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#4 Hall of Fame: Jack Brabham

2021-04-14 00:00

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#Hall of Fame,

#4 Hall of Fame: Jack Brabham

John Arthur Brabham was born on April 2, 1926, in Hurstville, in the suburbs of Sidney. The father, who carries out the profession of greengrocer, is

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John Arthur Brabham was born on April 2, 1926, in Hurstville, in the suburbs of Sidney. The father, who carries out the profession of greengrocer, is the one who transmits to Jack the passion for engines and the art of driving when he was only twelve years old. At the height of his teens, Jack dropped out of metallurgy and wood and enrolled in an evening engineering course, while during the day he served as a mechanic in a small local workshop.

 

It was 1944 when Jack enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force, serving as a mechanic due to lack of personnel. But at the end of the conflict, he opens his own auto repair business and at the same time forges a strong bond with Johnny Schonberg, national widget car driver. It is here that the Australian puts into practice the fruit of his studies, helping his friend in the construction of a new midget car, contributing substantially to the design of the body and the engine itself.

 

Schonberg, aboard the new car designed by Brabham, will conquer several claims in national races before his wife convinces him to retire. It is at this moment that young Jack's automotive career begins, proving right from the start that he is not only a skilled mechanic and designer but that he also has what it takes to be a champion, as he wins his first race at his third appearance on a midget car.

 

It is precisely the type of car that is driven in this period that forms its unmistakable style, made up of a lot of speed in the corners and a skilful control of the car in understeer and with the rear in drift. Later Black Jack himself, as he is later dubbed, will speak about his races in Australia, stating:

 

"Midget cars were a terrifying workout: you had to have quick reflexes because you could easily die on board them".

 

Jack conquers several important victories that will highlight him as one of the most talented drivers of the time, managing to enrich his palmarés with important affirmations on oval circuits such as Cumberland Speedway, Sidney Showground, Sidney Sports Ground, as well as winning the Rowley Park and Brisbane competitions. These important victories allowed him to become the National Stock Car Champion in 1949, confirming himself victorious in the following two years.

 

Another hugely important figure in Brabham's career is his former Air Force fellow in arms, Ron Tauranac. It is he who, after having met Jack years later, commissions him to design a car that can worthily tackle uphill races. Brabham, who is an extremely competitive character and with little desire to play a supporting role, then orders from England, at the beginning of 1951, a Cooper JAP 1100 with which he smashes the competition:

 

"It's only my second participation, and I won. I know it's hard for the organizers to accept that".

 

Brabham is a very practical person, with strong entrepreneurial skills. He soon realizes that in order to achieve victories at the top of motor racing he needs not only a competitive car, but also a sponsor to finance him: he thus manages to strike an agreement with the oil company Redex, and in 1953 he buys a car. Cooper-Bristol F2. He will establish himself in road races in Queensland and New South Wales, but will be forced to leave Australian racing temporarily due to a dispute with CAMS, the Australian Automobile Federation, for having added the Redex logo on the sides of his Cooper.

 

Returning to Australia the following year, Jack suffers a major defeat in the South Wales Uphill Championship, when he comes behind his friend Tauranac who will prevail on the Ralt, the same car that Brabham himself built for him a couple of years earlier. It is therefore time for the Australian to start a new adventure.

 

In 1955 he decided that the time had come to try his hand at the Mecca of Motorsport: Europe. He leaves for England with the intention of staying there no more than a year, but from that moment his life will take a very different turn.

 

Thanks to his victories in Australia aboard a Cooper, Jack comes into contact with John and Charles Cooper, who had already revolutionized the world of motoring with their agile mid-engined car. However, Brabham needs to definitively win their trust, and it does so by delivering a Citroen-ERSA gearbox, returning from a short trip to France, in the hands of the two British manufacturers.

 

The three therefore begin to embark on the innovative project of a car with an engine in the rear, optimizing the allocation of the hydraulic system and significantly lowering production costs.

 

During the same year, the Cooper-Brabham axle uses the body of an old T39 and, by lengthening the engine compartment, inserts a six-cylinder Bristol engine, taking part in the Formula 1 UK Grand Prix at the Aintree circuit. However, the car is still in its infancy and its debut in the Circus soon turns out to be forgotten: it starts last, 17" behind poleman Stirling Moss, and ends the race with a retirement due to a problem with the engine itself.

 

Back in Australia at the end of the year Jack wins the National Grand Prix aboard his old Cooper-Bristol F2 and, convinced that he can compete at the highest level, decides to sell the car he owns: after which, once back in England, he buys a Maserati 250F. The choice, however, turns out to be wrong: he participates in the United Kingdom Grand Prix also in 1956, this time at the Silverstone circuit, but once again closes qualifying in last position, and retires after just three laps for a new engine problem. He arrives, however, always aboard his Maserati, third in the Vanwall Trophy and in the Aintree 200 competition of the same year.

 

During 1957 Jack continued to work for the Cooper brothers as a mechanic, and convinced the two to use a new 2-liter engine instead of the current 1.5-liter. The suggestion proposed by Brabham is realized during the Monaco Grand Prix of the same year. But there is a problem: Roy Salvadori, official driver of the team up to now, makes an agreement with B.R.M., effectively leaving the seat of the Cooper vacant. It is the ideal time for the Australian, who offers himself as a driver and participates in the race weekend.

 

Soon, however, he risks to send everything up in smoke during free practice, as he is the protagonist of an accident. But the repair work on the car is quick, and Jack takes part in the qualifying, finishing in fifteenth and penultimate place.

 

On Sunday there is an elimination race: Stirling Moss on Vanwall and Mike Hawthorn on Ferrari are victims of an accident and are forced to retire, as well as eight other drivers. Brabham led the race in third position until, with five laps to go, he had problems with his Bristol engine at the Casino. The rest is history and pure emotion: the Australian cannot bear such an injustice, gets out of the car and begins to push it to the finish line amid the applause and thunderous shouts of an audience visibly mad at the sight of such a memorable scene. He will arrive in sixth final position, at the foot of the points zone.

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During the same season he takes part in four further appointments. In France he starts from thirteenth place, but breaks the engine before using the car of team mate Mike McDowell, and finishing in seventh position. Two retirements, in Germany and the United Kingdom, precede another seventh place in the Pescara circuit.

 

The Cooper T40, fast in the streets of the Principality, however, is not ready to fight on equal terms with the other cars, as it needs a 2.5-liter engine. In events outside the Circus, however, the T40 is not only competitive but also a winner, allowing Brabham to obtain important successes at Brands Hatch, Crystal Palace and Oulton Park. Jack also takes part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, obtaining a comforting fifteenth place finish and the lowest step of the podium in the category classification.

 

For the 1958 season, the Cooper team takes the engine design outside Leonard Lee's Coventry Climax, which focuses on a 2.2-liter engine, with the intention of developing a new one, this time 2.5-liter, for the 1959 season. The new Climax engine, however, will only be used by Cooper from the second round of the season on the Monte Carlo circuit.

 

The English team fielded Roy Salvadori alongside Jack Brabham on board the new Cooper T45, also used by the RRC Walker Racing Team with Maurice Trintignant and Ron Flockhart on board. Qualifying for the Monegasque Grand Prix sees three Cooper in the top five, with Brabham third, Salvadori fourth and Trintignant in fifth place. In the race, the Frenchman will triumph ahead of the Ferraris of Luigi Musso and Peter Collins, with Brabham fourth who thus captures the first championship points in his career.

 

It is the high point of a transitional season that will help the Australian to acclimate to a long and increasingly competitive World Championship. In the remaining races he will take two important placings close to the points area both in France and in Great Britain, while he will be forced to retire at Spa, Nurburgring and Monza. The 1958 season will also see him often lose the challenge at home with his teammate Salvadori, who for his part will obtain great results such as fourth place in Zandvoort, the lowest step of the podium at Silverstone, second position at the Nurburgring and fifth place in Monza.

 

Far from the Formula 1 circuits, remaining along the lines of what happened the previous season, the T45 is much more competitive: in fact, two excellent second places arrive at the Glover Trophy and the Aintre 200. In the same year, Jack also participated in the Tourist Trophy at aboard the Aston Martin DBR1/300, taking an important second position.

 

In the 1959 season the Climax completed the development of the new engine. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder delivers a power of 220 hp and the new Cooper T51 is an engineering jewel. The engine is positioned on the rear of the car, unlike the opponents who instead mount it in the front area: in this way the car improves considerably in cornering and handling, as well as having a significantly reduced specific weight, thus being able now to fight at least with weapons. equal with the Ferrari 246F1s of Tony Brooks, Phil Hill and of the Frenchman John Behra.

 

Alongside Brabham, the English team will line up Bruce McLaren, with whom the Australian will form a close friendship that will go beyond race weekends, and the American Masten Gregory, while the T51 car will also be used by the RRC Walker, with Stirling Moss and Trintignant on board.

 

The season debut takes place on the Monte Carlo circuit. Moss takes a tight pole position, ahead of Behra by 0.4" and Brabham by 0.5", while Brooks, Hill and Trintignant occupy positions from fourth to sixth, proving how the season will be a race exclusively between two cars.

 

In the race, Behra comfortably leads up to the twenty-first lap, when he is forced to retire due to engine problems, giving the leadership to Moss. On lap 81, however, a further turning point occurs: Moss breaks the transmission and Brabham, second up to now, takes the lead and goes to win his first Formula 1 Grand Prix, ahead of Brooks and Trintigrant, with Hill fourth and McLaren fifth.

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At the second round of the season, on the Dutch circuit of Zandvoort the pole position is surprisingly conquered by the B.R.M. of the Swedish Jo Bonnier, with the exact same time as Brabham, who, however, starts second having achieved the time after his rival. In third position Moss starts.

 

The race is thrilling and sees a close fight between Bonnier, Moss, Brabham and Gregory. The four swapped the lead several times during the race, until Moss was forced to retire again due to gearbox problems, with Bonnier winning ahead of Brabham and Gregory.

 

In the third race on the French circuit of Reims, Ferraris are back as protagonists after the Dutch weekend. Brooks takes pole in front of the Australian and teammate Hill. The next day, the poleman commands the race from the start and takes an important victory in front of his teammate and Brabham, crowning a double for the Maranello team.

 

At the halfway point of the season we reach the Silverstone circuit. Black Jack (this is the name given by the people inside the Circus) conquers a fundamental pole position with the same time as Salvadori, in this season spent driving the Aston Martin.

 

The race is a monologue by the Sidney driver: Brabham wins by commanding the race from the very beginning, ahead of Moss and McLaren, who meanwhile conquered the first podium of his career.

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With four races to go, the Australian leads the world championship standings alone with thirteen points ahead of Brooks. In the next two rounds, however, he was forced to retire due to transmission problems, with his rival for the title winning a victory in the German Grand Prix and shortening to four points from the top.

 

At the penultimate round of the season we reach Monza. Moss mocks Brooks' Ferrari in qualifying and Brabham is positioned right behind, in third place. The Englishman on Ferrari, however, is unfortunate: he suffers a clutch problem before the start and cannot take part in the race. Moss contends for the victory with Hill for half the race, at which time he acquires a comfortable advantage and then goes on to win in front of the Ferrari driver and Brabham himself, who with this third position is one step away from winning the World Championship, keeping an advantage of 5.5 points on Moss himself.

 

The last race takes place on the US circuit of Sebring. The two title contenders start in first and second place, with the Englishman on pole. It would be the prelude to an exciting race, but five laps after the start Moss breaks the transmission and paves the way for Brabham to win the World Championship. The epilogue of the race proposes the same scene of Monte Carlo 1957: the Australian is the victim of a technical problem but does not give up, gets out of the car and pushes it again to the finish, in front of the eyes of an enthusiastic crowd. He closes in fourth position a race won by McLaren, at his first success in his career, and deservedly conquers the world title.

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The 1960 season saw Cooper build a car that represents a further evolutionary step of the winning T51. The single-seater is equipped with an in-line four-cylinder Climax engine, which produces a power of 245 hp. The car, lower and slightly longer than the previous one, is equipped with a five-speed manual gearbox with rear suspension equipped with innovative coil springs. The car will then be purchased by Honda as an integral part of its development activity.

 

Given these premises, the Cooper is presented at the starting line of the new season with the underdogs. The first round of the season takes place on the Argentine track in Buenos Aires, and Moss, also this season on board a Cooper-Climax, signs the pole position. The Ferraris lag behind and the Cooper of Brabham and McLaren even more, respectively tenth and thirteenth.

 

The New Zealander is unleashed in the race: at first he quickly makes a comeback until he gets close to the leading group, then he battles with Moss and Bonnier for the entire duration of the race, taking a resounding victory in front of Cliff Allison's Ferrari, with Moss and Trintignant who third arrive but they do not receive any points for sharing the car. Brabham is forced to retire due to exchange problems.

 

The second race of the season takes place in Monte Carlo. Moss conquers a phenomenal pole position aboard his new car, a Lotus also powered by Climax, ahead of Brabham and Tony Brooks by 1", on his seasonal debut also aboard a Cooper-Climax.

 

On the first lap Bonnier takes the lead, followed by Moss and Brabham. The Englishman on Lotus took the lead on lap 18, but was overtaken by the World Champion a few laps later. The rain intervenes to shuffle the cards: Brabham hits the barriers leaving Sainte-Devote and resumes the race after the help of a steward, but is disqualified for the help obtained. Moss wins the race ahead of McLaren and Hill.

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In a championship of only nine races it is very important to capitalize on every opportunity that arises, and to be able to have consistent results. This is why Brabham's two zeros in the standings are a considerable problem, with the Australian at this point fourteen points apart from his teammate, who leads the world championship standings.

 

Starting from the next appointment, however, the championship takes a decidedly different turn, as Cooper decides to bring the new T51 to its debut. The results are striking.

 

On the third round on the Zandvoort track, Black Jack starts second behind Moss but takes the lead from the first lap, keeping it up to the checkered flag, going on to win the race ahead of Innes Ireland on Lotus and Graham Hill on B.R.M. McLaren is forced to retire due to a transmission problem.

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At Spa the superiority of the new English car is embarrassing: the Australian trims 2.5" to the second qualified Brooks, and goes on to win the race with one minute ahead of his teammate, shortening the disadvantage to four points.

 

The story does not change in France: 1.5" trimmed in qualifying at Hill on Ferrari, and final victory with a 50" advantage over the second classified, the Belgian Olivier Gendebien. McLaren finishes third and the two find themselves paired at the top of the standings with twenty-four points.

 

At Silverstone the script is the same: pole position with 1.2" ahead of Hill and another solo victory, with 50" over rookie John Surtees, on his first career podium.

McLaren only finishes fourth.

 

Three races from the end we arrive in Portugal, on the Boavista circuit. Surtees wins a tight pole position, while Brabham is in third position, almost half a second behind the poleman. In the race, the young Lotus driver fights strenuously against the Australian but has to surrender to problems with the radiator, delivering the victory to Brabham, who once again ends the race with an abysmal advantage over the second, as well as McLaren, in the order of minute.

 

With two races to go, the Australian leads the world championship with a seven-point lead over his teammate. The penultimate round of the season takes place on the Monza circuit. Up to now, Ferrari has only achieved disappointing results, the result of an obsolete car with an engine mounted at the front. The organizers of the event thus try to reverse the trend of the year by trying to benefit the Maranello team and its strong point: speed on the straight. It was thus decided to run the Grand Prix on the old oval layout of the circuit, increasing even more the already very high average speeds reached during the Italian appointment.

 

Due to the fragility of their cars and the danger caused by the new layout, the English teams of Lotus, B.R.M. and Cooper boycotted the event, resulting in the need to register private and Formula 2 cars in the race.

 

So, with just one race to go, with seven points ahead and undisputed dominance on the track, Brabham's appointment with the second world title is pure formality: the Australian closes the last race, on the US circuit of Riverside, in fourth position behind McLaren, Ireland and winner Moss. Black Jack thus secures the second world championship, closing one of the most dominant summers in the history of Formula 1.

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The following season, that of 1961, turns out to be very disappointing for the Brabham-Cooper duo right from the start. The new single-seater, the T55, is a distant relative of the one with which the Australian dominated the season just ended.

 

The debut of the world championship takes place on the Monte Carlo circuit and the New Zealand champion closes the qualifications with a sad last place, almost five seconds behind the poleman Moss. In the race then, he navigates in the lower parts of the standings, before retiring on lap 38 due to an injection problem.

 

At the second round of the season we arrive in Holland for the Zandvoort Grand Prix. Qualifying sees the top twelve drivers enclosed in less than a second and a half. Brabham closes in seventh position, ahead of his teammate McLaren. Also in the race he will be confirmed as the best of his team, finishing in sixth position and winning a point in a race dominated from the first to the last lap by the German Ferrari Wolfgang Von Trips.

 

However, this good performance will be followed by two retirements in the Belgium and France events, respectively due to engine failure and an oil pressure problem, while McLaren, also retired at the Belgian Grand Prix, raced in Spa, will be able to conquer a promising fifth place on the Reims circuit.

 

We therefore arrive in Great Britain, at Aintree. Also on this occasion, qualifying will be dominated by Ferraris, with Brabham in ninth position, just six tenths behind poleman Phil Hill. In the race he will conquer an excellent fourth place behind the Ferrari domination, which will monopolize the podium respectively with Von Trips, Hill and Richie Ginther.

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At the sixth Grand Prix of the season, on the Nurburgring circuit, on the historic elongated layout, in qualifying Brabham won a remarkable second place behind Hill's Ferrari, but was forced to retire due to an accident at the start. At the same time, McLaren managed to conquer the last position in the points, in a race dominated since the start by Moss in the Lotus-Climax.

 

At the penultimate round of the season in Italy, at Monza, the Cooper debuts the new T58 model equipped with an eight-cylinder Climax engine, but the trend of the season does not reverse, with Brabham retired due to an overheating problem, while McLaren wins the first podium of the season for the English team, finishing behind Hill's Ferrari, who became World Champion, and Dan Gurney's Porsche.

 

The last Grand Prix of the season takes place at the Watkins Glen circuit. The Australian champion conquers a fantastic pole position, confirming the good performance of his team mate McLaren in the previous round, managing to take away the only satisfaction of a troubled season by too many retirements. And so also in the race, with Brabham suffering the same problem suffered during the Italian Grand Prix, abandoning the race on lap fifty-seven, at the end of a fantastic battle with Moss with the two standard bearers exchanging the heads of the race several times. The bad results of the season convince Brabham to set up on his own.

 

Soon, his car resale business was transformed into a real workshop, where he could develop his own car. The Australian finds in the oil company Esso the ideal partner to finance his project, thus managing to offer a stable job to his friend Ron Tauranac, with whom he has maintained a solid friendship over the years in Europe. In fact, Tauranac himself advised Brabham to implement the project, after having been an important figure in many of the new technical solutions adopted by Cooper, from the new suspension geometry to the idea of ​​a new gearbox. The close collaboration between the two gives birth to the new company, Motor Racing Development, based in Chessington.

 

For the 1962 season, while waiting to complete the construction of its chassis, Brabham bought a Lotus 24, a conventional single-seater with a tubular frame, created by the company of the owner Chapman specifically to be sold to customer teams. It is with this car that the new Brabham team arrives at the starting line of the new season.

 

At his debut on the Zandvoort circuit, Jack immediately conquered the fourth position in qualifying, only eight tenths behind the poleman Surtees on Lola-Climax, but was forced to retire on the fourth lap due to an accident.

 

At the second round of the season at the Monte Carlo circuit, in qualifying the Australian gets a promising sixth position with a gap of just over a second from Jim Clark on Lotus. In the race, after having fought for a long time in the points area, he was forced to retire due to an accident, while the race saw the success of McLaren.

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At the third Grand Prix, on the Spa circuit, Jack obtained an opaque fifteenth position on the starting grid with an abysmal gap from Graham Hill on B.R.M., but in the race he was the author of a capital performance, recovering up to the sixth final position, obtaining the first world championship point for his team.

 

We therefore reach Reims for the French Grand Prix, where he qualifies in fourth position just over a second behind Clark, but is forced to retire on lap eleven due to a suspension problem.

 

The fifth Grand Prix of the season takes place at Silverstone. After a not thrilling ninth position in qualifying, Brabham recovered in the race and finished with the fifth final position in a race dominated from the first lap by Clark.

 

With four appointments to go, it's finally time for the debut on your car. Tauranac completes the project of the new BT3. The single-seater is built with a tubular steel frame and is equipped with an eight-cylinder Climax engine that develops a power of 170 horsepower. The gearbox is a six-speed Colotti-Francis type 34 and a turquoise livery with a gold vertical stripe is chosen.

 

The goodness of the project is immediately questioned by the poor performance during the German appointment on the Nurburgring circuit. Brabham closed qualifying even in twenty-fifth position, and was forced to retire in the race due to problems with the accelerator.

 

After not taking part in the Italian appointment in Monza, the Watkins Glen US Grand Prix already appears as a last resort from which the team seeks concrete answers about the real potential of their car. This time the new BT3 does not betray the expectations: Brabham hits an excellent fifth position on the starting grid, at 1'1" from Clark and closes his second Grand Prix with a fourth place that smacks of victory.

 

At the last race of the season, the Circus makes a stop on the South African circuit named after Prince George. Saturday's qualifying ends with a fantastic third place in qualifying, and on Sunday the Australian finishes in fourth position in a race won by the new World Champion Graham Hill, ending the season in ninth place in the world championship standings with nine points overall.

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For the 1963 season, Brabham decides to participate in the Formula 1 World Championship with a second car, entrusted to Dan Gurney. The World Championship is characterized by the undisputed domination of Chapman's Lotus, which designs the first monocoque single-seater, the Lotus 25, allowing for greater rigidity than rival cars and at the same time significantly reducing its weight. Chapman, aware of the enormous technical advantage deriving from the new type of chassis, decides not to sell the car to the customer teams, but to reserve the previous year's Lotus 24 for them.

 

At the same time, Tauranac is aware of the advantages deriving from the use of the monocoque frame but opts for the equipment of an old-fashioned frame, which is why it will later be labeled as too conservative.

 

The new Brabham BT7 is in fact an evolution of the previous BT3: the chassis is of the multi-tubular type in a spaceframe configuration, but unlike the previous year's car, the Colotti-Francis gearbox, considered unreliable, is replaced with a Hewland model five-speed manual. The engine is also new, more powerful, with eight valves and with a power of 190 horsepower.

 

The new single-seater makes its debut only on the second round of the season due to design delays, forcing the team to participate in the first appointment in Monte Carlo, with the Lotus 24 purchased the previous year. The result is disappointing, characterized by two retirements, both for Brabham and for Gurney, respectively due to a gearbox and transmission problem, in a race won by Graham Hill on B.R.M.

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The debut of the new BT7 arrives at the second round of the season. The Brabham single-seater proved to be a very competitive but mechanically fragile car. Brabham starts sixth in the Belgian Grand Prix but is forced to retire due to a problem with the fuel injection pump, while Gurney, who started from second place, conquers the first podium in the history of the English team, conquering the lowest step of the podium behind Clark in Lotus and McLaren in Cooper.

 

History repeats itself in the following Dutch Grand Prix, with Brabham forced to retire, and with Gurney author of a sensational comeback from fourteenth place to second place, behind the usual winner Clark.

 

We therefore arrive in France. The Brabhams are once again protagonists of a great qualifying: the Australian starts in fifth place, while the American Gurney in third. The race, dominated by Clark's Lotus, will see the Brabhams rise to fourth and fifth position respectively, with the Australian ahead of his teammate and employee.

 

The first part of the season ends with a weekend to forget at the Silverstone circuit, where the two British cars are forced to retire due to problems with the Climax engine.

 

In the second half of the championship, reliability problems will affect Gurney much more than Brabham. The Australian champion will be able to find consistency in results, taking home a fifth place at Monza and a fourth at Watkins Glen, while Gurney will be forced to retire on both occasions.

 

The best results come with the last two races of the season, in the Mexican and South African Grand Prix, with Brabham taking the first podium on a car of his own construction, thanks to an important second place, with Gurney sixth, while the American will be on the podium at the last appointment, with Brabham retired. The consistency of results will allow the young English team to place itself in third position in the constructors' classification, in its second year of activity.

 

The 1964 season does not foresee any regulatory changes, which is why the team presents itself at the start of the season with a car similar to that of the previous championship.

 

The BT7, even faster than last year, however, carries the same reliability problems encountered in the past. At his seasonal debut in Monte Carlo, Brabham obtained an excellent second position on the starting grid but the race weekend ended with a double zero due to injection problems on the Australian's car and the gearbox in the American's, after that the latter, who started from fifth place, commanded the race for fifteen laps after a close fight with Clark.

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In Zandvoort, in the second round of the season, Gurney obtained the first historic pole position of the English team, preceding Clark and Graham Hill respectively by one and two tenths, with Brabham in seventh position more than two seconds away from his teammate. But in the race, both standard bearers of the English team are again forced to retire.

 

We then arrive at the Spa circuit, in Belgium, where Gurney again signs a magnificent pole position in front of Graham Hill and Brabham himself. The race is full of twists: Gurney leads the race but is constantly under threat from Clark and Hill, with the three exchanging the leadership of the Grand Prix several times, while Brabham is more delayed and follows in fourth position.

 

The final is then history: Gurney is forced to return to the pits for a refueling but, once he reaches the pit lane, he cannot top up due to lack of petrol and is forced to restart and then stop shortly afterwards along the track. Hill takes the top, but is forced to retire in the middle of the last lap due to a problem with the petrol pump. The head of the race is therefore taken by McLaren, who however suffers from the breakage of the alternator belt at the beginning of the last corner. The New Zealander still tries to reach the finish line with the engine off by taking advantage of the descent that leads to the finish line, but is overtaken at the photo finish by Clark who therefore wins a spectacular victory, in front of McLaren himself and Brabham who, staying out of trouble, gets on the lowest step of the podium.

 

In France, Gurney is consistently faster than his teammate and, after starting from second place, he wins the Grand Prix ahead of Graham Hill and Brabham himself, with the two arriving paired at the finish.

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A very tight qualifying session is staged at Brands Hatch: Clark, Hill, Gurney, Brabham and Surtees on Ferrari are separated by only six tenths, with the pole position ending in the hands of the English Lotus, who will win the race of the next day, commanding her from the first to the last lap, with Hill constantly behind him. Surtees will finish third and Brabham in fourth position, with Gurney only in thirteenth position.

 

From this moment on, Black Jack's season will be constantly battered by reliability problems that will lead to his retirement in the remaining Grand Prix of Germany, Austria, Italy, the United States and Mexico, with only Gurney holding the flag of the English team high, thanks to the victory in the last Mexican round.

 

Surtees is crowned World Champion with only one point ahead of Graham Hill, while Brabham finishes in eighth position with eleven points, once again beaten by his teammate. The Brabham team will finish the season with fourth place in the constructors' championship behind Ferrari, B.R.M. and Lotus, but ahead of the historic rival Cooper.

 

For the 1965 season, the British team will compete with a slightly different version of their BT7. The new single-seater, called BT11, will differ from the previous one only for the wider track, thus maintaining the same chassis, the same transmission and the same engine.

 

During the championship, the New Zealander will not take part in all the appointments but will gradually leave room for his compatriot Denis Hulme, who will take on the role of second team leader step by step, as Gurney communicates his desire to leave the team at the end of the season to follow in Brabham's footsteps, designing your own car and competing with your own team.

 

With the passing of the seasons and with the evident results brought home by the single-seaters built by the Brabham Racing Organization, more and more teams decide to buy the cars of the English team to participate in the Formula 1 World Championship. Walker, DW Racing Enterprises and John Willment Automobiles will make Brabham BT11 available to their drivers, without however obtaining evident results, with Jo Siffert in the best RRC classified with five total points and the 11th final position in the world championship standings.

 

It will not go better for Brabham himself, who will score nine points total, with the lowest step of the podium in the penultimate Grand Prix, at the Watkins Glen circuit, as his best result.

 

On the contrary, it will be the usual Gurney who will bring home significant results, thanks to the fourth final position in the world championship, the result of five consecutive podiums between the Dutch and Mexican Grand Prix. At the end of the championship the constructors' standings will show thirty-one total points for the Brabham team, with the final third place behind the Lotus champion and the B.R.M.

 

The 1966 season foresees an important generational change, with the leap from the era of 1.5-liter engines to 3.0-liter ones. It is in this situation that the foresight, as well as the extreme propensity for business, of Jack Brabham becomes evident.

 

The FIA's announcement of the switch to the new 3.0-liter engines, which took place in 1963, coupled with the intention of Coventry Climax not to continue its experience in Formula 1 in conjunction with the entry of the new regulations, prompted Brabham to look around in look for alternatives.

 

Thus, as early as 1964, the New Zealander began to forge a close collaboration with the Australian company Repco, to which he initially entrusted the production and maintenance of Climax engine components. The Australian company thus began the familiarization phase with Formula 1 engines, which will be followed by a second one after Brabham himself will entrust the task of designing a new 2.5-liter engine for Formula Tasman. This apprenticeship period will end at the end of 1965, when Repco and Brabham set up a new company, Repco Brabham Pty ltd based in Maidstone.

 

The new company is tasked with designing and manufacturing the new 3.0-liter engine.

 

The challenge is overcome with the proposal by Brabham himself to use the aluminum block of the Oldsmobile F85 road cars as a base. The new engine, a V8 with two overhead valves per cylinder, is less powerful than many others made for the same season (315 horsepower), but the lightness and compactness (148 kilograms by 74 centimeters) make it the best among those present in starting grid, allowing the use of frames prepared for 1.5-liter engines. The new BT20, with its multi-tubular aluminum frame and five-speed Hewland transmission, is thus the best single-seater on the grid by design.

 

However, the English team presents itself at the starting line with two different versions of its car: Hulme is entrusted with a new BT20 with a semi-tubular chassis, while Brabham prefers to compete with the previous model, the BT19.

 

The seasonal debut sees a double zero for the team, with Brabham and Hulme forced to retire due to a transmission problem, while at the second round of the season at the Spa circuit, the Australian does not go beyond fourth place in a race dominated by Ferrari 312 by Surtees. At the Reims circuit, at the third Grand Prix of the season, Ferrari replaced Surtees, who switched to the Maserati-powered Cooper, with the Englishman Mike Parkes.

 

Qualifying is dominated by the other Ferrari of Italian Lorenzo Bandini, with Surtees in second place, Parkes in third and Brabham fourth. In the race, Bandini leads up to the thirty-first lap, when he begins to suffer from technical problems that will lead him to retire, and is overtaken by Brabham who goes on to win undisturbed. This is the eighth career victory for Black Jack and the first victory in the history of the Repco. In second position the other Ferrari of Parkes, with Hulme closing the podium.

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In Great Britain, on the Brands Hatch circuit, the two Brabhams monopolize the front row with Brabham ahead of Hulme. The result will be repeated the following day, with the two bishops who will end up doubling all opponents, including Graham Hill who will come third. After four races Brabham leads with 21 points, double the first of his rivals, Jochen Rindt in a Cooper-Maserati. At the next appointment on the Zandvoort circuit the story is the same.

 

Despite a very tight qualifying session, which sees Brabham on pole, opponents Hulme, Clark, Gurney and Parkes are included in just one second. In the race, Brabham leads up to the twenty-fifth lap, when he is overtaken by Clark, but ends up regaining the top of the standings with fifteen laps to go, when Clark himself accuses reliability problems that will relegate him to the third place finish. Brabham wins again in front of Graham Hill and Clark himself.

 

The episode at the beginning of the weekend is curious, when Brabham himself, targeted for his seniority (forty years), shows up at the circuit with a fake black beard handling a walking stick.

 

Once at the Nurburgring, Clark signs the pole, with Brabham in fourth place, but in the race the Australian conquers the top already at the end of the first lap, ending up winning the fourth consecutive race in front of the Cooper of Surtees and Rindt, creating a definitive groove in the world championship standings. With three races to go Brabham leads with twenty-two points ahead of twenty-seven available, decisively approaching his third world championship.

 

The Circus therefore makes a stop in Monza. The Ferraris monopolize the front row, with Parkes ahead of the Italian Ludovico Scarfiotti, who will win the next day's race.

 

Brabham was forced to retire in the seventh round due to an oil leak but, thanks to Graham Hill's retirement, he became World Champion for the third time. Now only the constructors' championship is missing, with Brabham ahead of Ferrari by nine points two races to go.

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At Watkins Glen, Black Jack took pole in front of Clark's Lotus and Bandini's Ferrari. In the race, both cars will be forced to retire, thus sanctioning the victory of the constructors' championship for Brabham with a race to spare. On the final catwalk of the Mexican Grand Prix, Surtees will prevail over the Brabham-Hulme.

 

The World Champion team presents itself at the beginning of the 1967 season with a new car, the BT24. The engine, also Repco, is upgraded and requires the use of a new base and new heads, now managing to reach a power of around 350 horsepower.

 

The start of the championship is this time scheduled on the South African circuit of Kyalami, with Brabham taking pole position, ahead of his teammate and Jim Clark's Lotus. At the start of the race, Hulme takes the lead and keeps it until lap sixty when he is overtaken by John Love aboard a Cooper-Climax. Brabham and Hulme are forced to retire, but having covered 75% of the total distance, they are still ranked sixth and fourth respectively. The race was won by Pedro Rodriguez on Cooper-Maserati, ahead of John Love and Surtees on Honda.

 

In Monte Carlo, Brabham conquers the second pole of the season ahead of Bandini and Surtees, but is forced to retire immediately after the start due to the failure of the Repco engine. Hulme wins ahead of Graham Hill and Chris Amon in a Ferrari.

 

We therefore reach Zandvoort, with Hill in pole position. In the race, the Briton's leadership lasts just ten laps, as he is overtaken by Brabham who, a few laps later, is forced to give way to Clark who wins the race ahead of Brabham and Hulme.

 

At the fourth round of the season, both Brabham cars are forced to retire due to engine problems. Gurney wins, who signs the first and only victory for his team, the Eagle with Weslake engine.

 

In France, Hill and Brabham are competing for pole, with the Englishman leading the New Zealander by just one tenth at the end of the session. The race sees a battle for the top between the two same drivers, with Brabham taking the lead on lap twenty-four and not letting go until the end of the race, imposing himself on his teammate and on Gurney.

 

Halfway through the championship, the two pilots of the English team lead the world championship standings, with Hulme ahead of his fellow employer by six points.

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Once in Silverstone, we witness one of the best races of the season. At the end of qualifying, Clark precedes Hill, Brabham and Hulme in order, all four included within a second. In the race, the drivers who have monopolized the front row will battle, swapping the heads of the race several times, until Hill breaks the engine, giving the green light for Clark to win the Grand Prix ahead of Hulme, Amon and Brabham.

 

The next round will take place on the Nurburgring track, with the Formula 1 and Formula 2 cars competing together, although the latter will be forced to start from the back of the grid. Hulme wins ahead of Brabham who will precede Amon's Ferrari at the photo finish. With four races to go, Hulme leads the Brabham standings by twelve points, while in the constructors’ standings the English team already has double the points of the Cooper, which has returned to the top of Formula 1, demonstrating the clear superiority of the cars designed by Ron Tauranac.

 

The battle between the two standard bearers is renewed in the appointment of the Canadian Grand Prix. Clark signs the pole, Hulme starts third, while for Brabham the session ends with a disappointing seventh place. In the race it will be a fight between Clark and Hulme. The two battle it out for three quarters of the race, overtaking several times, but on the sixty-ninth lap the Englishman in a Lotus-Ford will be forced to retire. A magnificent Brabham recovered from the rear, overtaking Hulme and taking the first position, winning ahead of his teammate and reducing the points behind in the drivers' standings to nine. At the end of the Grand Prix, the same English team wins its second consecutive constructors' championship.

 

With three races to go, the Circus makes a stop in Monza. At the end of qualifying eight drivers are locked up in just over a second, with Clark on pole ahead of Brabham and with Hulme only sixth. In the race then everything happens: the lead will see the owner change several times, with Gurney, Clark, Hulme, Brabham, Hill and Surtees battling each other in a thrilling race. On lap thirteenth Clark, who had been firmly in the lead up to that point in the Grand Prix, punched a tire and was forced to restart with one lap late. It splits from the treads, joins them and overtakes them a few laps from the end. On the last lap he is clearly ahead of John Surtees and Brabham, the only survivors of the leading group, but a few kilometers from the end he runs out of petrol and is paraded at the Ascari curve by the two pursuers, who go to compete for the sprint victory: Surtees will win ahead of Brabham, while Clark arrives with more than twenty seconds behind. Hulme is forced to retire due to an overheating problem. With two races to go, Brabham reduces the points that separate him from his team mate to three.

 

At Watkins Glen the two, after the qualifying session, start in pairs, with Brabham fifth and Hulme sixth, but in the race it will be the latter who wins, finishing third behind Clark and Hill, with Brabham fifth.

 

On the eve of the last round of the season, in Mexico, Brabham needs to recover five points to equalize the score with his teammate. That means winning and hoping that Hulme doesn't do better than third place, or finish second with the latter at the top in sixth place. At the end of qualifying, however, the starting grid sees Clark on pole, with Brabham fifth and Hulme sixth. Clark dominates the race, Brabham comes second and Hulme, third, becomes World Champion.

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Brabham feels the pinch and footed his employee who, as a World Champion, will have no problem finding another seat. And so it will be: starting from the following season, Hulme will drive for the team of Bruce McLaren, a longtime friend of Brabham. A strange twist of fate.

 

The 1968 season will perhaps be the worst of the Australian driver's glorious career. On board the new Brabham BT26, Black Jack will collect almost exclusively retreats, precisely nine out of eleven seasonal events, obtaining only a fifth place in the German Grand Prix.

 

A partial reversal of the trend can be found in the 1969 season which, although far from the victorious results of the previous years, sees Brabham obtaining four points finishes, including two podiums, in the Canadian and Mexican Grand Prix.

 

The 1970 season, the last of Brabham's racing career, saw a further regulatory change: it was the first year in which all teams were obliged to present a monocoque car. The new single-seater of the British team, the BT33, proved immediately competitive, allowing the Australian driver to win the debut race in South Africa after overtaking Jackie Stewart's March 701, who started from pole position, and finished the race in front of his rival. Hulme and Stewart himself.

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After a retirement in the second round of the season in Spain, we reach Monte Carlo, with the Australian who, after starting from the third place on the starting grid, finds himself leading the race for over fifty laps. But Rindt's comeback ends up putting pressure on Brabham, who at the last corner makes a mistake in braking, ending up giving his leadership to the Austrian driver, who wins the Grand Prix ahead of the Australian and the French Henri Pescarolo, on Matra.

 

After two events to forget, with a retirement on the Spa circuit and an eleventh final place in Zandvoort, Brabham climbs to the lowest step of the podium on the French circuit of Clermont-Ferrand, and in the subsequent Silverstone race he finds himself leading the race up to last lap, when, running out of petrol, he finishes second behind the Austrian Rindt in a Lotus-Ford.

 

Brabham, up to now in full swing for the world championship, resulting second in the overall standings behind Rindt himself, is the victim of continuous reliability problems on his BT33 and is forced to retire in four of the six subsequent rounds, finishing the World Championship in fifth position with a total of twenty-five points. In 1955, somewhat skeptical of Jack Brabham's real chances of success in Formula 1, John Cooper sarcastically stated:

 

"I will do somersaults in public on the day Brabham wins a Formula 1 Grand Prix".

 

Fifteen years later, in November 1970, at the celebratory day organized at the Brands Hatch circuit for the farewell to racing announced by Brabham, Cooper in the presence of his former driver and thousands of fans will perform a somersault on the starting line of the track, keeping his word.

 

Luca Varano


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