Sir Jack Brabham will forever be remembered as a legend of Formula 1. Winning the drivers’ championship three times and the constructors’ twice, he remains to this day the only driver to have ever won the world title in his own car. He was a man famed for saying very little, preferring to let the on track business do the talking for him.
At Brands Hatch at the end of May, we talked to his son, David, a former Le Mans 24hr winner, and his grandson Sam, who currently races in the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain.
So David, as many people have done, we’ve run our memorial pieces for Sir Jack but what I really want to know now is what he was like as a persons what he meant to you.
David Brabham: It’s very simple really, he was my father. You know as fathers are to children. Don’t think he did anything different in terms to most people. He was fairly quiet, he wasn’t a talker which is pretty consistent with what everybody else says.
When I grew up he was still very busy, he had several businesses in Australia and the UK so he kind of flitted in and out. When I was a kid growing up in Sydney, sometimes he’d come to a football match or something and then I wouldn’t see him for a while, it was that type of deal.
For me our relationship got closer as we got older, put it that way. I think Dad was not the one that got down with the kids and rumbled around like I do with my kids, but as we got older our relationship got stronger and stronger which was nice because we had a really good relationship before he died.
Sam Brabham: He never really spoke much, he wasn’t the most talkative person but whenever he did say something you really felt it and you listened because it was always going to be right.
I remember I was karting in Wales, just starting out, didn’t really know what was going on. He called to see how I was getting on and I spoke to him to ask for some advice. The only thing he said was, “Keep it on the black stuff” and then goes “Now pass me over to your father” and that was it!
I was like, that’s kind of obvious but you know I’ll give that a go. Things like that and some of the stories you hear about him and Geoff when they flew from England over to other places and engines going down, some of the stories you hear are incredible.
So you’re taking part in the parade later, I know that Sam hasn’t driven any of his cars before so is very excited. Emma (The Brabham’s press officer) say that you’ve driven some of his cars before.
David: Yeah not much though! I drove one at Sebring, which was the Cooper. The 1959 Cooper that he drove, raced and won the championship in so that was pretty cool. We reenacted pushing the car across the line to celebrate the 50th anniversary of him winning that championship.
You were strong enough to push it all the way?
David: Well actually it pushed pretty lightly!
He was just putting it on then?
David: Yeah I think so yeah! I went to Sydney for a V8 supercar race and they had a couple of old Brabham’s there. My nephew Mathew and I took a couple of them round in a bit of a parade which was pretty cool for Mathew to drive the Repco Brabham, which I haven’t driven yet! The one that won the world championship! I’m sure I’ll get to drive it one day.
Whenever you see these cars and drive them you just appreciate how they must have lived in those days. It was nothing like today it was so different.
Well he got through the most dangerous era of the championship.
David: Yeah he did and I think that a lot of that came down to the fact that he understood the bigger picture. He knew the cars well and if something wasn’t right he would know what that was. If he had to lift then he would lift and I think that saved his life really.
It was a very dangerous time. A lot of drivers got killed a lot of his friends, team mates. I think he got through it really well because he not only survived but he built cars that were strong and reliable. Perfect for those conditions and that time. Maybe not the ultimate quickest but they won races with it.
We then asked David if he had a memory that summed up his Dad in a nutshell. The memory that he shared with us could not have been done justice if we put it in writing, so the video below is his story.
We would like to thank David and Sam for their time.