It is with great sadness that I received the news that my former Formula 1 boss and teammate, the three-time World Champion Sir Jack Brabham, passed away in Australia over the weekend. A motor racing giant has left our planet whose combined achievements of F1 World Championship driver and car constructor in all likelihood will never be equaled.
Dark haired “Black Jack” was a fierce competitor, an outstanding engineer, a tiger of a driver, an excellent politician and a hands-on creator and visionary. He opened the rear-engine door at Indianapolis and raced there. He was a doer, a true Aussie pioneer!
Jack and I go far back in history together. We raced against each other on the F1 circuit since 1959 driving Coopers, Ferraris, BRMs and Porsches. In 1963, he hired me as his teammate for his newly established Brabham F1 team and during the next three years we really got to know each other.
We discovered we shared similar traits. We were not only interested in driving racing cars but in building them, improving them, searching for every tiny bit of technical advantage we could find. I see both of us sitting in garages all over the world, bent over engines, talking to each other and to our team – Ron Tauraunac, Phil Kerr, Roy Billington, Tim Wall, Nick Goozee and Denis Hulme. We shared the camaraderie of a closely knit team pursuing a common purpose. The racing tragedies and the glory days of the 1960s bonded us for life.
Since we retired from driving, both in the fall of 1970, we have stayed in touch. I last spoke to Jack a few months ago on the phone, and we were looking forward to the golden anniversary of the first World Championship F1 victory for the Brabham marque: The French Grand Prix at Rouen, June 28th, 1964, which I won for the team 50 years ago this summer.
In 1966 we went our separate ways and I followed the trail he had blazed by trying to build, race and win with my own F1 cars. I have been told that only three men in the history of autoracing have managed to do that: Bruce McLaren and I won races but Sir Jack Brabham won World Championships, and so he will be forever in a class all by himself.
I will miss you Jack! You showed the way!
With gratitude and admiration,
(May 18, 2014)