GOOD AS GOLD

As the F1 grid as­sem­bles at Al­bert Park this week­end, triple world cham­pion Sir Jack Brab­ham will be watch­ing . . . and re­call­ing what it’s like to push your­self at the elite level, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

JACK Brab­ham won his first world cham­pi­onship the hard way — push­ing his car over the line af­ter run­ning out of fuel. He still re­mem­bers the day at Se­bring in Florida when he took the 1959 ti­tle driv­ing, then push­ing, his rear-en­gined Cooper F1 to a victory which changed the di­rec­tion of racing.

Sir Jack re­calls how his boss, John Cooper, for­got to add one can as he topped his tank, and how his me­chan­ics cir­cled the car as he pushed it 500m to the fin­ish, en­sur­ing there was no out­side as­sis­tance and no chance of dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

‘‘The drama at the end of it, when I ran out of petrol, is some­thing I will never for­get,’’ Sir Jack says from his home on the Gold Coast.

‘‘I man­aged to get the car over the line and was in­formed I was in fourth place and got the cham­pi­onship. It was quite a sur­prise.’’

No big­ger than the sur­prise of re­al­is­ing it is now 50 years since his cham­pi­onship. And that, at 82, he is now a na­tional trea­sure for any Aus­tralian with an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of sport­ing suc­cess.

‘‘It’s a long time, isn’t it? At least I’m still here to talk about it, which is the main thing,’’ Brab­ham says. But his health is fad­ing. Brab­ham has been deaf for more than 40 years, but now he needs reg­u­lar dial­y­sis ses­sions and he is much frailer than the ro­bust young­ster who headed to Europe in 1955 af­ter winning his first Aus­tralian Grand Prix.

He was al­ready a top-notch dirt­track speed­way driver with in­cred­i­ble car con­trol and a gift with ma­chin­ery that would see him found his own For­mula One team.

Brab­ham still fol­lows F1, even if his health keeps him from the races. He watches with an in­sider’s eye but he does not like some of what he sees.

‘‘It’s re­ally not a sport any more, is it? It’s big busi­ness,’’ he says.

‘‘A lot of money and a lot of tech­nol­ogy, but at least they are try­ing to curb the tech­nol­ogy now. The driver as­sis­tance from the tech­nol­ogy has been there for quite a while. In my opin­ion, it spoils the racing.

‘‘My era of racing was a lot dif­fer­ent to what we’ve got to­day, and it was more of a sport. The driv­ers re­ally en­joyed racing with one an­other and mix­ing with one an­other. It does not seem to hap­pen to­day.’’

Brab­ham lost a lot of friends and ri­vals dur­ing his ca­reer, which lasted more than 15 years through one of the most danger­ous pe­ri­ods in F1 his­tory. He be­gan as a young tear­away and jok­ingly hob­bled to the grid for one of his last races, aged 44, with a fake beard and cane.

‘‘I lost 30 friends when I was racing. It was so danger­ous. Peo­ple

Aus­tralia’s doyen

of For­mula One still watches the races with an in­sider’s eye.

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