Three-time Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion Sir Jack Brabham has passed away peacefully in his Gold Coast home in Australia at the age of 88. He remains the only driver in Formula 1 history to win the Drivers’ Championship in a car bearing his own name.
“It’s a very sad day for all of us,” said son David Brabham in a statement. “My father passed away peacefully at home at the age of 88 this morning.
“He lived an incredible life, achieving more than anyone would ever dream of and he will continue to live on through the astounding legacy he leaves behind.”
Sir Jack made his Formula 1 debut for Cooper at the British Grand Prix in 1955, and made sporadic appearances in F1 until going full-time in 1958. In 1959, he took his first career win around the streets of Monte Carlo, the opening round of the season, and followed that up with a second place at the Dutch Grand Prix and a third place in France. A second win of his season then came at the British Grand Prix at Aintree, and he would go on to claim his first World Championship crown, finishing four points clear of closest challenger Tony Brooks.
In 1960, he was even more dominant. A retirement in Argentina and a disqualification in Monaco was quickly forgotten as Brabham would go onto win the Dutch, Belgian, French, British and Portuguese rounds in succession on route to his second title, finishing nine points clear of Bruce McLaren in the final standings.
After two years at the top, 1961 was a major disappointment for the Australian. As Cooper began to struggle, Brabham would only score points on two occasions, with a best finish of fourth in Great Britain. After two years as champion, he was classified 11th in the championship.
As he became demoralise with the struggles and issues, Brabham and his fellow Australian Ron Tauranac set up Motor Racing Developments Ltd, and the first car bearing the Brabham name appeared at the 1962 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. Two races later, he had scored points with the team in the United States by finishing fourth, a result he would match next time out in South Africa.
It was team-mate Dan Gurney who would take the teams’ first F1 victory at the 1964 French Grand Prix, but Brabham would return to the top step of the podium at the 1966 French Grand Prix at Reims, thus becoming the first driver in F1 history to win a race in a car bearing his own name. He followed that up by winning the next three races in Britain, the Netherlands and Germany, and won the championship by a clear 14 points from closest rival John Surtees.
He was close to a fourth title the following year, but lost out by five points to team-mate Denny Hulme, and continued to race until the end of the 1970 season before hanging up his helmet. His final victory came in the opening round of the 1970 season in South Africa, and he retired as a three-time champion with 14 career wins in 126 starts.
For his services to motorsport, Brabham became a Sir in 1978, thus becoming the first post-war racing driver to be knighted. He watched as his three sons Geoff, Gary and David had their own careers in motorsport, and in recent years grandsons Matthew and Sam have also begun to race, thus continuing the Brabham legacy in Motorsport that began with Sir Jack.
He will be sorely missed by many, and the thoughts of the TCF writers go out to the family, friends and former colleagues of Sir Jack Brabham.