2/4/1926 - 19/5/2014
Record updated 02-Apr-20
Formula One champion in 1959, 1960 and 1966.
John Arthur "Jack" Brabham was a second generation Australian. His father was a grocer in the Sydney suburb of Hurstville and Jack became involved with cars at an early age, learning to drive at 12. At 15 he left school and went to work in a garage while also attending technical college, studying metalwork, carpentry and technical drawing.
It was not long before he started his own business buying, rebuilding and selling motor cycles from his parents house.
He joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1944 and served as a flight mechanic at RAAF Williamtown. He was discharged in 1946 and opened a small repair business which he ran from a workshop built by his uncle on a plot of land behind his grandfather's house.
His first exposure to racing came when his American friend, Johnny Schonberg, took him to watch Midget Racing. Jack agreed to build a car for Johnny however when Johnny's wife persuaded him to quit, Jack took over the driving duties in 1948 and went on to win the Australian Speedcar Championship that year. He went on to take the 1949 Australian and South Australian Speedcar championships as well as the 1950–1951 Australian championship.
He became increasing interested in road racing and by 1953, most of his racing was in this discipline. He competed with considerable success in Australia and New Zealand until early 1955 when, after the 1955 New Zealand Grand Prix, Brabham was persuaded by Dean Delamont, the RAC's competitions manager, to race in Europe, making his Grand Prix debut at the British Grand Prix driving his own Maserati 250F but soon joined Cooper.
In 1959 Brabham won the World Championship with a Coventry Climax engined Cooper. However convinced that he could do better, late 1959 he asked his friend Ron Tauranac to come to the UK and work with him, initially upgrading road cars at Jack Brabham Motors, but with the goal of designing racing cars.
In 1960 he won the championship again with Cooper. Brabham then took his Championship-winning Cooper to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a test following the 1960 season and entered the 500-mile race in a modified version of the Formula One car in 1961. The odd rear engined car from Europe was mocked by the other teams, but it ran as high as third and finished ninth. In F1 it was not a good year as Coventry Climax were late in getting their 1.5-litre engine ready. Jack could only manage 11th in the Championship.
In 1961 he founded Motor Racing Developments Ltd initially producing Formula Junior cars. The following year Jack left Cooper to race for his own team Brabham Racing Organisation driving a MRD produced machine. The next few years were beset with unreliability and a general level of uncompetetiveness. At one point Jack even considered retirement however when the engine formula changed in 1966 so did Jack's fortunes. He went to the Australian engineering company, Repco, and commissioned them to build a 3 litre V8 based on Oldsmobile's aluminium alloy 215 engine. It proved a good move and at the French Grand Prix at Reims-Gueux, Jack Brabham took his first Formula One world championship win since 1960 and became the first man to win an F1 race in a car of his own construction. There followed three more wins and despite retiring in Italy and the USA, he finished second in Mexico to take the Championship became the only driver to win the Formula One World Championship in a car that not only carried his own name but one that he had played a part in the design and construction of.
In 1967 the title went to his teammate Denny Hulme. Following injuries in the 1969 season Brabham intended to retire in 1970 but finding no top drivers available he raced for one more year, retiring after the Mexican Grand Prix.
After retiring he made a complete break from racing, selling his interest in the team to Tauranac and returning to Australia. He was the first post-war racing driver to be knighted when he received the honour in 1978 for services to motorsport.
Brabham made his last public appearance on 18 May 2014, appearing with one of the cars he built. He died at his home on the Gold Coast aged 88, following a lengthy battle with liver disease. He was eating breakfast with his wife, Margaret, when he died.
In a statement on the family's website, Brabham's son David confirmed his father's death saying, "It's a very sad day for all of us, 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."
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