With the Australian Grand Prix set to open the 2014 Formula 1 season this weekend, we take a look back at one of the country’s most successful exports – three-time world champion Sir Jack Brabham.
It has been exactly 44 years and one week since Brabham won his last race in F1, a victory in the South African Grand Prix in 1970 when he was 43 years old. The win makes him the sport’s oldest surviving race winner, and exemplifies his long and successful career in motor racing.
Brabham’s first win in F1 had come 11 years earlier at Monaco during the 1959 season, where he also won the first of his three world championships. His second came the following season, while his 1966 win was historic in that Brabham was the first – and to this day remains the only – driver to win a world title in one of his own cars.
Such was Brabham’s success that he was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1967, and knighted for his services to motorsport in 1979. In 2011, a suburb of Perth in Western Australia was named Brabham in honour of his accomplishments.
The 1970 season was to be Brabham’s last in Formula 1, and he retired from the sport after a career which had lasted 15 years and included 14 race wins. After the fast-paced life of F1, Brabham and his family moved to a farm located between Sydney and Melbourne.
As well as working in the running of the farm, Brabham was involved in different business ventures in Australia and the UK, including a small aviation company and several garages and car dealerships.
Now 87 years old, Brabham’s own legacy is playing out not only in celebrating his own achievements, but also those of his family.
In January this year the Brabham family launched a website to cover the latest news, racing history and new accomplishments that began with Brabham himself and are being continued by sons Geoff, Gary and David, and grandsons Matthew and Sam.
Oldest son Geoff won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1993 and had a successful career in sports car racing, with four IMSA GTP Championship titles, while Gary won the 1989 British F3000 Championship.
David, the youngest of Brabham’s three sons, is a double American Le Mans Series Champion and won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2009. He still competes in the world of motorsport today, and will race in the 12 Hours of Sebring this weekend.
Brabham’s impressive motorsport legacy will also continue with his grandsons Matthew and Sam – third generation Brabhams who are making names for themselves in their own right. Matthew, son of Geoff, won the US F2000 title in 2012 before going on to win the Pro Mazda championship last year. In 2014, the 20-year-old is moving on to Indy Lights, the developmental series for IndyCar, where he will race for Michael Andretti’s team Andretti Autosport.
Meanwhile, 19-year old Sam, son of David, finished 4th in his debut British Formula Ford season in 2013.
The Brabham family has a rich and successful history, stretching back to Sir Jack’s Formula 1 debut in 1955. Now, almost 50 years later, his success and achievements are as celebrated as ever, and his legacy will continue with a new generation of Brabham racers.