FEATURE: Sir Jack Brabham’s life reflections Part 1
Speedcafe.com celebrates the extraordinary life of Sir Jack Brabham by publishing the legend’s last major sit-down interview in full for the first time.
Part 1 embraces Sir Jack’s years in grand prix racing, his relationship with Bruce McLaren and the man who had the biggest influence on his career, John Cooper.
The following are excerpts and video from the four-part interview between Sir Jack and Speedcafe.com editor-in-chief Gordon Lomas.
EARLY GRAND PRIX YEARS
I had a Cooper in Australia that I was racing and when I went off to England in 1955 and one of the first places I wanted to go to was to see where the cars were built.
So I went there and was introduced to John Cooper and we got on pretty well together. I worked in his workshop for a while.
I bought a Cooper Alta (off Peter Whitehead) when I got over there (England) and that proved to be a disaster.
I should have brought my Cooper Bristol over but instead I sold it.
Whitehead (Le Mans 24 Hour winner and who famously won the Australian GP at Bathurst in 1938) was a very good driver but he didn’t know much about cars.
And I think that’s the reason why I came to have the wrong car. He sold me a car that just wasn’t good enough to win.
Luckily Coopers let me build a car in their workshop and I used a sports car chassis and put an engine in the back and build Cooper’s first rear engine F1 car.
I became a Cooper works driver in Formula 2 and sports cars and I won the F2 Championship in 1958.
The following year we raced the 2.5litre Coventry Climax which put us on the road to winning because we had been on the back foot with an engine that was smaller than the ones we were racing against.
We finished up winning the championship in 1959.
BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON CAREER
He was able to give me a works drive and gave me an advantage of driving a winning car.
He really helped me in a lot of ways and was very keen and had a lot of enthusiasm and that really rubbed off on me.
ASSOCIATION WITH BRUCE MCLAREN
After racing in Australia for a number of years they suddenly came up with a track in New Zealand (Ardmore in 1954) which was going to be the first international race we had the opportunity to race in.
That gave me the opportunity to meet overseas drivers and I got the learning part of it from going to Ardmore (where Sir Jack won three New Zealand Grands Prix) and I met the right people.
I met Bruce McLaren at the time and he was just a kid but had done a little bit of driving and showed that he was going to be a good driver.
I sold him my sports car and he ended up winning the championship the following year and with it came an all expenses paid trip to Europe so I got him a job with me at Cooper and of course he never looked back.
Meeting Bruce in New Zealand led me to meeting Phil Kerr who became my manager and who ran my garage at Chessington (south-west London) and we became good friends.
INVOLVEMENT IN THE ‘KANGAROO STABLE’
I had the added advantage of when I arrived in England to being invited to drive with the Kangaroo Stable.
(which) was an Australian team (consisted of David McKay, Tony Gaze, Brabham, Les Cosh and Dick Cobden) but we only did a few races because of the big accident at Le Mans in 1955, they cancelled a lot of races after that because of the accident.
So I didn’t do as many races in that car (Aston Martin) as I’d like to.
PART 2: Tomorrow Sir Jack looks at his bond with Stirling Moss and his former Kiwi team-mate Denny Hulme.
SEE BELOW FOR PART 1 OF SPEEDCAFE.COM’S SIR JACK BRABHAM INTERVIEW