by David Cook
Sir Jack Brabham
1956 Cooper -
1966 Brabham-Repco - Best Box #2518
1968 Brabham-Repco - Hot Wheels
1976 Brabham BT44 - Polistil #RJ5
1976 Brabham BT44 - Yat Ming #1306
The Brabham Grand Prix team was of course built around one man, Australian Sir Jack Brabham, but achieved great success even after he sold out to others in the '70's. The team entered cars in Formula One from 1962 until it's untimely demise in 1992. Many small-scale versions of this famous make have been issued- I believe Doug & I have found most of them!
Sir Jack learned his mechanic's trade in the Royal Australian Air Force during WWII and after the war put his skills to work building a midget racer for another driver to use. When his client quit racing, Jack said "why not me", jumped in the car and was soon winning races. He was a master at swinging the car's tail out on the dirt oval tracks of the time, a technique he would carry with him throughout his career.
Moving on to road racing and hooking up with a young engineer named Ron Tauranac, Brabham was making a name for himself in an imported Cooper-Bristol car, winning races in Australia and New Zealand against some of the best European talent of the time.
Arriving in Europe in 1956, Brabham linked up with the Cooper Car Co. whose Formula 3 cars had taken over the class and started legions of young drivers in their careers. Taking a bored-out fire-pump engine from Coventry-Climax and stuffing it into a Cooper F2 chassis enabled Brabham to show enough competitive results to convince Cooper to mount a full-fledged F1 effort for 1959. The combination of the lightweight, mid-engined Cooper and Jack's driving skills along with some small changes in the F1 rules of the time enabled Brabham & Cooper to dominate with back-to-back World Driving & Constructors Championships in 1959 & 1960. They also exported their rear-engined revolution to the Indy 500, finishing in the top 10 in 1960.
In 1962 Jack set out on his own, forming Motor Racing Developments with Ron Tauranac. They began by building and selling Formula 3 cars to finance an F1 effort. By 1963 Brabham Grand Prix were regulars on the circuit; interestingly, their first Grand Prix win featured American Dan Gurney at the wheel in the 1964 French GP.
When the Formula One engine rules changed for 1966 on, Brabham convinced Australian industrial company Repco to develop a motor for the team. The Repco V8 was reliable and just powerful enough to win the World Championship for Jack in 1966 and to repeat for his teammate Denny Hulme in 1967. This was the first time (and no doubt the last) that the championship has been won by a driver/constructor.
Sir Jack retired after the 1970 season while team principal Ron Tauranac soldiered on for a year before selling the team to current F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. A young Gordon Murray was brought in as designer and the team notched 5 wins between 1974 & 1975 with Cosworth Ford power. Alfa-Romeo 12-cylinder engines were used between 1976 & 1979 but these proved to be overweight gas-hogs compared to the Cosworth and Ferrari powered competition; not even World Champion Niki Lauda could do anything with these unwieldy beasts.
Switching back to Cosworth-Ford power the team was winning races in 1980 and took a first championship for Nelson Piquet in 1981. Linking up with BMW and a 1000-hp smoking bomb of a turbo engine yielded another World Championship for the Brazilian in 1983.
But staying on top is tough; Piquet and Murray both moved on to other outfits and while the team continued to field entries, they tended to start from the back of the grid. Meanwhile, the politics of F1 and the relationship between constructors and the FIA over television revenues consumed more of Ecclestone's time. He eventually sold the team but the buyers were not financially viable and Brabham Grand Prix disappeared from the scene. Sir Jack has of course retired to Australia but appears at many vintage race car events around the world. His three sons, Geoff, Gary & David have all had successful driving careers; you can watch David in action driving a Panoz LMP in the American LeMans series.
1978 Brabham BT48 - Tomica
1978 Brabham BT48 - Polistil
1980 Brabham BT49 - Guisval
1982 Brabham BT52 - Polistil #RN26
1984 Brabham F1 - Majorette #232