Sir Jack Brabham, a three time F1 World Champion and the only man to have won the Formula One drivers’ title in a car he designed and built, died Monday morning, aged 88.
An iconic figure of the classic era of motorsport, the Australian started racing after watching a midget car race in the late 1940s. He joined Formula One in 1955, after moving to Europe and tying a friendship with John Cooper, a relationship that would last until 1961.
It was under Cooper’s flag that Brabham started to make a name for himself as both a passionate driver and a skilled engineer, commonly adopting his own tactics while behind the steering wheel. Just like Juan Manual Fangio , Brabham started to race Formula One single-seaters in his 30s, proving that talent and prowess don’t fade away with age.
Brabham had sporadic appearances in his first three season in Formula One, starting in only seven races and finishing just three, without scoring a podium. That changed dramatically in 1958, when the Australian raced a full season, although he failed to score more than three points.
Success finally came in 1959. Cooper introduced the rear-engine, T51 car and Brabham drove it to two wins and three podiums to win his first World Championship. In the process, "Black Jack" defeated famed figures such as Stirling Moss , Phil Hill and Bruce McLaren. He reached new heights the next season, when he won the series with a comfortable lead after taking five consecutive checkered flags. McLaren, Moss and Hill had to settle with yet another defeat.
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Why It Matters
Nearly 50 years have passed since Brabham won the World Championship driving a car bearing his own name, and that’s not likely to change. Not anytime soon, but never! Sir Jack Brabham may have passed away, but his legend will live on.
Sir Jack Brabham
Brabham decided to found his own team in 1961 and left Cooper. He started building his own cars in 1962 and his team immediately became a top contender in the series. He won his third and final championship in 1966 while driving the iconic Brabham BT19, which was powered by a Repco V-8 engine. With help from future Can-Am star Denny Hulme, the Brabham team also clinched the manufacturers’ title in both 1966 and 1967, with the Australian finishing the latter season in second place, behind his teammate.
Brabham retired from racing in 1970, after three less successful seasons, and sold his interest in the team to his partner Ron Tauranac. Brabham was eventually sold to Bernie Ecclestone and continued racing until 1992, when it collapsed due to financial difficulties.
Brabham moved back to Australia after his retirement, but returned to England a few years later, where he maintained a Vauxhall dealership. He was knighted in 1979 and continued to drive occasionally until 2004.
"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," said Ron Dennis, Brabham’s former chief mechanic and McLaren Chairman and CEO.
Jack Brabham is survived by his three sons, Geoff, Gary and David, who have also enjoyed successful racing careers.