Died, F1 Legend

Jack Brabham

Australian

  • Hurstville, New South Wales, Australia Place of Birth
  • 2 April 1926 Date of Birth
  • 1955 British Grand Prix F1 Debut
  • Brabham Current/Last Team

John Arthur ‘Jack’ Brabham was born on April 2, 1926, in Hurstville, a town near Sydney, Australia. From an early age, Jack was more interested in the delivery vehicles of his father’s greengrocery business than in the produce. He learned to drive them long before he was eligible for a license, and by his early teens, he was also able to maintain them. His mechanical aptitude led him to technical college, where he studied practical engineering. Not academically inclined, he left school at 15 and worked in an engineering shop, then a garage. At 18, he joined the Royal Australian Air Force, hoping to learn to fly but was instead trained as a flight mechanic due to wartime shortages. Upon discharge in 1946, his uncle built him a workshop in Sydney, where Jack opened his own engineering establishment.

NationalityAustralian
BornJohn Arthur Brabham
2 April 1926
Hurstville, New South Wales, Australia
Died19 May 2014 (age 88 years)
Gold Coast, Australia

Jack Brabham’s F1 career saw him secure three world championships, which were a testament to both his engineering expertise and driving skills. His first two titles, achieved in mid-engined Coopers that he helped develop, marked the end of the era of front-engined Formula 1 cars. His third title, in a Brabham, made him the only driver to win a championship in a car of his own make. For his lifetime achievements, which included nurturing the talents of other notable drivers and pioneering the business side of the sport, he became the first Formula One driver to be knighted.

Brabham’s introduction to motorsport came through a friend who raced midgets on dirt tracks. Jack helped build a new car and took over driving when his friend stopped, quickly becoming a regular winner. In self-prepared midgets, he won four successive Australian championships and was the 1953 hillclimb champion in a Cooper-Bristol. In 1955, his ambition took him to England, where he met John and Charles Cooper. This partnership propelled the Cooper Car Company and ‘Black Jack’ Brabham into the forefront of F1 history.

Brabham’s influence was crucial in convincing the Coopers to adopt mid-engine designs. He built his first chassis in Cooper’s workshop, and the small British cars with mid engines began to dominate an era previously ruled by big, front-engined Italian and German cars. In the team’s first full championship season in 1958, Stirling Moss won the debut race for Cooper in Argentina. In 1959, Brabham’s wins in Monaco and Britain, along with consistent high finishes, earned him the 1959 drivers’ title.

Nicknamed ‘Black Jack’ for his dark hair and reserved demeanour, Brabham was a man of few words, avoiding small talk. However, behind the wheel, he drove agressivly, using a dirt-track style and wasn’t averse to showering gravel on pursuers. His aversion to the limelight became more problematic in 1960, when he dominated the nine-race series, winning consecutively in Holland, Belgium, France, Britain, and Portugal, securing his second successive championship.

After an uncompetitive 1961 season dominated by Ferraris, Brabham left Cooper to form Motor Racing Developments with designer Ron Tauranac. The MRD Brabhams quickly found success in various racing categories, particularly Formula Two, providing opportunities for many drivers to advance their careers. The Brabham Formula One car, debuting in 1962, became increasingly competitive and by 1964, Brabham’s teammate Dan Gurney won in France and Mexico.

In 1966, with the new 3-litre formula, Brabham persuaded Australian company Repco to produce a Formula 1 engine based on an old Oldsmobile V8 design. At 40, ‘Geriatric Jack’ humorously hobbled onto the grid at Zandvoort with a false beard and cane, but he promptly discarded them and won the race. He also won in France, Britain, and Germany, securing his third championship and becoming the first (and only) driver to win the title in a car of his own make.

Jack Brabham’s final win came in the 1970 South African Grand Prix at age 44. He retired that season, selling his team to Bernie Ecclestone and returning to Australia. There, he ran a farm, a car dealership, and an aviation company, while supporting his sons’ racing careers. His contributions to motorsport were recognized in 1985 when he was knighted as Sir Jack Brabham. He passed away peacefully at home on 19 May 2014, aged 88.

Jack Brabham Formula One World Championship career

F1 Career1955–1970
TeamsCooper, Rob Walker Racing Team, Brabham
Entries128 (126 starts)
Championships3 (1959, 1960, 1966)
Wins14
Podiums31
Career points253 (261)[note 1]
Pole positions13
Fastest laps12
First entry1955 British Grand Prix
First win1959 Monaco Grand Prix
Last win1970 South African Grand Prix
Last entry1970 Mexican Grand Prix

Teammates

Driver Nationality Current/Last Team F1 Debut Status
New Zealand McLaren 1958 German Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend
New Zealand McLaren 1965 Monaco Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend
Austrian Team Lotus 1964 Austrian Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend

Teams

Team Nationality Debut Season Status
Cooper British 1950 Historic
Brabham British 1962 Historic