No other race car has captured the imagination of the Australian public like Brabham’s 1966 Formula One Championship winner, the BT 19. When it is put on show at the Australian Grand Prix or at car shows here and around the world, it is one of the most looked at exhibits.
Why is it so popular? Is it that the BT19 is a beautiful car to look at? Is it because it was an Australian designed car with an Australian made engine driven by an Australian driver? Or is it that Brabham Racing was a small fish in a big pond and won? The answer is a straight forward, yes.
“The BT19 was very nice – a very, very pleasant car,” Sir Jack Brabham told Speedcafe.com.au
“We won the championship in the BT19 with an Australian engine, which is the pinnacle as far as I’m concerned.
“I’m very proud of what we achieved. It was an absolutely fantastic achievement for Australia.”
The BT19 was designed by legendary Australian car designer Ron Tauranac for Brabham. The car was scheduled to race in the 1965 F1 Championship but it wasn’t debuted until January 1, 1966.
The 1966 F1 Championship began with the Monaco Grand Prix in mid-May, 1966, but the BT19 had already raced on several occasions.
Brabham raced the BT19 at several F1 non-championship Grand Prix’s (prior to the official start to the season), including the South African GP at East London, the Syracuse GP and the International Trophy at Silverstone – where it recorded its first win.
The BT19 and the BT20 were raced throughout the 1966 and 1967 F1 seasons, with the BT19 being the car of choice in Brabham’s 1966 championship-winning year.
Sir Jack drove the BT19 at seven of the nine Grand Prix’s of 1966, winning four in row (French, British, Dutch and German). He retired at the Monaco and Italian GPs and was fourth in Belgium.
In 1967 Brabham drove the BT19 at three GPs, these being at Monaco and the Dutch and Belgian GPs. Brabham steered the BT19 to its last podium at the Dutch GP, where he was second.
“It was a beautiful car to drive actually, probably one of the best cars I ever had,” Brabham said.
“Of course its results tell everything really. What more can you say about it? We won four or five Grands Prix and the Championship.”
The BT19 made its last Grand Prix appearance at the 1967 Belgian GP and raced for the last time at the Spanish GP – a non-championship event – that same year.
In all, the BT19 raced in 10 Formula 1 Grands Prix, six F1 non-championship events and three other races throughout 1966 and 1967, winning on six occasions.
“One of the races I really enjoyed was the 1966 French Grand Prix at Reims,” Brabham said.
“We managed to beat the Ferrari team, who was the favourite to win the race because it was a very fast circuit.
“It was very, very fast – the average speed was over 140 miles an hour for the race.
“We downed them (Ferrari) with a Repco engine. It was a fantastic race, it really was.”
Since its retirement, the BT19 has been lovingly restored and has been seen at some of the biggest racing and motoring events around the world.
These days it can be seen in all of its glory at the Melbourne National Sports Museum – a shrine to Australia’s greatest sporting moments and memorabilia.
The MCG museum is an appropriate resting place for the car affectionately known as the ‘old nail.’