by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
GP Week : Issue 202
Last Monday’s news that Sir Jack Brabham has quietly passed away, was no real surprise to people within Australian motor sport. He had been dealing with kidney disease for more than five years and that, along with deafness from exposure to high- pitched racing cars and macular degeneration that affected his eyesight, had provided its challenges. But Jack – as motor sport in Australia knew him – was as tough as his legendary Brabham race cars, thoughtfully designed and built machines that unlike some of their rivals at the time, simply did not break. As recently as the day before he died, he was attending events, many featuring the car he is best remembered for: the Repco-powered Brabham that took him to his third world title, in 1966. So the news of his death was sad but it is also an opportunity to reflect on achievements that will never be repeated; he was a pioneer of Australian sport and engineering. Back in the late 1950s, the UK and Europe were the global centres of motor sport; they still are. Arrivals from the colonies were viewed with faint amusement and, well, tolerated. When Jack arrived from Australia at the Cooper Car Company to take up their offer of a car, he was shown a pile of tubes in a rack and told to start building. He did, and before too long, the Coopers understood what they had unearthed. Jack’s engineering nous helped in the development of the Coopers, the first serious modern rear- engined grand prix cars, with which he won his 1959 and 1960 world titles. Unable to have greater input, he went out on his own in 1961 in partnership with a friend from Australia, Ron Tauranac. How typical. An already-established garage business became Brabham Cars and soon, Jack and Brabham cars were competing in what was then the 1.5 litre Formula One. It was what happened next which defined Jack Brabham. With a big change coming to Formula One in 1966, doubling the engine size to three-litres, he pulled off the almost impossible. With the traditional engine companies all talking big V12 powerhouses, Jack reasoned that they’d probably have a hell of a time getting them sorted and reliable. In the meantime, something a little smaller and reliable might just do the trick. From that thought came the relationship with Repco, and a ground-up V8 engine designed and built in Australia. It was light and reliable, not as powerful as some of the ferocious V12s would be, but it was just the right thing at the right time. A four-race winning streak paved the way for his 1966 world title. The unthinkable had been achieved – a driver from Australia had not only won his third world title, this one was in a car he’d built himself. Imagine the logistics alone – engines being built on the opposite side of the world, and flown backwards and forwards during development. Jack was a pretty damned good, albeit sometimes under-rated driver, but it was the engineering challenge which gave him the real satisfaction. The following year, his team-mate Denny Hulme won the championship while Jack suffered from the unreliability that comes with trying new things ‘on the run’. (Oh, and in the mreantime a relationship with Honda was resulting in domination of F2 at the dame time). Eventually, the rest – particularly with the arrival of the brilliant Ford Cosworth engine – caught up and the Repco programme came to its end. Brabham’s cars switched to the ubiquitous Ford in 1969 and remained among the most competitive cars for some years. Formula One in the late 1960s was, as we know, very dangerous. Drivers died. Under pressure from his wife, Jack gave thought to quitting driving at the end of 1969. Unable to replace his departing star driver Jochen Rindt, he went around one more time. He won the opening race of the year and would eventually finish fifth in the championship, at the ripe old age of 44. But a simple driving error cost him a win at Monaco, and then Rindt was killed in a needless crash, driving a Lotus, in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix. This time Jack listened to his wife and at the end of the year hung up his helmet and walked away, returning to live on a farm and set up garage and car businesses back in Australia. In Jack’s case that was exactly half a lifetime ago. Given the enormity of Formula One 21st century-style, Jack’s achievement – winning in a car bearing his own name (and with an Australian-built engine) – simply cannot be repeated. He owns a unique spot in motor sport history and Australia should be, and are, very, very proud. – CHRIS LAMBDEN, Managing Editor A unique Australian icon Jochen Rindt (right) drove for Jack in 1968, but moved to Lotus in 1969. Here the two, still the best of friends, chat at the South African Grand Prix in 1969. Rindt's death, 18 months later, may well have been the final straw in Brabham's decision to retire at the end of 1970 – a decision he ultimately regretted. F1 >>> SIR JACK BRABHAM 23 GPWEEK.com // 23 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: