Every year the Earl of March, owner of the Goodwood race track, selects a racing driver that will be honoured during the Goodwood Revival in a parade of cars the chosen legend has raced himself in his active career. This year Australian Sir John Arthur ‘Jack’ Brabham, the first ever Formula 1 Champion racing a car with his own name exactly 50 years ago, is the lucky bird. Brabham always carried Goodwood in his heart during his long career as a racing driver. Testing his cars, but mainly as a driver in the uncountable amount of race he drove here. And won!
Jack Brabham is the son of an English immigrant in Sydney, Australia. At age twelve his father, a grocer, teaches him how to drive. At age fifteen Brabham leaves school to start work in a garage. In World War 2 the Royal Australian Air Force trains him as a flight mechanic. A solid base for his never ending search for perfection in his race cars. Brabham debut as a racing driver is rather unexpected. One of his clients is forced to stop racing by his wife, leaving Brabham to have a go for himself. He sets of to win the New South Wales Championship in the ‘Midget Car’ class straightaway. This is where he meets Ron Tauranac, the man he’ll collaborate with pending his entire active racing career.
In 1955 Jack Brabham debuts in the Great Britain Grand Prix as a Formula 1 driver. After a meager season in the Maserati 250F, 1956 brings him a spot at the Cooper team, where, allegedly, the drivers are allowed to put together their own vehicles. In 1959 Brabham takes his first World Championship, beating the famous British racing driver Stirling Moss. In 1960 he just does it again. When his influence at the Cooper stable decreases, he starts building his own proper racing cars. After a first succes in the Indiana 500 times turn for the worst. For many this is because of the limitation of Formula 1 engines to 1500cc, engines that don’t appear to suit Brabham’s aggressive style. In 1966 three liter engines are allowed and Brabham finds just the engine he needs nearby at the Repco Company. The Repco-Brabham combination takes them on a winning spree in France, England, Holland and Germany and Brabham becomes the first ever Formula 1 World Champion in a car carrying his own name. An accomplishment no one has made ever since.
The Brabham team continuous being very successful, Jack Brabham’s career however comes to a slow halt. Several incidents make him promise his wife to stop racing and he sells his stock in the team to Tauranac. Shortage of drivers allow him to come back one more time in 1970, winning the South African Grand Prix as he goes along. At age 44 he drives his very last Formula 1 Grand Prix in Mexico. Brabham misses racing so much, he compensates managing his garage with spending lots of time at historic racing events. Like at Goodwood 1999, where he crashes and end up in hospital. Up to 2004 Jack Brabham keeps racing, than he has to take back. On the nineteenth of may 2014 Jack Brabham dies at home in his beloved Gold Coast Australia after a more than impressing racing career. Sir John Arthur ‘Jack’ Brabham is 88 years old.
Today we see before us an imposing collection of one seaters, saloons and sport cars traveling the Goodwood racetrack. Their speed not nearly at the pace Brabham used to put them through around here. I see a Brabham-BRM BT8 from 1964, a Bdrabham-Climax BT7 from 1963, a Brabham-Ford BT33 from 1970, a Brabham-Repco BT24 from 1968… All cars carrying his name. But quite some Cooper Climaxes Brabham drove in the second half of the fifties as well. An Aston Martin DB3S Boultbee from 1955, A Matra Simca MS 650 from 1970, a Jaguar E2A from 1960, the list is endless. The line up is impressive and a true Goodwood Revival tribute to a magnificent driver.
Text and pictures: Robbert Moree
Translation: Marc GF Zaan
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