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Sir Jack Brabham – Reminiscing about a Great Australian

It’s been a few weeks now since Jack Brabham died.

We haven’t had a chance to talk about him but of course we must.

He is one of the best known Australian sportspersons. And he is known for all the right reasons.  Successful in his chosen sport as a driver and constructor, supportive of those around him, positive in his memories and a genuine family man.

To reminisce about this great Australian, let’s talk to Brent Davison from the Newcastle Herald and the Illawarra Mercury.

  • I’ve listened to a lot of his interviews and the one thing is that he is never negative.  His first years of formula 1 racing were in Coopers that did even have the full capacity engines yet he never bemoans that.  It was a fact of life.
  • Racing for Coopers, a small English company, that did not have the backing of a large manufacturer.  He was competing against Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes.
  • He pushed his car over the line in a few cases.   In 1957, Brabham drove mid-engined Cooper, again only fitted with a 2-litre engine, at the Monaco Grand Prix. He avoided a large crash at the first corner and was running third towards the end of the race when the fuel pump mount failed.  In the last race of the 1959 season.  Three people could have won the championship in the last race (In the United States).  He ran out of petrol and pushed the car over the line for fourth place.
  • He started as a mechanic for midget speedway cars but after the driver had a few crashes and his wife made him stop, Jack stepped into the driver’s seat.  These were cars where it is hard to have a standout vehicle.  He won his third race.
  • He took five mechanics to a Grand Prix to work on two cars.  Now each wheel has more people assigned to that.
  • He was supported by his father and by the Redex fuel additive company, although his commercially aware approach—including the title RedeX Special painted on the side of his Cooper-Bristol—did not go down well with the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS), which banned the advertisement.
  • He retired at the end of 1970 not because he was too old to race (he was 44) but because he wanted to give his boys a chance to have a family life and maybe not get involved in racing.
  • He famously said that he wanted to win races in the slowest possible time.  He was also known as the safest driver to drive on public roads to and from race meetings.
  • He has a mischievous nature.  Peter McKay from Fairfax media said it best when he noted that Sir Jack would have a twinkle in his eye as he told some of his stories.  Sir Jack once told me that the greatest moment in his life was after he won the 1959 Monaco Grand Prix.  On the victory dais he got to kiss Princess Grace of Monaco!

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