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'Black Jack': Trailblazer for Aussies

2014-05-19 07:39

2011 FLASHBACK: Australian Red Bull driver Mark Webber with Australia's first F1 driver Tony Gaze, 92, (left) and triple F1 Drivers' champion Jack Brabham at the 2011 Oz GP. Brabham died on May 19 2014. Image AFP / Torsten Blackwood


Brabham Racing T92

2009-06-09 06:30


SYDNEY, Australia - Jack Brabham, who died aged 88 on Monday (May 19 2014) was famously a man of few words but his actions on the Formula 1 track had a major impact on Australian motorsport that still resonates today.

And his last Formula 1 win was right here in South Africa in 1970.

The three Formula 1 titles that "Black Jack" won (1959, 1960, 1966) proved to Australians that they could beat the best in the world and blazed a trail for the likes of Alan Jones, Mark Webber and, now, Daniel Ricciardo.

Jones, who won the 1980 Drivers’ title to become only the second Australian F1 champion, told SkyNews: "I think he was inspirational for any young bloke that wanted to go across overseas and race cars. He was the man they looked up to and he was the man they wanted to emulate.”


Brabham's last title came at the wheel of a car he helped to design and build, an unprecedented feat and one highly unlikely to be replicated in the billion-dollar and high-tech industry that F1 has become.

The sport he entered at the British GP at Aintree in July 1955 was very different, a high-octane championship only five years old played out on mostly ramshackle tracks and, by any standards, extremely dangerous. Competitive to the end, Brabham was running third 15 years later when a blown engine forced him to retire from his 126th and final F1 race in Mexico.

Although a household name in Australia as the country's first F1 champion, Brabham's natural reserve meant he never became the stereotypical sporting hero. He wrote in his autobiography ‘When the Flag Falls’: “I would rather stand behind somebody than stand out in front of them. I’ve been like that all my life. It’s not exactly shyness - I just don't like the limelight directed straight at me. I’ve never been in motor-racing for that reason.

"Right from the first day I drove a racing car what other people thought, or whether they were watching me, was never of any importance to me. I was just interested in driving and, if there had been no people there at all, it wouldn't have affected the way I drove in any way."


Like many of his contemporaries, Brabham's interest in high-performance machines, as well as perhaps his attitude towards extreme risk, was sparked by service in the Second World War as ground crew in the Royal Australian Air Force. After his discharge he started racing in midget cars on cinder tracks before making the move to Britain in 1955 to try his hand at F1, leaving his family behind in Australia in case it did not work out.

It did, and in 1959 he had the first of his 14 race wins at Monaco, going on to seal the title for Cooper at the US GP where he had to push his car uphill to finish fourth after running out of fuel.

His influence off the track was also evident with the part he played in developing the rear-engined Cooper that hastened the demise of front-engined F1 cars.

A second title for Cooper came in 1960 but he was soon working in secret with fellow Australian Ron Tauranac on the project that would become the Brabham team. Another F1 champion, Jackie Stewart, recalled in his book ‘Winning is Not Enough’: “He would only have to drive a car around one or two corners to decipher what component area was preventing him from making the car do what he wanted.

"His genius was a rare ability to cut through the nonsense, pin-point the core problem in a car and solve it."


Four race wins in nine rounds of the 1966 season were enough to secure him a third Drivers' title and a first Constructors' championship for his team. The Brabham team also won the Constructors' championship the following year when his New Zealander team mate Denny Hulme took the Drivers' title.

Brabham's final win came at the 1970 South African GP and, at the end of that season aged 44, he retired, sold the team to current F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, and headed back to Australia.

The Brabham team name lived on in F1 until 1992 but his own involvement in motorsport was largely restricted to following the careers of his three sons, the youngest of whom, David, raced for the team in 1990.

Another F1 champion, Stirling Moss, said Brabham was a competitor on par with the greatest sportsmen that have emerged from Down Under. Moss wrote in the foreword to the 'The Jack Brabham Story’ in 2004:

"If you ever raced against Jack you'd really know you'd been in a race. He was everything we Poms have come to expect of a great Australian sportsman - play the game as if your life depends on it, no quarter asked, and absolutely none given."

Read more on:    australia

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