke ahead of him he didn’t push him to the point where that chap might have blown his en­gine or some­thing. He just con­served the car be­cause it was go­ing to cost to fix it, and he knew all about me­chan­ics – he was a very good me­chanic. So he was able to be very sym­pa­thetic. When we ran other driv­ers, like Rindt, and if we’d had a max­i­mum rev limit of say 7,500 or some­thing, he would go up to that in ev­ery gear, ev­ery time. But Jack didn’t. He just drove it up to what he knew me­chan­i­cally was good for the en­gine. At some cir­cuits, be­cause of gear­ing, the car would be over revving com­ing down the straight, but in­stead of let­ting it over-rev, Jack would just back off. He would some­times avoid a gear change or two oc­ca­sion­ally by back­ing off if there was a cor­ner com­ing. If he had just driven flat out like ev­ery­one else he would have got a lot more ac­claim than he did.

F1R: Do you think this is why he of­ten isn’t rated highly when people talk about the great­est driv­ers of that pe­riod?

RT: They go by the race re­sults; they don’t re­alise that some people aren’t go­ing that hard, that they want to look af­ter their car. We had to do that to sur­vive. And that was be­cause of, again, Jack’s me­chan­i­cal knowl­edge, and know­ing what could be done to the en­gine. From a driver in­put point of view, also, he was very good – he was the best. He was very good at be­ing able to tell you what the car was do­ing and what ad­just­ments might be needed; in that as­pect he was ex­cel­lent.

F1R: In the fi­nal year he quite pos­si­bly could have won the World Cham­pi­onship, he says that he was still driv­ing as well as ever. Do you think that was the case?

RT: For sure. I mean, he lost the race in Mex­ico be­cause you can cut the cor­ner by go­ing over a grass field, and he did that and some­thing hap­pened – I don’t re­mem­ber what – but that cost him the race.

F1R: He went off in the last cor­ner at Monaco and then he ran out of fuel at Brands Hatch – while leading both races. That was two other races he could have won.

RT: Yes, the last cor­ner at Monaco. He had a 15-sec­ond lead I think early on, but he was again con­serv­ing the car, and then on the last lap he was still nicely ahead. There were some slow cars go­ing down the proper race path on the last straight, just back side of the pits. And so he took the in­side line. If he had just fol­lowed the oth­ers he would have been right. He took the in­side line and there was dirt and ev­ery­thing thrown over there, and the grip wasn’t there, so he couldn’t brake enough and ran wide at the end of the cor­ner. He still had time to put it in re­verse and back out and win, but the mar­shals at the time wanted to push him off, and that would have disqual­i­fied him. Not know­ing their lan­guage, he had to force them to leave him alone. He lost a fair bit of time, and then he drove back off and in the mean­time he got sec­ond.

F1R: Can you re­mem­ber talk­ing to him about how he felt af­ter that race?

RT: We never talked about those things. We just didn’t know, we talked about work and things like that, but as far as just hav­ing chats about it all, how he felt af­ter a race or what­ever, it was ever my thing. I’ve never been a talker, I sup­pose.

“So it be­came very pub­lic,” Tau­ranac says. “Char­lie Cooper then got to know about it, and that Jack was in­volved, and he de­cided that Jack was steal­ing their ideas. So Jack lost his drive for that year.

“But Char­lie Cooper lived in the past; he didn’t like spend­ing money on any­thing. So at Cooper there was no in­no­va­tion, noth­ing, ex­cept what Jack put in. Jack had de­cided be­fore I left here that he was go­ing into the busi­ness of mak­ing cars, and I think he an­tic­i­pated rac­ing for Cooper for a bit longer, to give me a chance to get the busi­ness

up and run­ning and do the For­mula 1 car. It didn’t hap­pen that way.”

In­stead, Brab­ham was forced to go into the 1962 sea­son with a cus­tomer Lo­tus 24 un­til Tau­ranac’s first F1 de­sign was ready. It was a dif­fi­cult time: the F1 car had to wait while Tau­ranac filled half a dozen or­ders for For­mula Ju­nior cars – be­cause in­come from this was what funded the rac­ing.

“I worked nor­mally run­ning the fac­tory; the cus­tomer cars were built dur­ing the day and then at night I would go and work with three or four race me­chan­ics do­ing the For­mula One car. Then Jack would come down oc­ca­sion­ally and help. I went home for my din­ner one night and when I came back he had done some­thing dif­fer­ent with mount­ing parts on the back, so when I came back I said ’oh, I was go­ing to do it like this’. So af­ter that he didn’t do any more orig­i­nal work!”

When the pair formed the com­pany to build the first MRD/Brab­ham cars, Jack put up £2,000 cap­i­tal. Says Ron: “It was go­ing to be a 50/50 deal be­tween the two of us, but be­cause he put up the £2,000 he sug­gested it be­come 60/40. He was the 60 per­cent ob­vi­ously, and so that is what hap­pened for a num­ber of years.”

Clearly there were some fi­nan­cial ten­sions be­tween the two Aus­tralians. While it would per­haps be a stretch to say it was an un­easy part­ner­ship, it was cer­tainly an un­usual one. For in­stance, af­ter that first sea­son, 1962, Brab­ham had the idea that it would be best for Tau­ranac to stay at the fac­tory and look af­ter the pro­duc­tion side of things rather than ac­com­pany Jack at grands prix. So from 1963 through to the end of ’65, Tau­ranac was never there at the track to help fine-tune Brab­ham’s cars. It was an odd ar­range­ment to say the least, with the oper­a­tion ba­si­cally be­ing split into two au­ton­o­mous parts: the trav­el­ling race team and the fac­tory that made the cars. It was not the way Tau­ranac wanted to run things.

“It was at the end of the first year of For­mula One,” Tau­ranac re­calls, “and Jack had his own team of me­chan­ics to do the Tas­man se­ries. I couldn’t go with them be­cause it was Christ­mas and that was when we had a big pe­riod of mak­ing cars. Dur­ing the Tas­man Jack had these me­chan­ics, and then he got a sep­a­rate work­shop that he hired, and so they moved out of the joint busi­ness, and then he sug­gested that he uses Tas­man se­ries me­chan­ics all the year to main­tain the For­mula 1 car. I wasn’t go­ing to races, so I had lit­tle in­put into any de­vel­op­ment of the car from there.

“This went on like this un­til ‘65, and I told Jack I didn’t want to be in­volved in For­mula 1 any­more be­cause there is noth­ing I can do. I needed to go to the races to see how we had to do ad­just­ments and so forth, so I could build that into the next year’s car. My­self not go­ing to the races prob­a­bly had an in­flu­ence on his lack of progress in the For­mula One car over that pe­riod.

“He could have with hind­sight done it a bet­ter way, so that I had some in­volve­ment. We could have put his Tas­man me­chan­ics on a joint busi­ness and paid them from there and just run it as a nor­mal team again. Any­way, I didn’t bother ar­gu­ing about it, I never ar­gued with him. I did my thing. Right through­out life I’ve al­ways just done my own thing.

“So I told Jack I didn’t want to do For­mula One

any­more, I wasn’t go­ing to build any more cars, and I would just do the pro­duc­tion car busi­ness, which I was run­ning any­way. I think he thought about it for a while – I think he might have had a look round for an­other drive some­where, but I don’t know – and he came back even­tu­ally and said ‘right, let’s change the busi­ness again and make it back to 50/50, and I’ll dou­ble your wage or triple it’. So that is how it started off in 1966. I had a lot of in­put into the cars at the track from then on.” What the Brab­ham team went on to achieve in 1966-67 re­mains un­prece­dented. Two world driv­ers’ cham­pi­onship and two con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onships; the one and only time a driver has been crowned world cham­pion in a car bear­ing his own name, us­ing an en­gine that was a Jack Brab­ham idea turned into re­al­ity by fel­low Aussie Phil Irv­ing and de­vel­oped into a world beater by an Aus­tralian au­to­mo­tive parts man­u­fac­turer in Mel­bourne.

What made it even more laud­able was that the BT19 chas­sis had not been de­signed to take the Repco-Brab­ham V8 en­gine – it was in­tended to be pow­ered by Coven­try Cli­max’s new flat 16. In­stead, the Repco en­gine de­sign had to be com­pro­mised to fit the BT19.

“The en­gine was be­ing drawn by Phil Irv­ing in the out­skirts of Lon­don,” Tau­ranac ex­plains, “and Jack and I would go in there af­ter nor­mal work, at night, to in­flu­ence what was go­ing to be in the de­sign. To fit that en­gine in, we would have had to re­design the back of the chas­sis be­cause there was no room to fit twin-cam cylin­der heads. So that’s why it has got a sin­gle cam. It worked out al­right any­way.”

The end of the Brab­ham-Tau­ranac part­ner­ship was by then al­ready nigh, how­ever, be­cause Jack’s first wife Betty was push­ing hard for him to re­tire and set­tle back in Aus­tralia – so that their three sons might en­joy a con­ven­tional up­bring­ing and not be lured into fol­low­ing in the wheel tracks of their fa­ther (his­tory would prove this plan to be spec­tac­u­larly wrong).

Tau­ranac bought out Jack’s share of the com­pany at the end of 1969, but Jack stayed on for one more sea­son due to the un­ex­pected de­par­ture (to Lo­tus) of Jochen Rindt. Tau­ranac was now an F1 team owner.

But times were chang­ing. The bur­geon­ing era of spon­sor sig­nage on cars was open­ing up new and vast rev­enue streams to teams, for those who knew how to do the deals. The old days of sur­viv­ing on free fuel, tyre and spark plug deals, prize­money, and prof­its from the sale of cus­tomer cars, were over. In any case, the cor­po­rate side had al­ways been Jack’s do­main, not Ron’s.

As an F1 team owner Tau­ranac went just one year with­out Jack. At the end of 1971 he sold the Brab­ham team to one Bernard Ec­cle­stone.

Tau­ranac and Brab­ham didn’t al­ways get along but they were first and fore­most a team – and a highly ef­fec­tive one at that. For Ron, things weren’t quite the same once Jack had re­turned to Aus­tralia. “What used to hap­pen was that we would work through the day, and then Jack and I would go and have our evening meal to­gether, and then the two of us would go back and work till about 10 o’clock.

“What hap­pened af­ter I ac­quired Jack’s share of the busi­ness was that in the evenings at work, I would be alone. There was no com­pany at all; that’s what I missed.”

Above: Brab­ham on the way to sec­ond place in the 1967 Ger­man GP. Left: Brab­ham and Tau­ranac pose for the cam­eras.

Above: Tau­ranac chats with Brab­ham at the Nur­bur­gring in 1967. The man on Jack’s left looks sus­pi­ciously like the Brab­ham’s young me­chanic, Ron Den­nis...

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.