Back at the Brickyard
The most famous Australian motorsport name returned to the most famous motor racing arena in the world as Matt Brabham made his Indy 500 debut, making it three generations of the Brabham family racing at the ‘Brickyard’.
The 100th Indy 500 was an occasion to celebrate on so many levels. Not the least of which was the entry of Matt Brabham. His mere presence in the eld set records: he became only the third third-generation driver to qualify for the race, the Brabham family name joining that of Vukovich and Andretti.
The Brabham name’s association with Indy is substantial and signicant. It was Sir Jack Brabham who fundamentally changed the face of the race when he made his debut in 1961 with an adapted F1 Cooper T54. Brabham’s Cooper was the only rear-engined car in a eld of traditional front-engined Indy roadsters. While Brabham did not win, his car showed the way of the future: by 1969 there were no front-engined cars in the eld.
Sir Jack’s son, Geoff, made 10 Indy 500 starts for a best of fourth place in 1983.
Geoff was on hand to guide his son through his Indy debut in an entry put together in Australia by Gold Coast motorsport entrepreneur Brett Murray. PIRTEK Team Murray made its race debut a few weeks out from the 500 in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis held on the Indy road circuit (where Matt Brabham won in Indy Lights two years earlier), with Matt claiming a solid 16th on his Indycar race debut.
The road course Indycar Series round was one thing, but the actual 4km speedway was another matter entirely. Just making it through the prolonged and complex qualifying process was a major task in itself – but it was one which the youngster achieved with comparative ease. A four-lap average speed of 226.389mph (364.338km/h) was enough to secure 26th slot on the 33-car eld.
Importantly, the 22-year-old rookie managed to stay out of trouble on a typically eventful day at the Brickyard. Late in the race Brabham ran as high as 15th but fell back after the last round of fuel stops to claim an eventual 22nd.
“It is incredible to think that we nished this race,” he said afterwards. “Out there was a little surreal, to be honest. It was an amazing experience to be in the 100th Indy 500 race and now I can say that I have nished the Indianapolis 500 and am the third generation of Brabham to do that. “The PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet was good all day. During some of the stints it developed a vibration. In the middle of the race there, I was able to make up eight places which was a really great feeling.
“I’m happy that we got through and that we were able to put on a good show. I can’t thank the guys from PIRTEK, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, Speedcafe. com, all the other sponsors, our technical partner KV Racing Technology and of course ‘Crusher’ (Brett Murray) who has developed this phenomenal program that gave me the opportunity to be in this race. “Let’s hope we can have an opportunity to do more again.”
Murray was both relived and delighted with the result. His own commitment to the campaign was both fundamental and substantial, and he hopes now that Matt Brabham’s successful Indy debut will open new doors for the young Aussie in Indycar racing.
“Hopefully plenty of people took notice of the team and what Matt achieved and that someone will give him a shot.”