Formula 1 Champion Sir Jack Brabham Dies at 88

Formula 1 racer Sir Jack Brabham (pictured at left, with Sir Jackie Stewart and Sir Stirling Moss), a three-time champion also renowned for his engineering prowess, passed away today at the age of 88 at his home in Australia. The Australian-born driver won the Formula 1 driver’s title in 1959, 1960, and 1966, the highlights of an illustrious career that helped shape the course of motorsports.

Nicknamed “Black Jack” for his dark hair and stern composure, Brabham was a fearsome racer as well as engineer. Brabham’s motorsports career began in Australia where he helped build and successfully race midgets on dirt track ovals. His four consecutive Australian titles won him the attention of John and Charles Cooper, founders of the Cooper Car Company, whom he would join for F1 competition.

Despite the fact that the field was dominated by front-engine roadsters, Brabham convinced the Coopers to build a rear-engine racer. He proved his know-how after winning two titles in a Cooper Climax, making front-engine racers a relic of the past. His third championship, in the self-built Brabham BT19, remains the only instance in which a driver won a Formula 1 world championship in a car of his own manufacture.

For his accomplishments as a driver, engineer, and team owner, Brabham was knighted in 1985.

“The word ‘legend’ is often used to describe successful sportsmen but often it exaggerates their status,” said McLaren group CEO Ron Dennis in a statement. “In the case of Sir Jack Brabham, however, it’s entirely justified.”

Sir Jack’s influence on the history of motorsports is hard to exaggerate; current Formula 1 Red Bull racer Daniel Ricciardo called him, “A great Australian who inspired many Aussies to pursue our dreams.”

Brabham is survived by his wife, Lady Margaret, and his three sons (each of whom has competed successfully in global motorsports) Geoff, Gary, and David.

Some photography courtesy of Motor Trend Archives