Sir John Arthur “Jack” Brabham, a true F1 legend. Jack Brabham will never be forgotten, the first Aussie champion and the only man to win a championship in a car of his own creation.
Brabham was born in early April of 1926 in Hurstville, Australia. At the age of 15 he was taking a course on mechanical engineering and working in a local garage, and at 18 in 1944 he joined the Royal Australian Air Force as a flight mechanic. Brabham got into motorsport by building a midget car, or speedcar, for a friend, when his friend retired from racing, Brabham took over and didn’t take long before he started winning.
Jack Brabham won multiple speedcar championships in Australia in the late 40s and early 50s before moving to road racing, racing modified Cooper cars. After more wins and championships Brabham moved to Europe and made his F1 debut at the 1955 British GP for Cooper.
F1 – Cooper
In 1955 Brabham made his F1 debut at the age of 29 at the British GP, the only Cooper entry that season, but he retired after 30 of the 60 laps with mechanical problems. Jack didn’t race another championship F1 race until the following season at the 1956 British GP, in a Maserati this time but only completed three laps. Between these two races he competed in multiple non-championship races with a couple of podium finishes.
1957 was Jack Brabham’s first (almost) full season of F1, competing in five of the eight races that season, with a best finish of sixth, but still no points scored. In 1958 Brabham had a full time drive at Cooper in F1, scoring his first points at the Monaco GP with fourth place, but was three laps down on the winner Maurice Trintignant.
Brabham won the first race of the 1959 season and set the fastest lap, it was his first F1 victory, the first ever win by an Australian in F1 and the first win for the factory Cooper team. The next three races brought three more podiums for Jack and one win from pole position, one last podium later in the season at Monza and a fourth place at Sebring took the title for Brabham and Cooper. The start of the 1960 season wasn’t smooth, a retirement and a disqualification, but then turned it around with five consecutive victories, securing the title once again. 1961 was Jack Brabham’s final season at Cooper, retiring in six of the eight races and finishing just 11th in the championship.
F1 – Brabham
For 1962 Jack entered and raced for his own team in F1, Brabham Racing Organisation, starting off in a Lotus before using a Brabham BT3 for the final few races of the season. In 1963 Jack was racing alongside another racing great, Dan Gurney, with four podiums between them, putting the team third in the Constructors’ Championship, ahead of Ferrari. 1964 had two more podiums for Jack and two wins for Gurney. The first F1 win for the Brabham team came at the 1964 French GP, Gurney won and Jack was third.
It wasn’t until the 1966 French GP that Jack finally won a race in his own car, becoming the first driver to win an F1 race in a car of his own construction. Three more wins and the championship was in the bag, also winning the Constructors’ Championship that year, making Jack not only the first man to win a race in a car of his own creation but also the first and only to win a championship in his own car, a feat unlikely to ever be matched again.
In 1967 the Brabham team had another good year, winning both titles, but this time Denny Hulme took the Drivers’ Championship. The next few seasons weren’t too good for either Jack or the Brabham team, with just a handful of wins. Jack’s last victory came at the 1970 South African GP, by 8.1 seconds ahead of his former teammate Hulme.
F1 wasn’t the only thing Jack Brabham competed in, he raced in four Indy 500s, but only finished at the 1961 Indy 500 in ninth place, the only non-American driver in the race. Brabham also competed in the New Zealand Tasman Series from 1964 to 1969, with a bunch of podiums and wins.
After Jack retired from F1 the team lived on until 1992, the team won two more Drivers’ Championships with Nelson Piquet, but no more Constructors’ Championships. After Piquet left the Brabham team at the end of 1985 they never won another race and were struggling, with a best championship position of just 8th place. In their final season in 1992 they raced just three times, failing to qualify at almost every race and not even making it to the end of the season.
Brabham also founded Engine Developments Ltd, or Judd as it is also known, who manufactured F1 engines from 1988 to 1992, with eight cars finishing on the podium with their engines.
Sir Jack Brabham may no longer be with us, but his legend will always live on, all three of his sons became racing drivers, two of which reached F1, and two of his grandsons, Matthew and Sam Brabham, are racing in junior open wheel series now, will either reach F1? Who knows.