Sir Jack Brabham, three-times Formula 1 World Driver’s Champion, has died aged 88, following a long battle with liver disease. Brabham remains the only F1 driver to win the Championship in a car he built himself, and during his racing career, he gained a fearsome reputation with his rivals for never giving up.
Sir Jack’s made his debut in the 1955 British GP, with his final front-line race taking place in Mexico, 15 years later. In an era littered with brilliant drivers, such as Sir Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill, he carved a highly successful career that bagged the Championship in 1959, 1960 and 1966. The team that bore his name remained in Formula 1 until 1992 and was one of the most successful teams in the sport, with 35 wins between its debut in 1962 and its last race in 1992. The Brabham team’s final Constructor’s Championship was won by Nelson Piquet in 1983.
He started racing at 22-years old and, following a thoroughly successful career down under, Sir Jack made the trip to the UK in 1955 to take part in front line competition. His first Formula 1 win came in Monaco in 1959, as part of his back-to-back championship seasons. In 1966, when he won his third and final Formula 1 World Driver’s Championship, it was in a car he designed and built himself, the Brabham BT19 – he remains the only driver in history to do this.
Sir Jack won a total of 14 races, his last victory being in South Africa in 1970, aged 43, during his final year in the sport. He was knighted for services to motor sport in 1979.
David Brabham, his son, and former Formula 1 driver himself, said: ‘He lived an incredible life, achieving more than anyone would ever dream of. He will continue to live on through the astounding legacy he leaves behind.’
Sir Stirling Moss told Radio 5 Live: ‘Every race – and I’m talking 50-odd times a year – we would fight against each other. I remember in New Zealand in the early ’50s, we were contending the New Zealand Grand Prix or something like that, and I had a problem with my back axle. The first person that came up was Jack and he said “take it off my spare car”, knowing very well that there was a good chance I might beat him. A real sportsman and a good Aussie.’
McLaren Group CEO Ron Dennis told the Official Formula 1 website: ‘The word “legend” is often used to describe successful sportsmen, but often it exaggerates their status. In the case of Sir Jack Brabham, however, it’s entirely justified. When I started out in Formula 1 in the late 1960s, I worked first for Cooper and then for Brabham. Even as a callow youth, I could recognise greatness when I saw it, and I’ll always regard it as an honour and a privilege to have worked for Sir Jack. I learned a lot from him too.’
All images: Jack Brabham’s website