30 May 2014
The name Brabham is synonymous with Motorsport. In 1959 a young Australian won his first Formula 1 Grand Prix at the most famous race on the sport’s calendar, the Grand Prix de Monaco. He went on to win the World Championship that year, and the next year. In 1966 he won a third Championship in a car of his own construction and name; the only driver to win the title in a car bearing his own name. His amazing career spanned sixteen seasons and also included two Constructor’s Championships. That young Australian was Sir Jack Brabham and he had a profound influence on the sport which still resonates around the world today.
John Arthur ‘Jack’ Brabham was born on April 2, 1926, in Hurstville, an Australian town on the outskirts of Sydney. He was the only child of a greengrocer and from a young age was fascinated with anything and everything mechanical, including the family’s trucks which he mastered driving and servicing while in his early teens. Brabham was not academically-inclined and at age fifteen he left school and took jobs in an engineering shop and garage, before serving in the Royal Australian Air Force as a mechanic during World War II. The eighteen year old was keen to become a pilot, but was needed to fill a wartime shortage of flight mechanics and his mechanical aptitude made him the perfect candidate. After the war he started his own engineering firm, buying and selling second-hand cars, before he started racing midget cars in 1948.
In 1951 the Australian became interested in road racing and bought and modified a series of cars from the British constructor, Cooper Car Company. He competed successfully in Australia and New Zealand during the early fifties, before travelling to Europe in 1955 where he bought another Cooper to compete in national events. During this time Brabham, who earned the nickname “Black Jack” for both his taciturn nature and dark hair, embarked on what would be a very successful relationship with Cooper Cars, building a Bobtail mid-engined sports car which he drove in his Formula 1 debut at the 1955 British Grand Prix.
The Brabham-Cooper partnership resulted in back-to-back Formula 1 World Championships for the Australian in 1959 and 1960; however Brabham felt he could do better. He enlisted the help of friend Ron Tauranac and together they started Motor Racing Developments (MRD), producing customer racing cars. Brabham continued to race for Cooper until 1962 when he joined his own team, Brabham Racing Organisation with cars built by MRD. And in 1966 the venture paid off when he won the Championship and became the only driver to win in a car designed and built by themself, carrying their own name.
A legend at much at home with engineering as he was with driving, technological innovations brought about by the Brabham team helped shaped the sport today and inspired future innovations. Through his partnership with Tauranac, more than 500 Brabham race cars were built by MRD in the 1960s and the Brabham name continued in Formula 1 for three decades.
After retiring in 1970, the tenacious Champion became the first Motorsport identity to be knighted. In addition, Brabham was named Australian of the Year in 1966, a legend of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2003 and a National Living Treasure in 2012. His love of racing was passed on to his three sons Geoff, Gary and David and grandsons Matthew and Sam, who have all forged careers in Motorsport.
A formidable competitor and a remarkable man, Sir Jack Brabham passed away peacefully at home on 20 May 2014 aged 88. In a written statement on behalf of the family, youngest son David best described his iconic father:
“He lived an incredible life, achieving more than anyone would ever dream of and he will continue to live on through the astounding legacy he leaves behind.”
Sir Jack Brabham
2 April 1966 – 20 May 2014
An Incredible Life
• Triple Formula 1 Driver World Champion – 1959, 1960, 1966
• 14 Formula 1 Grand Prix victories
• 13 Formula 1 Pole Positions
• 31 Formula 1 Podium Finishes
• Australian of the Year in 1966
• Awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1967
• Knighted for his services to Motorsport in 1979
• Only Formula 1 driver to win the Championship in car of his own construction