Final flag falls on Black Jack's race

Jack Brabham takes the chequered flag in one of his many career wins.
Jack Brabham takes the chequered flag in one of his many career wins.


For a former Royal Australian Air Force mechanic, Sebring International Raceway in Florida was an apt place for Sir Jack Brabham's sporting legend to begin.

The former US military airbase was the venue for the ninth and final race of the 1959 Formula One world championship with Brabham, a 33-year-old ex-fruit and vegetable delivery driver from Sydney, in with a title shot along with Englishmen Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks.

Brabham's main rival Moss retired as the race entered its closing laps and the championship looked all but assured for the Australian.

Then, two turns from the finish, Brabham's Cooper-Climax began to sputter before rolling to a halt 400 metres from the finish line.

Disaster had struck - Brabham's car had run out of fuel.

Without panic, Brabham urged teammate and race leader Bruce McLaren to continue on to victory as he climbed out and pushed his car up the hill and past the finish line to secure fourth place.

It was certainly the slowest finish to a race in Brabham's career but it was a defining moment.

Just four years after arriving in Europe and only a decade after beginning his motor sport career, Brabham had become the first Australian to win the Formula One crown.

Moss said Brabham's nature didn't allow giving up easily.

"Most of the drivers, once you'd passed them you could forget about them," Moss said in 2009.

"But Sir Jack - you never knew. He was always there, hunting along.

"He was competitive, I mean, he wanted to win."

For the next 12 years Brabham would do just that, defending his title in 1960 before becoming in 1966 the only driver to win a F1 world championship in a car he'd built.

His Brabham BT vehicles delivered another constructors' championship in 1967, with Brabham finishing second behind New Zealand teammate Denny Hulme in the drivers' title race.

Brabham's partnership with Ron Tauranac would continue building race-cars long after Brabham's final grand prix win in 1970.

Brabham's career was closely linked to the English motor sports scene, which dominated Formula One in the 1960s with drivers such as Moss, Graham Hill and Jim Clark.

But of all of them, it was Brabham who became the first driver to receive a knighthood, in 1978.

Known as Black Jack for his dark hair and almost shadowy silence away from his car, Brabham's achievements spoke volumes.

Sir Jack Brabham was 88.

He is survived by his wife Lady Margaret and his sons David, Geoff and Gary. - AAP


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