Monday, 19 May 2014

RIP Sir Jack Brabham, Aussie Motor Racing Legend

 Jack Brabham 1961
I can't say that I know much about motor sports, but I did admire Sir Jack Brabham, a three-time Formula One world drivers' champion and icon of world motorsport, who has died today at the age of 88.

A skilled engineer with the RAAF during WWII, Jack was bitten by the racing bug when he saw his first speedway event in Brisbane in 1946. So he did what any obsessed guy would do - he built his own car. At first he was just going to be the mechanic for his friend Jonny Schonberg, but he ended up driving himself and within 12 months was Australian midget-car speedway driving champion.  He moved onto 'real' cars in 1953, and was soon winning Grand Prix events in Australia.

In 1955 Jack went to England for the season. He ended up staying, and sent for wife Betty and son Geoffrey to join him. He became the number one driver and team manager for Cooper cars, and he and the family rented a house just down the road from the Cooper factory.

Jack Brabham wins the trophy race at Silverstone, UK, in a Cooper, 1959
Jack Brabham wins the trophy race at Silverstone, UK, in a Cooper, 1959
Betty never failed to miss a race, and would watch calmly as jack was on the track, as she had great faith in his driving ability.  Her main worry was that he would catch cold."He's always forgetting to wear a sweater" she said.

Jack Brabham and wife Betty, 1959
Jack Brabham and wife Betty, 1959
He began community between England, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. In May 1959 he won the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, becoming the first Australian to make it into the top ten, let alone lead them.  He then went on to win  the Formula One in 1959, 1960 and 1966.  He was the only driver ever to win a championship in a car of his own construction.

At the 1959 American Grand Prix in Florida, Jack ran out of fuel and pushed his car the last 200m or so. Although he lost the race to New Zealand's Brice McLaren, jack's point score of 31 earned him the World Title, putting Australia on top of the world championships for the first time.

Jack Brabham, world champion, 1959
Jack Brabham, world champion, 1959
He also won the Grand Prix 14 times, and in in 1966 was made Australian of the Year. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1967, and become Sir Jack in 1979, for his services to motorsport.

The Brabhams lived in Surrey for most of the 1960s - hence why even I know of him - my Australian parents lived in Surrey when I was born in 1969.

Betty Brabham with sons Geoff 14, David 1, and Gary 5 at home in Surrey
Betty Brabham with sons Geoff 14, David 1, and Gary 5 at home in Surrey 1966
Jack and Betty were married in 1951, and had three sons, Geoff, Gary and David who all launched into high profile racing careers. “People always assume that we got all our talent from our father (Sir Jack) but we really got it all from our mother. No-one used to beat her off at the lights," said Geoff of his mother. My sort of girl!

Sir Jack and Betty divorced in 1994 after 43 years of marriage, and he married  Margaret in 1995. Betty died in September 2013.

RIP Jack, and Betty


  1. So sorry to see him go...he was a hero of mine as a child. It's great to know that he died at a good age instead of as a young man behind a Formula One wheel.

    1. I know - and he was in the RAAF! One lucky guy, I think!


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