How­den Gan­ley re­mem­bers Sir Jack Brab­ham

Classic Driver - - HOLMAN -

With the pass­ing of Sir Jack Brab­ham, we say good­bye to one of the most in­flu­en­tial men in the re­cent mem­ory of mo­tor rac­ing. It was not only his own ca­reer which was so spe­cial, but his role in the ca­reers of so many oth­ers, in par­tic­u­lar Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme. Not for­get­ting, of course his own three sons, Ge­off, Gary, and David, all of whom have made their mark in rac­ing.

I first re­mem­ber see­ing him race at Ard­more, in the 1955 New Zealand Grand Prix. He was de­scribed as an ‘up and com­ing young driver’ (prophetic words), and in his black Cooper Bris­tol his cor­ner­ing tech­nique made him stand out from the rest of the field. His sub­se­quent up­ward path in In­ter­na­tional mo­tor rac­ing took him to the very top, but with much hard work and ap­pli­ca­tion, the likes of which might have de­feated a lesser man.

His CV records three World Cham­pi­onships, but how close it was to be­ing five Cham­pi­onships. Al­though the credit went to Cooper, and cer­tainly John Cooper was the per­fect part­ner, it was Jack who steered things the right way, and was ef­fec­tively Chief En­gi­neer when they led the rear-en­gined revo­lu­tion in For­mula One. When asked one day how they first brought Jack on board, John Cooper’s an­swer was “I don’t know. Jack just seemed to join us by os­mo­sis.”

One can spec­u­late end­lessly, but one has to ask whether there would have been such a suc­cess­ful or­gan­i­sa­tion as McLaren Rac­ing, had Jack not taken a young Bruce McLaren as his pro­tégé?

Would Denny Hulme have be­come World Cham­pion with­out Jack to cre­ate the car and en­gine? There can be few An­tipodeans who did not ben­e­fit from Jack’s di­rect or in­di­rect in­flu­ence on their mo­tor rac­ing ca­reer. Fol­low­ing Jack’s ex­am­ple, two of his clos­est friends, Dan Gur­ney and Bruce, went on to build their own cars and win races, but only Jack won the World Cham­pi­onship in his.

Wher­ever one looks, par­tic­u­larly in the 1960s and 1970s, Jack’s in­flu­ence stands out. The threads run through­out mo­tor rac­ing. He was a colos­sus, the likes of whom we will never see again. A very spe­cial man.

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