Jack Brabham: the man who achieved it all

1 Jul

Today marks the end of the Formula 1 Formula week of legends (25th June – 1st July). These legends are drivers who have been unsung but have completed achievements that deserve merit. Todays driver is Jack Brabham a double world champion who went on to found his own team with which he won another drivers championship and two constructors championship.

Not only was Jack a triple world drivers champion, but he is also a double constructors champion and a driver with over 100 race starts. Apart from Brabham no other driver has won a drivers championship in their own car, but despite this not very many F1 fans have heard of him, making Jack perfect unsung hero material.

The Australian made his debut at the 1955 British GP in a Cooper but he retired on lap 30 with an engine problem, but that was his only race of 1955. In 1956 Brabham only competed at the British GP again, this time as a privateer in a Maserati, it would be the first time a car would run under the soon to be iconic Brabham name, but he had to retire again, this time only 4 laps in.

1957 was the first year where Brabham actually drove regularly, he drove 5 races with two teams (Cooper and Rob Walker (who also used a Cooper car)) the pick of the results coming in Monaco where Jack finished 6th. In 1958 Brabham drove solely for Cooper for 9 races, including picking up his first ever points in Monaco where by finishing 4th he got 3 points.

Brabham came into the 1959 season with 3 points. But that changed at the season opener in Monaco, Brabham not only won the race but he also set the fastest lap to receive 8 points. Brabham’s next race was in the Netherlands, and by finishing 2nd Brabham had built a early championship lead of 7 points. Brabham finished 3rd in France before going to Britain where Brabham got his debut pole position to claim first place from Stirling Moss to extend his lead to 13 points. At the next two races Brabham retired, but that wouldn’t affect his championship contentions due to the scoring system in place (only the best 5 results counted) and Brabham was still leading going into the penultimate race of the season in Italy. Brabham played it safe finishing 3rd but didn’t do enough to tie up the championship, that came at the final race of the season in the USA where Brabham finished 4th to win the championship by 4 points.

1960 didn’t start brightly for Jack and the Cooper team, Brabham retired from the season opener in Argentina after 42 laps, and then in the second race Brabham was disqualified after 40 laps in Monaco meaning he had 0 points. But Brabham then drove inspirationally in the next 5 races, winning all 5 and taking pole on 3 occasions to build a championship lead of 7 points meaning Brabham only needed a points finish to win his second championship and Brabham duly delivered finishing 4th in the USA to record back to back world championships.

In 1961 much was expected of Brabham but the car was unreliable only finishing two of the eight races, picking up a total of 4 points and a pole position in the USA. This would be Brabham’s last year with Cooper before Brabham founded his own team, Brabham Racing Organisation.

1962 saw the first Brabham car, though the team started by buying a Lotus car for the first 5 races. Overall Jack would pick up 9 points, the best of which came in the Brabham BT3 where Jack finished 4th twice. 1963 also started with a Lotus for the first race in Monaco before Jack used the BT3 and the new BT7. The BT7 was a very successful car, with all but 2 of Jack’s 14 points coming in it (the other two were in the BT3). Jack picked up his first podium in his own car finishing 2nd in Mexico. 1964 saw Jack finish 3rd in Belgium and France but he couldn’t equal Dan Gurney’s victories in the car.  Midway through the 1964 season Jack launched the BT11 but Jack couldn’t get the better of the car picking up 0 points in the 4 races Jack drove it in.

In 1965 Jack solely drove the BT11, this time managing to pick up points in it, accumulating 9 points including 3rd in the USA.

1966 saw Brabham start the season in the new BT19, but he had to retire from the Monaco GP after 17 laps. Jack took the car to the end of the race in Belgium finishing 4th to pick up 3 points. Jack then drove an inspirational run of four races starting from pole in two races and winning all four of them meaning by the end of this run Brabham had built an 18 point lead due to other drivers failing to perform consistently. Brabham then had to retire from the next two races after problems with the oil and the engine occurred. The first of these races, in Italy was where Brabham tied up the championship, and the second of the races in the USA was Brabham’s first race in his new car, the BT20 and although he retired the car looked promising, Jack taking it to pole position, it also saw Brabham Racing Organisation take their debut constructors championship. Jack went into the final race in Mexico having already won both championships, but that didn’t stop him pushing to finish 2nd. Jack’s record of 42 points in the season meant he’d tied up his 3rd drivers championship by 14 points.

1967 saw Brabham claim his second constructors championship as teammate, Kiwi Denny Hulme took the championship. Brabham picked up 6 podiums over the season to finish 2nd in the championship. Brabham’s two victories came in France and Canada the latter saw Brabham start 7th to win. The 1968 season saw Brabham (team) constantly hit by retirements as the BT24 (debuted in 1967) and the new BT26 had evident reliability problems. 1969 was the first year where Jack looked to be past his best, whilst team mate Jacky Ickx was runner up in the championship Jack finished down in 10th the pick of the results finishing 2nd in Canada even if he was 46 seconds behind Ickx.

1970 would be Jack’s last season in F1. He fought till the end picking up 4 podiums over the year and winning the season opener in South Africa from now McLaren driver Denny Hulme, Jack also came within a whisker of winning the Monaco GP, but after crashing at the last corner of the last lap to let Jochen Rindt win, Jack would eventually finish 2nd after pushing the car to the end. Jack’s tally of 25 points was good enough for 5th in the championship.

Brabham Racing Developments would go on to win two more drivers championships in 1981 and 1983 Nelson Piquet winning on both occasions before the team collapsed in 1992.

Jack Brabham’s career spanned 16 years, he started 126 races, Jack picked up 31 podiums and 14 race victories along with 13 pole positions and 12 fastest laps, picking up 261 points along the way. Jack Brabham is still alive and is now 86, during is career he won the drivers championship 3 times and the constructors championship twice, a unique achievement.

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