Australian F1 Motor Racing Legend Sir Jack Brabham Has Died Aged 88

Sir Jack Brabham at Brands Hatch, 1971. Picture: Getty Images.

Triple F1 winner, Sir Jack Brabham, OBE, Australia’s greatest race car driver, has died. He was 88.

Sir Jack, the first driver to be knighted for services to motorsport, won the Formula One World Drivers Champion three times, in 1959, 1960 and 1966. In the final race of his ’59 victory, he ran out of fuel and pushed his car across the finish line.

His third championship victory was even more remarkable when he became the only driver to win in a car he made – the BT19. He was 40 at the time and this wonderful anecdote about the “geriatric” world champion can be found on his official F1 Hall of Fame page:

Prior to the 1966 Dutch Grand Prix, his first race after his 40th birthday, ‘Geriatric Jack’ Brabham hobbled onto the starting grid at Zandvoort, wearing a long false beard and leaning on a cane. Sportingly, several of his laughing opponents helped him into the cockpit of his Brabham-Repco, which happened to be on pole position. Tossing aside his beard and cane Brabham proceeded to win that race.

The Brabham team went on to win the F1 World Constructors Championship and followed up with another victory in 1967 with New Zealander Denny Hulme driving the BT20.

He contested 126 Grand Prix races in a 16-year career and won both the Australian and New Zealand Grand Prix three times as well as British Saloon Car Championship in 1965. He also won two European Formula Two Championships. Sir Jack was 44 when he won his final Grand Prix, in South Africa in 1970.

Born in Sydney in 1926, Jack Brabham served as an RAAF mechanic during World War II, going on to found an engineering company trading in second hand cars. His racing career began on dirt tracks in midget cars almost by accident. He was in Brisbane in 1946 with an American friend midget racer, Johnny Schonberg, on the hunt for surplus military equipment. They went to a race meeting, but Brabham was indifferent about the cars, although his mate convinced him to build one.

Schonberg raced it for the next couple of years before his wife pushed for him to give the game away, so Brabham stepped into the driver’s seat. After winning at his third start, his future was sealed.

Sir Jack was a pioneer, who moved to Europe in 1955 to race with Charles and John Cooper, and introduced mid-engined race cars, which he helped design.

He was notoriously publicity shy, earning him the moniker “Black Jack”, and famously refused to eat foreign food, flying in his own steaks for dinner.

He transformed US Indy car racing when he qualified for the Indianapolis 500 in the first modern mid-engined car, finishing ninth. It was the beginning of the end for the classic Indy roadster.The first Brabham-built car debuted at the 1962 German Grand Prix. He introduced Honda to four-wheeled motor sport, using their engines in Brabham Formula Two cars in 1966.

He was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1967 and knighted in 1979.

Jack married Betty Brabham in 1951, the had three sons Geoff, Gary and David, who all became involved in motorsport and racing. The divorced in 1994 and Betty died last year. Sir Jack remarried in 1995.

Sir Jack continued to race up until 2004. An accident during a race in 2000 was the first time he spent the night in hospital from a race accident.

In the last few years he had been on dialysis for kidney disease. Until his death, Sir Jack was the oldest surviving World Drivers’ Champion.

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