In Memoriam: Sir Jack Brabham – His F1 Legacy Lives On

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Blog by RaceChaser Online Indy/F1 Correspondent Joel Sebastianelli – Photo By

Nothing in life is permanent, and the cars and drivers we adore that fly by every weekend are a reminder of how fleeting each moment is. Seeing as his main accomplishments came about five decades ago, Sir Jack Brabham may have been under appreciated by some as he got older, but he was one of the last remaining members of an incredible generation in open-wheel racing’s formative years that saw the discipline rise to where it is today. It’s an exclusive class of extraordinary gentlemen that’s beginning to fade out of sight.

Brabham passed away on Monday at his home on the Gold Coast, but his impact on the sport in his 88 years is legendary.

The Australian won three Formula One titles in 1959, 1960, and 1966. Racing was different back then.  It was a dangerous venture, a race not only against the competition but against death. During his tenure in the sport, fatalities in Formula 1 sanctioned events surged into the double digits. But, there was always a race to be run, and Brabham and his colleagues soldiered on through the smoke in acts of bravado nearly unfathomable now given the cultural and safety transformations the sport has undergone in the years since.

His career was a lengthy one, spanning from 1955 to 1970, but of all his accolades, his title in 1966 is one of the most impressive accomplishments in all of racing. He remains to this day the only individual ever to win the Formula 1 world driver’s championship in a car he designed himself, a feat that will no doubt stand unmatched forever. There was no specialized factory or designer like Adrian Newey constructing the perfect aerodynamic automobile for Brabham to drive—he was a genius in more ways than one, and the rear-engined BT19 won four consecutive Grands Prix that season in a time period marked by attrition when merely finishing was a difficult task of its own. 

Driving predominantly for Cooper Car Company and self-founded Brabham Racing Organization, Sir Jack notched 14 victories and 31 podiums. Even after his career behind the wheel ceased, his race team amassed two Constructors’ Championships and four Drivers’ crowns earned by Denny Hulme, Nelson Piquet (twice), and Brabham himself. The team even employed and molded the careers of notable staff such as Ron Dennis, Bernie Ecclestone, and Charlie Whiting until the team ended operations in 1992.

Racing is a family sport, a bonding affair not only in the stands, but also in the paddock. It’s a passion that has burned in generations, among fathers, sons, mothers and daughters. Legendary names like Foyt, Unser, and Andretti will live forever through not only their own accomplishments, but through the image and talents of their kin.

Likewise, the Brabham name is alive and well in open-wheel, as Jack’s grandson Matthew currently races in Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport and seems poised on the fast track for success. Sir Jack Brabham may be deceased, but his dedication to the sport in his 88 years will never be forgotten, and the name Brabham will live on in racing for many years to come not just as a memory, but as history in the making.  

Thank you for your innumerable contributions to motorsports, for your courage, and for helping to make Formula 1 the spectacle it is today.

Goodbye, Sir Jack.

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