F1 legend Sir Jack Brabham passes away at 88
By Robert Smith, AFP
May 20, 2014, 12:06 am TWN
SYDNEY--Formula One great Sir Jack Brabham, who claimed three world drivers' titles and remains the only man to win the championship in a car he built himself, died on Monday, his family said.
The Australian, acclaimed as one of the sport's most influential figures with the technological innovations brought about by the team he created helping shape Formula One, was also the first driver to be knighted for services to motorsport.
"It's a very sad day for all of us. My father passed away peacefully at home at the age of 88 this morning," son David Brabham said in a statement.
"He lived an incredible life, achieving more than anyone would ever dream of and he will continue to live on through the astounding legacy he leaves behind."
After serving in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II, he took up racing cars and went on to win drivers' championships in 1959 and 1960 with the Cooper Racing Team and again in 1966 in his own Brabham car.
The motorsport world mourned his passing with fellow Australian Formula One champion Alan Jones hailing him as "inspirational".
"I think he was inspirational for any young bloke that wanted to go across overseas and race cars," said Jones, who won the world championship in 1980.
"He was the man they looked up to and he was the man they wanted to emulate."
McLaren chief Ron Dennis worked first for Cooper and then Brabham in the 1960s and said Brabham was a hero.
"Even as a callow youth, I could recognize greatness when I saw it, and I'll always regard it as an honor and a privilege to have worked for Sir Jack. I learned a lot from him too," he said.
The Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS) revered the trailblazer known as "Black Jack."
"Always a man of few words — his nickname 'Black Jack' referred to both his dark hair and his propensity for maintaining a shadowy silence — he avoided small talk and was undemonstrative in the extreme," a statement on the CAMS website said.
"But behind the wheel he was anything but shy and retiring. He put his head down and drove exceedingly forcefully."
Brabham's first two titles in the Cooper Climax marked the end of the era of front-engined Formula One cars.
In 1959 he famously ran out of fuel at the United States Grand Prix and pushed his car across the finish line to take fourth place and become Australia's first Formula One world champion.
Brabham in later years recounted the amazing tale.
"I eventually stopped about 100 yards from the finishing line, and I started pushing. If anybody assisted me, I'd be disqualified," he said.
"It was a big thrill to me to find out after I was exhausted on the ground, I found out that I'd actually won the championship. It was a fantastic thing."