News : Sir Jack Brabham OBE (1926-2014)

Keith Adams

Jack Brabham

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

Jack Brabham (19)

Keith Adams


  1. Sounds like a good subject for a film and hopefully more lively/inspiring than the (IMO) mainly dreary/disappointing Senna effort…

  2. I liked the Senna film, some of the best driving I have ever seen.
    Since his death, I have never watched F1.
    His demise shocks me to this day with watching the crash, funnily enough Jezza did a superb piece on Senna and is still worth a watch.

  3. Senna should have gone with his instincts on the day and not raced but then it probably would have happened to someone else later down the line.
    Its not really the same sport now – yes there’s racing but its racing for a given value of health & safety. Jack Brabham and his ilk would never have gotten a look in sadly – these days everythings about what piece of paper you have – not what talent and skills you have in the real world.
    Its kind of sad too that there will be more column inches and time spent discussing and dissecting that poor Peaches Geldof girls death than ever will be spent covering the life of someone like Jack Brabham. Please note before you rant, Im not making a judgement on the value of either of them – I hope theres a afterlife and I manage to get my hands on her mother because that woman has a lot to answer for..
    If there is an afterlife I wonder what all the motor racing pioneers think of things these days – Monsieur Veyron looking down for example and seeing all the data systems and telemetry and the exploding turbos, when all he had was artillery wheels and oddly enough, superchargers that actually worked.. Ettore Bugatti must be laughing himself silly at all these ‘new’ ideas.

    RIP Sir Jack

  4. Sad news.

    IIRC Jack was one of the pioneers of “chassis tuning” where getting the right set up for a car could be almost as important as the amount of power from the engine.

    Certainly the rear engined Coopers were good on tigher circuits but struggled initially on the faster ones.

    The Repco engines used by Brabham 1966-68 were based on the same GM blocks as the Rover V8s. While not being the most powerful they had a good torque output, good for getting out of corners quickly.

  5. I believe Jack Brabham had a Vauxhall dealership in the late 1960’s & 70’s. Also he developed tuned up versions of the VIVA HB which were supplied officially by Vauxhall Motors.

    They were called “Brabham Viva’s” and came in the same trim levels (deluxe/SL) but had bonnet striping to identify them externally. Jack used to get mentioned in Vauxhall’s magazine, the “Vauxhall Motorist” regularly. He was obviously a charismatic man… RIP

  6. In 1969, I was 13 and I pestered my dad to take me to an F1 race. We went to the International Trophy at Silverstone in April or May (there were non-championship F1 races in those days). The race was won by Jack Brabham, in a Brabham of course. In 2001, I took one of my sons to the Goodwood festival of speed. We saw a small cluster of people standing round an old man. It was Sir Jack. He autographed our programme. I showed the autographed programme to my father. He died a couple of month later. Memories….

  7. Had the pleasure of meeting Sir Jack at Brands in 1987. I was chatting to Ben Edwards in the Kentagon when he was introduced by John Webb. There was a video of a Formula first race on the T.V and he asked Ben several questions about the cars, how they handled, how powerful etc. Despite being a triple world champion he still had great passion for motor sport extending to the most junior formula’s.
    When I said ” Pleased to meet you Sir Jack” his reply was
    ” Please son.. call me Jack!”.
    As I complemented his son Gary on setting the fastest lap in his F3 race the previous weekend ( He was running Garys F3 team that year ) he smiled and said ” Yeah but I don’t understand how you set fastest lap and finish Fifth !
    So a great champion a great engineer and a good bloke!

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