This weekend is the 19th Goodwood Revival, the world famous historic motor racing event held at the Goodwood Circuit in West Sussex. The three-day event remembers the glamourous days of motor racing, complete with some of the world’s finest classic cars and most skilled racing drivers from past and present.
One famous name that will form part of the event’s celebrations is Sir Jack Brabham, the Australian racing driver who claimed three Formula One world championships during his 15-year career in the 1950s and 1960s. Brabham is being honoured at this year’s Revival as 2016 marks 50 years after he became the only Formula One driver in the sport’s history to win a World Championship in a car bearing his name.
Before the Revival weekend gets into gear, we wanted to pay our own tribute to Sir Jack. Here we look back over his motor racing career and just what it was that made him a respected and renowned driver and racer.
A natural mechanic, Brabham’s technical abilities with vehicles was demonstrated early on, leaving school in 1941 at the age of 15 in favour of work and an evening course in engineering. Joining the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at 18 saw Brabham go from the rank of Flight Mechanic to Leading Aircraftman when he was discharged two years later in 1946.
Brabham’s motor racing career wasn’t planned; it was only after a close friend decided to stop ‘Midget’ racing (the category for open-wheeled cars) that it was suggested to Brabham that he take over. You could say at this point that the rest is history, but Brabham drove a number of cars in a great number of races before he made it to the world of Formula One.
His wins at the 1948 and 1949 Australian Speedcar Championships – as well as several hillclimbing events in the early 1950s – were what lead to his interest in road racing. The Cooper Car Company was Brabham’s focus, and he purchased and modified a number of the company’s race cars. Despite not officially being a Cooper employee, Brabham formed a friendship with the legendary John Cooper, and was asked to work on a Bobtail mid-engined sports car that was in production for the 1955 Formula One season.
Brabham’s talents and tenacity were what assisted him with getting to race that very car at the 1955 British Grand Prix; his debut race for Formula One at the age of 29.
Two Formula One World Championship wins in 1959 and 1960 with the Cooper Car Company team had secured Brabham’s name as one of Formula One’s greatest drivers. But it was also his technical expertise that were a major factor in getting as much out of the Cooper car as possible.
The following six years were a mixture of success and loss for Brabham. In 1966, he approached Repco, an Australian engineering company, to assist in producing a reliable engine for that years’ Formula One season. Despite Repco having no previous experience of designing complete engines, their work – along with a chassis designed by long-time friend Ron Tauranac – saw a lightweight and more reliable race car being ready for the 1966 Formula One season.
The 1966 Italian Grand Prix was Brabham’s mark on Formula One history. Not only did he win his third and final World Championship title, but he also became the only Formula One driver in the sport’s history to win a World Championship in a car bearing his name.
An eventful and history-making year was concluded with Brabham being awarded an OBE for his services to motorsport, a recognition fully deserved by one of the racing world’s legendary drivers.