Any Australian car enthusiast and auto servicing expert will easily recognise the name “Jack Brabham.” Sir Jack Brabham was Australia’s greatest motor racing driver of all time, having won 3 Formula 1 World Championships and is the only driver to ever win a world championship in a car that he designed and built himself. These efforts saw him being the first Formula 1 driver to receive a knighthood in 1985.
Jack was born in a small town close to Sydney to a greengrocer, but he was always more interested in his father’s delivery vehicles than the produce. He learnt to drive these at an early age and was soon more than capable at providing car servicing and maintaining them in a road worthy condition. He left school at 15, and worked firstly for an engineering firm and then a garage before joining the air force in Adelaide, hoping to learn to fly. Due to a shortage of aircraft mechanics though, he was instead trained as a flight mechanic. Upon his discharge in 1946, an uncle set him up in his own engineering business.
Jack’s motor racing career began when he helped a friend build a dirt track car raced on oval tracks. When this friend retired from driving, Jack took over the driving with great success. He went on to win four successive Australian Midget titles in self-prepared cars and won the 1953 Australian Hillclimb championship in a British built Cooper-Bristol. Two years later, Jack moved to England where he formed a great friendship with John and Charles Cooper. Jack persuaded the Coopers to build and provide auto servicing for a small rear engined race car to rival the dominant front engined Italian and German monsters that were winning most of the races in Formula 1 at the time. One of these cars won its first race at the hands of Stirling Moss in their first full season in 1958, and Jack won the world championship in 1959. He followed this up in 1960 with a complete domination of the 9 race season to win his second consecutive title.
The year 1961 saw the Ferraris dominate and this saw Jack leave Cooper to form Motor Racing Developments with Ron Tauranac and they produced race cars that were very successful in a variety of categories. The Brabham made its Fomula 1 debut late in 1962, and won its first race in 1964. In 1966 Jack persuaded Repco to produce a 3000cc V8 for the new Formula 1 regulations, and he went on to win that year’s championship in his own car. Jack won his last Formula 1 race at South Africa in 1970 and retired from Formula 1 at the end of that year. The Brabham team was then sold to Bernie Ecclestone and Jack returned to Australia where he ran a farm, a car dealership and an aviation company, while helping his sons to compete in a variety of motorsport categories around the world. Jack was still competing in various motorsport events around the world into his 80’s and was always willing to talk to anyone that would listen. He was a wonderful man that left a huge legacy especially to motorsport and auto servicing in Australia and around the world.