FEATURE: Sir Jack Brabham’s life reflections Part 4
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.
The fourth and final part in the series tells the extraordinary story of when Sir Jack helped smuggle Jim Clark out of Italy and his many near misses in aeroplanes.
The following are excerpts and video from the four-part interview between Sir Jack and Speedcafe.com editor-in-chief Gordon Lomas.
SMUGGLING JIM CLARK OUT OF ITALY
We were racing at Monza (Italian GP in 1961) and Wolfgang Von Trips had a big accident and Jim Clark was blamed for it (later exonerated of blame).
Jimmy and Von Trips hit together and Von Trips went off and killed some spectators (13 died when his Ferrari went into the crowd).
Colin Chapman (Lotus boss) came to me and said that when people get killed in Italy they lock you up until they investigate what happened.
Of course we didn’t want to do that; we wanted to go back to England.
So Colin Chapman asked me if I’d take Jimmy back in my aeroplane.
So we had to smuggle him into the customs area in Milan and through customs, lucky nobody recognised him.
We just went through customs saying we were just going to refuel the aeroplane.
But when we went out to refuel the aeroplane we’d left Jimmy Clark in the back of the aeroplane and we all came back and went through customs.
And later we came back and took off and flew back to England.
NEAR MISSES IN AEROPLANES
I went to a race in Sweden in the 1960’s and they had a little airfield near the Karlskoga circuit.
Unfortunately somebody had milked one of the tanks on the aeroplane (Cessna 310) and we were flying across this big lake in Sweden and one of the engines stopped.
Luckily we had fuel in another tank and we managed to arrive in Gothenburg without any problem.
It was pretty exciting. When the thing runs out of fuel of course it gets your attention.
It was a relief to hear the engine run again.
Another occasion was when I had another aircraft which I had sold to Bib Stillwell in Australia and I was delivering it to him.
We put ferry tanks in the aeroplane so we didn’t have to stop at all these terrible places where you would have to go through customs.
So we bypassed a lot of them by putting extra fuel in the plane.
The biggest stage of the trip was 2000 miles (3218.7km) from the Middle East to Sri Lanka we ran out of fuel in one of the fuel tanks as well.
And both engines stopped, never mind one.
We were at 14,000ft (4267m) and by the time we got the fuel changed over again we were at 7,000ft (2133m) and we were 1000miles (1609m) from land.
That certainly got our attention.
(another time) I got myself in big trouble with the Cessna 310.
I went down to Wales in it to see the people who were making our brakes at the time for the Coopers.
I had been out to a long lunch and was late getting back to the aeroplane and when I took off on the way back Fairoaks (Surrey) the fog set in.
I had no hope of getting into Fairoaks so I decided to go to Luton because it was an aerodrome I used a lot and had radar.
So on the way there they called up and said unfortunately we are going to close the aerodrome because the fog is too bad.
So I said ‘where can I go’ and they said Bovington so I headed to Bovington.
But before I got there they closed that one as well.
So I was stuck up there and all the aerodromes were closed around the place.
I had no option but try Luton and they said they would try and get me in.
So I came across the fence at only 50ft and couldn’t see a thing and all I could do was let the aeroplane settle.
The radar people confirmed I was over the runway and I just let it settle onto the ground.
When I stopped I had to wait for them to arrive in a vehicle because we couldn’t find our way back to the terminal.
So I was very lucky that night.
Then another time I took Geoffrey (eldest son) to Oulton Park one afternoon and it was just on dusk.
What I didn’t know at the time is that it had been raining and it was a grass field we were landing on with a lake at the bottom.
When I touched down on the wet grass the brakes weren’t working and eventually I got the aeroplane turned sideways and went sideways to the lake.
When I stopped the wheels were on the bank and the wing was out over the lake and we very nearly went in I can assure you.
SEE BELOW FOR PART 4 OF SPEEDCAFE.COM’S SIR JACK BRABHAM INTERVIEW