Jack Brabham

Full Name:
Sir John Arthur Brabham, OBE
Born:
2nd April 1926
Hurstville, Sydney, New South Wales
Died:
19th May 2014 (Aged 88)
Robina, Queensland
Nationality:
Australian
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Jack Brabham and Cooper were trailblazers during the 1950s – he the first Australian Formula 1 World Champion and the Surbiton marque instrumental in the rear-engine revolution. Although those stories were inextricably linked at that time, Brabham then formed the famous marque that would be crowned champions on four occasions.

Background and early racing career

A mechanic with the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II, Brabham built a midget “special” for his friend Johnny Schonberg once he was discharged in 1946. Brabham took over driving duties when Schonberg decided to stop racing (with a little persuasion from his wife) a couple of years later. That was an immediate success with Brabham winning the national dirt track championship for the next four years.

He switched to Australia’s hillclimb championship in 1953 at the start of his association with Cooper, and Brabham first met an engineer (Ron Tauranac) that year who would become important in his later career. Brabham drove the Redex Special (actually a Cooper T23-Bristol) to that year’s hillclimb title and he finished fourth in the New Zealand Grand Prix at the start of 1955.

Grand Prix debut for Cooper

With encouragement from Dean Delamont, the respected Competition Manager of the Royal Automobile Club, Brabham travelled to England to further his career in 1955. Production of the Aston Martin DB3S he originally planned to race was delayed, so Brabham acquired an ex-Peter Whitehead Cooper T24-Alta instead. That was not a competitive proposition but it led to a deal with Cooper to work at their Surbiton factory. He built a pair of “bob-tail” sports cars, one for himself and the other sold to Bob Chase. Known as the Cooper T40, Brabham drove his Bristol-powered car in that year’s British GP but he retired from his world championship debut before half distance. He shipped the car back to Australia and won the national GP at Port Wakefield.

Brabham returned to Europe in 1956 and bought a Maserati 250F from the Owen Racing Organisation. Third in the Aintree 200 on his maiden outing with the car and again at Snetterton, he was an early retirement from that year’s only GP appearance at Silverstone. The bulk of that season was spent driving a works Cooper in sports car and Formula 2 races – the Australian finishing second in the Shell GP at Imola.

The F2 Cooper T43-Climax was fully sorted by 1957 and Brabham excelled – winning at Brands Hatch (twice), Crystal Palace, Montlhery and Oulton Park. He also raced in five GPs that year and ran as high as third in Monaco before mechanical failure on the last lap forced Brabham to push the car across the line in sixth position.

That the nimble rear-engine Coopers were now competitive with the traditional GP cars was proved when Stirling Moss won the 1958 Argentine GP in a privately entered T43. Brabham then finished second in a couple of non-championship events before qualifying on the front row and finishing fourth in Monaco to score his only points of the season. There was success in both sports cars and F2 – Brabham sharing Moss’s winning Aston Martin DBR1 in the Nurburgring 1000Kms and crowned British F2 Champion thanks to victories at Goodwood and Brands Hatch. He also completed the season by winning the F2 class of the Moroccan GP.

World Champion with Cooper

The 1959 F1 World Championship was a pivotal year for the sport for it confirmed the validity of Cooper’s rear-engine design philosophy. He dominated the International Trophy at Silverstone a week before winning a world championship GP for the first time – inheriting victory at Monaco when Moss retired from the lead. Podium finishes in the next three races included victory in the British GP at Aintree. Third place at Monza meant that Brabham entered the final round at Sebring ahead of the three-way title fight with Moss and Tony Brooks. Moss retired during the early laps of United States GP and Brabham appeared on course for victory and the title. However, he ran out of fuel on the last lap allowing team-mate Bruce McLaren to win. Brabham was able to push his car across the line to finish fourth and become the first Antipodean to win the title.

Brabham’s F1 title defence began with frustration but eventually proved even more successful. His engine failed in Argentina and he spun out of the lead in Monaco. But he won the next five GPs in succession (Dutch, Belgian, French, British and Portuguese GPs) to retain the world championship with two rounds to spare. Further non-championship success at Brands Hatch and F2 wins on the streets of Brussels and Pau completed another rewarding season for “Black Jack.”

Indianapolis 500 debut

New controversial F1 rules were introduced in 1961 that stipulated 1500cc normally aspirated engines. While Ferrari were ready with the “shark nose” Dino 156, the British teams had to wait for Climax’s V8 to be ready. Cooper began with under-powered four-cylinder engines and Brabham retired from three of the first GPs. During that time Brabham drove the unique Cooper T54-Climax in the lucrative Indianapolis 500 – finishing an impressive ninth and beginning the rear-engine “British Invasion.” Fourth in the British GP, the V8 powered T58 proved unreliable when it was introduced at the next race. On pole position for the United States GP at the end of a frustrating F1 campaign, he was a lowly 11th in the final standings.

Establishing the Brabham marque

By that time, Brabham was already planning a new venture in conjunction with Tauranac. They formed Motor Racing Developments to start working on a new Formula Junior car during 1961. They entered the 1962 F1 World Championship as the Brabham Racing Organisation with Brabham driving a Lotus 24-Climax at first. He ran third at Monaco before crashing and was second in the 2000 Guineas at Mallory Park. Sixth at Spa-Francorchamps and fifth at Aintree were rewarded with championship points before the Brabham BT3-Climax was introduced at the German GP. Winner of the non-championship Danish GP in the Lotus, the BT3’s potential was illustrated by fourth place finishes in the final two GPs of the year (USA and South Africa) and second in the non-championship Mexican race.

Dan Gurney joined the team as Brabham’s team-mate in 1963 and the impressive American came fifth in the championship thanks to scored podium finishes in the Dutch, South African (when second on both occasions) and Belgian GPs (third). The team owner had his days as well that year – winning non-championship races at Solitude and Zeltweg and finishing second in the Mexican GP.

Dan Gurney – Grand Prix winner for Brabham

The Tasman Series was introduced in 1964 and Brabham won three races in a row (including the Australian GP) as he finished as runner-up behind Bruce McLaren. It was Gurney who delivered the team’s first world championship victories after Jim Clark’s Lotus retired from the lead in France and on the last lap in Mexico. F1 success for the team owner was confined to the non-championship Aintree 200 and International Trophy – Brabham passing Graham Hill at the last corner to win a photo finish at Silverstone. His best result when points were on offer were successive third place finishes in the Belgian and French GPs. He was also named as that year’s French F2 Champion – Albi and Montlhery among his four F2 wins during 1964.

Brabham retired from the lead of the 1965 Monaco GP but that season was a low key affair from a driving point of view. The boss even gave his car to team-mates Gurney and newcomer Denny Hulme at three mid-season races. He returned to finish third in the wet United States GP at Watkins Glen.

World Champion as owner/driver

New 3-litre F1 rules were introduced in 1966 and Brabham signed an exclusive engine deal with Repco. The new BT19-Repco was ready for the non-championship South African GP on New Year’s Day and it was immediately on the pace – Brabham leading from pole position before retiring from the lead. Winner of the International Trophy, Brabham retired in Monaco and finished fourth at Spa-Francorchamps. Without a GP victory in six years and unfancied before the season, Brabham then won the next four races (France, Britain, Holland and Germany) to take command of the championship. He retired at Monza but was crowned world champion for the third time when his closest rivals also dropped out. The unique achievement of winning the title in a car built by his own company was augmented by domination of F2 that year as well – his Brabham BT18-Honda winning 10 races.

Brabham-Repco retained both world championships in 1967 although it was team-mate Hulme who secured the drivers’ title at the final round. Brabham won the French and Canadian GPs (both 1-2s for the team) but Hulme’s greater number of podium finishes (eight to six) proved decisive.

Hulme switched to McLaren for his title defence in 1968 and Brabham endured a frustrating and unreliable season. He retired all-but one GP he started with fifth at the Nurburgring delivering his only points of the season. New team-mate Jochen Rindt scored a couple of third place finishes but it was obvious that the Repco V8 was no longer the answer.

Final Formula 1 victories

The team switched to Ford DFV engines in 1969 and Jacky Ickx replaced the Lotus-bound Rindt. Despite now being in his forties, Brabham qualified on pole position for the opening race in South Africa and he won the International Trophy – his fourth victory in Silverstone’s non-championship race. Brabham returned to Indianapolis that year with two Brabham BT25-Repcos for himself and rookie Peter Revson. Brabham retired after 58 laps but the American came from the back of the grid to finish a race of attrition in fifth position. Brabham’s F1 season was interrupted by breaking his foot in a mid-season testing accident at Silverstone’s Club Corner. He missed three GPs as a consequence but he enjoyed a competitive return. Second in Canada and third in the Mexican finale was good enough for tenth in the 1969 standings.

The veteran was competitive from the outset of the 1970 championship in what proved to be his final season as a driver. He passed Jackie Stewart to win the opening South African GP and appeared on course for victory in Monaco. However, with Rindt’s Lotus in close attendance on the last lap, Brabham misjudged the final corner and hit the straw bales. He managed to limp across the line 23.1 seconds behind the Austrian but still in second position. He was also cruelly denied at Brands Hatch when his car ran out of fuel on the last lap allowing Rindt to another last-gasp victory. Fifth equal in the final standings, Brabham retired from motor racing.

He sold the company to long-time partner Tauranac and returned to settle on Australia’s Gold Coast. Bernie Ecclestone acquired Brabham in 1972 and Nelson Piquet won the 1981 and 1982 World Championships under his stewardship. Knighted in the New Year’s list for 1979, Sir Jack Brabham’s three sons (Geoff, Gary and David) all enjoyed successful motor racing careers and the latter even drove for the team in the 1990 F1 World Championship.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1984 World Endurance Championship 1 0 0 0 0
1981 World Endurance Championship 1 0 0 0 0
1970 USAC National Championship
Motor Racing Developments
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1970 International Championship of Makes
Equipe Matra Elf
2 0 0 0 2
1970 F1 World Championship
Motor Racing Developments
13 1 4 1
8% win rate
5th 25
1970 European F2 Trophy
John Coombs
2 0 1 0
0% win rate
0
1969 Rothmans Tasman Championship 1 0 1 0
0% win rate
8th 4
1969 F1 World Championship
Motor Racing Developments
8 2 2 0
0% win rate
10th 14
1969 USAC National Championship
Motor Racing Developments
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1968 Tasman Cup 2 1 0 0
0% win rate
0
1968 USAC National Championship
Motor Racing Developments
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1968 F1 World Championship
Brabham Racing Organisation
11 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
23rd 2
1967/1967 RAC British F2 Championship
Motor Racing Developments
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
15th 1
1967 Tasman Cup
Brabham Racing Organisation
Jack Brabham Racing
6 2 2 1
17% win rate
5th 18
1967 European F2 Trophy
Motor Racing Developments
6 0 1 0
0% win rate
0
1967 F1 World Championship
Brabham Racing Organisation
11 2 6 2
19% win rate
2nd 46 (48)
1966 1966 French F2 Championship 1st -
1966 Autocar British F2 Championship
Brabham Racing Organisation
3 0 3 2
67% win rate
1st 24
1966 F1 World Championship
Brabham Racing Organisation
9 3 5 4
45% win rate
1st 42 (45)
1966 Tasman Cup
Ecurie Vitesse
2 1 1 0
0% win rate
10th 4
1966 South African Drivers Championship
Scuderia Scribante
1 1 1 1 0
1965 Autocar British F2 Championship
Brabham Racing Organisation
5 0 1 0
0% win rate
9th 4
1965 F1 World Championship
Brabham Racing Organisation
6 (1) 0 1 0
0% win rate
10th 9
1965 Tasman Cup
Ecurie Vitesse
3 1 3 1
34% win rate
3rd 21
1964 1964 French F2 Championship 1st -
1964 F1 World Championship
Brabham Racing Organisation
10 0 2 0
0% win rate
8th 11
1964 Autocar British F2 Championship
Brabham Racing Organisation
2 1 2 1
50% win rate
0
1964 USAC National Championship
John Zink
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1964 Tasman Cup
Ecurie Vitesse
Brabham Racing Organisation
6 4 4 3
50% win rate
2nd 33
1963 F1 World Championship
Brabham Racing Organisation
10 0 1 0
0% win rate
7th 14
1962 F1 World Championship
Brabham Racing Organisation
8 0 0 0
0% win rate
9th 9
1961 F1 World Championship
Cooper Car Co
8 1 0 0
0% win rate
11th 4
1961 USAC National Championship
Cooper Car Co
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
20th 200
1960 F1 World Championship
Cooper Car Co
8 3 5 5
63% win rate
1st 43
1959 F1 World Championship
Cooper Car Co
8 1 5 2
25% win rate
1st 31 (34)
1958 World Sportscar Championship
Aston Martin Cars
David Brown Racing
3 1 2 1 11
1958 F1 World Championship
Cooper Car Co
9 0 0 0
0% win rate
18th 3
1958 1958 Autocar British F2 Championship 1st -
1957 World Sportscar Championship
Cooper Car Co
1 0 0 0 0
1957 F1 World Championship
Cooper Car Co
Rob Walker Racing
5 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1956 F1 World Championship
Jack Brabham
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1955 F1 World Championship
Cooper Car Co
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0

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