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'Black Jack' was Webber's inspiration

2014-05-20 10:36

CLOSE PALS: Former Red Bull driver Mark Webber says the late Jack Brabham was a 'close confidante' to him. Webber (centre) is pictured with Australia's first F1 driver Tony Gaze (left) and Brabham in 2011. Image AFP / Torsten

NICK MULVENNEY

SYDNEY, Australia - Mark Webber has paid tribute to the mentoring role fellow Australian the late Jack Brabham played in his career, saying the three-times Formula 1 champion had taken “the hardest road" and made it easier for Australians to follow.

Brabham, who won the Drivers’ title in 1959, 1960 and 1966 and is the only man to have won the championship driving a car bearing his name, died at his home on Australia's Gold Coast on Monday (May 20 2014) aged 88.

Webber, now 37 and who over the last decade came closer than any other driver to giving Australia a third F1 champion after Brabham and Alan Jones, said he had been "saddened" to hear the news.

'TENACIOUS INDIVIDUAL'

Webber said: "He was the epitome of a champion racing driver and a true-blue Aussie. He was a trailblazer; he took the hardest road and made it easier for the rest of us to follow.

"When I think of Jack, I think of a tenacious individual; an absolute grafter. He did it his own way and made it stick. There were no real rules or a manual for Jack - he figured it for himself. What he achieved taking on the best in the world and winning one of his three titles in his own machinery is the stuff of pure legend."

Webber, who retired at the end of the 2013 F1 season after 215 grands prix starts and 11 years in F1, said he had been "blown away" when in his late teens he met Brabham. "Black Jack" became a close confidante.

He added: "After hearing the rumours that I might move to Ferrari he told me he would be very disappointed if I went there because ,for him, it was the absolute betrayal. They (Ferrari) were his motivation - the ones he wanted to beat in his day!"

Webber, who emulated Brabham by winning both the Monaco (twice) and British GP’s, said the "inspirational Aussie battler" would never be forgotten.

"Although I was unable to repay that support by joining him and Alan Jones as champions I gave him some very happy moments by winning some of the more prestige GP's."
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