Hit the jackpot


Lotus seemed to be holding all the aces, only to be trumped by Cooper’s ‘Black Jack’. Paul Fearnley recalls the hottest winning streak in the Surrey marques history

The ‘Lowline’ T53 made its debut in the International Trophy at Silverstone. Jack qualified fifth, drove his socks off in the race — and was beaten by Innes Ireland’s Lotus 18. Consternation. Followed by the dispiriting announcement that long-time Cooper customer Rob Walker had ordered an 18 for Moss to drive.

Stirling duly used this car to win in Monaco from pole position, but not before Jack and the ‘Lowline’ had led for six laps until clouting a wall at Ste Devote and being disqualified for outside assistance.

Moss and the 18 were on pole at Zandvoort, too, but second-fastest Jack was happy with his car’s handling on full tanks and took the lead at the start. Moss gave hectic chase for 17 laps, until a chunk of rock thrown up by the leader punctured the Lotus’s right-front Dunlop. Brabham was unchallenged thereafter, although Moss was clearly the fastest man on the track in his recovery charge to fourth.

At Spa, Brabham was setting the practice pace when Moss’s Lotus shed a wheel and pitched its unfortunate driver out and along the road. Stirling would be out of action for two months. During which time Brabham and the ‘Lowline’ ruled the roost. They led all 46 laps at Spa, and diced mightily with the Ferrari Dinos of Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips in the early stages of the French Grand Prix before stretching away for win number three.

“That race at Reims was the highlight of the season,” says Brabham. “To come away with a victory and 300 bottles of champagne from a race which we were supposed to be unable to win was a big plus for us. I certainly wouldn’t have liked to be in Phil’s shoes while he explained to Enzo why Ferrari hadn’t won at Reims.”

At Silverstone, Brabham led much of the way only to be slowed by a gearbox problem — and passed by a hard-charging Graham Hill. Jack kept the pressure on though, and the BRM man threw it away with a spin six laps from home.

In Portugal, Brabham recovered from an early straight-on — his wheels were stuck in tramlines! — to score win number five. Actually, it was six, having won the Silver City Trophy at Brands Hatch.

He was confident of making it seven, too, only for the British teams to boycott Monza’s punishing bankings. “I reckoned the Cooper was strong enough to win there,” says Brabham, “but I guess the Lotus drivers were glad to give it a miss.”

Winning can sometimes seem easy. But it never is. The next seven years were to yield just three world championship wins for Cooper. Brabham himself had to wait another six years for a GP victory. This rugged character had, however, undoubtedly seized his chance when all the right pieces were in all the right places. And his tight-knit team had backed him all the way.

“Jack was a tiger in the car and a hard nut out of it,” remembers mechanic ‘Ginger’ Devlin. “Even when you are winning, you can be fed up to the back teeth with it all. But Jack commanded huge respect — and was well liked. The two are not always compatible.”