Sir Jack Brabham: 1926-2014

Sir Jack Brabham at the Australian F1GP on March 26, 2011

Three-time Formula 1 world champion Sir Jack Brabham died this morning, aged 88.

Nicknamed ‘Black Jack’ for his seemingly permanent five-o’clock shadow, Brabham passed away peacefully in his Gold Coast home at around 6am. He was the first man to be knighted for services to motorsport.

An icon of world motor sport, Sir Jack won the F1 world championship in 1959, 1960 and 1966 – the final time cementing his place in history as the only man to win a title in a car of his own construction.

An air-force mechanic in World War II, Brabham’s motorsport career started on Australia’s dirt speedway tracks in the early 1940s, tasting victory in just his third race.

Brabham travelled to Europe in 1955 to join the Cooper Racing Team and his engineering prowess helped the British team revolutionise racing by shifting his car’s engine from the front of the vehicle to the back – a mid-mounted configuration still used by Formula 1 today.

Brabham won the 1959 championship with Cooper, despite famously running out of fuel in the last race and pushing his car to the finish, then developed an improved version of the car and won another title the following year.

In 1962, Brabham joined forces with fellow Aussie Ron Tauranac to design and engineer their own cars under the Brabham name. Their first F1 car was the Brabham BT-3, which debuted at the 1962 German Grand Prix.

But it was the Repco-engined BT-19 in which Jack clinched his third world title in 1966, with Brabham also claiming the constructors’ championship that year, and again in 1967 when New Zealander Denny Hulme took out the drivers’ championship in a Repco-Brabham.

After scoring his final Grand Prix win in South Africa in 1970, Brabham retired from racing aged 44.

Brabham is survived by his second wife, Lady Margaret, and sons to his first wife Betty – Geoff, Gary and David, themselves all proven professional racers. Two grandsons, Geoff’s son Matthew and David’s son Sam, are now enjoying success on the international stage.

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