Posts Tagged ‘Brabham- The Untold Story of Formula One’

My theory is that there are only a relatively small number of ‘T-Intersections of Life’ decisions which are key in determining the paths which follow…

Its interesting to read Tony Davis’ biography (with Akos Armont who has directed the accompanying documentary due in cinemas early next year) of Jack and pick what those may be.

Johnny Schonberg’s wife and her pressure on him to give up racing in 1948 gave Jack his start- that it was a speedway car meant Brabham both got a taste of competition and also entered the sport in Australia at its professional end- that is he quickly realised there was a dollar to be made if you were good.

David Chamber’s suicide meant his Cooper T23 Bristol was available when it landed in Australia in 1953- Jack was able to buy it with his savings and assistance from his parents and REDeX. Whilst Jack was a name in speedway the RedeX Special put his name in lights on the circuits. Cooper inclined, he bought Peter Whitehead’s Cooper Alta to race in England- a shit-heap as it transpired, but he attracted the attention of the John and Charles Cooper with it when he moved to the UK, donned some overalls in Hollyfield Road, initially on an unpaid basis and six years later had bagged two World F1 Titles with the team.

Jack poses with Number 28, the Midget he and Johnny Schonberg built which was then powered by a 996cc 8/80 JAP engine. It’s his first race night in a 23 year career, Parramatta’s Cumberland Oval on 5 December 1947 (T Wright)

 

Brabham’s Cooper T23 Bristol REDeX Spl at Mount Druitt circa 1954. The sponsorship arrangement and advertising, not allowed by CAMS, caused Jack plenty of grief (Nye/Brabham)

Betty Evelyn Beresford was the right choice of Jack’s partner in life- she allowed Brabham to have absolute focus on his racing whilst she brought up the family of three boys- all successful racers themselves of course.

It transpires that Brabham was ‘Jack The Lad’ and not averse to a bit of Hanky Schpanky outside the matrimonial boudoir, this ultimately caused the end of his marriage in 1994. Jack’s second marriage to his secretary, Margaret Taylor, in 1995 is not explored in the book, a shame as she looked after him for over two decades but maybe this was simply too painful for the Brabham boys who unsurprisingly adored their late mother. Conversely, Gary Brabham’s charges and jail for child sexual offences in 2009 and 2016 are covered in brief, to the credit of Davis and the Brabhams.

The partnership between Ron Tauranac and Jack was key of course, this relationship dates back to 1951. Brabham involved him in consulting on major modifications to the Cooper T45/51 whilst he and his brother Austin were building the first series of Ralts before he came (home in a way, he is a Brit by birth) to England to commence Motor Racing Developments Ltd with Jack at the dawn of the sixties.

It transpired they needed one another too- Davis explores Jack’s ‘relevance deprivation syndrome’ and mental health after he retired to the bucolic splendour of outback Australia and Ron had been shafted in the sale of MRD to Bernard Charles Ecclestone within twelve months of Jack jumping a Qantas 707 to enjoy his boat on the Georges River.

Yeah, well you may well be the boss of McLaren in a decade cocko but to soften the front bar turn it the other way! Tauranac, Brabham and Ron Dennis at Monaco in 1970- BT33 Ford Cosworth, second after that last lap mistake- Jochen Rindt the winner in Lotus 49D Ford

 

Repco RBE640 2.5 litre ‘Tasman’ V8 in the back of Jack’s Brabham BT23A at Warwick Farm in the summer of 1967 (B Wells)

The precise start of Brabham’s relationship with Repco- when they gave him his first free part is unknown and never will be but from little acorns did big things grow. Jack saw close up Charlie Dean and his Repco Research Team and their work in building and racing the Maybachs, got a further sense of their facilities and capabilities in the manufacture of the Repco Hi-Power cylinder heads for the Holden ‘grey-six’ cylinder engine- designed by one PE Irving. At some stage, probably via Charlie Dean, Jack met ‘Dave’ McGrath, Repco Ltd CEO, Frank Hallam saw on opportunity to look after Jack’s Coventry Climax FPF’s in Richmond circa 1962, and the rest- a cuppla world titles is history.

The final T-Intersection call was to retire at the end of 1970- its significant in that Brabham pulled the stumps at the top of his game and was able to die in his Gold Coast bed, an opportunity Bruce McLaren, Piers Courage and Jochen Rind- statistics in 1970 did not have. Davis relates how Jack thought he still had a year or three in him but Geoff Brabham speculates that Brabham knew it was getting harder for an older guy to run at the front as cars became more aero dependent and developed greater G-forces. Jack was 44 in 1970, Ronnie Peterson was 26 to put the Australian’s challenge into some kind of competitive perspective…

She’ll be ‘comin down The Mountain, Easter Bathurst 1969. Brabham BT31 Repco RBE830 2.5 V8- its practice, he raced with the rear wing only- first place in his last commitment to Repco in Australia (D Simpson)

 

Betty, Jack and his self built monoposto, all enveloping bodied Cooper T40 Bristol during his championship F1 debut at Aintree in 1955. Happy times and the world at their feet (S Dalton)

This is the fourth book on Brabham but the first biographical account- what makes it different are the perspectives of Geoff and David Brabham, Ron Tauranac, Stirling Moss, John Surtees, Denny Hulme, Frank Matich and many others rather than the account being largely Jack’s perspective.

There is plenty of ‘nuts and bolts’ for we uber-enthusiasts, i do like Tony’s ‘Cooper T45 Climax’ rather than ‘Cooper’, much of the story will be familiar to those of us of a certain age but there are a heap of fragments which were new to me. What was interesting throughout the process- i need to declare a bias here as i was engaged twelve months ago to read and comment upon the manuscript along with a few others, was to get to know Tony and understand some of the commercial elements of publishing. The intended readership is much broader than you and i, targets extend to more casual observers and those from outside racing, i believe Tony has made that ‘straddle’ of ‘average punter’ to enthusiast masterfully.

Australian readers of the Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review will be aware of Davis as a motoring writer but he is also a noted author of adult and kids fiction as well as a number of motoring books. He is the son of Pedr Davis, who turned 90 in November, one of the doyen of Oz ‘muttering rotters’ from the sixties to nineties.

After reading the first few chapters of the manuscript i rang Tony and advised him that he was a Perick! ‘Why?’, he enquired. ‘Because you write with a beautiful descriptive fluidity, and i have been made acutely aware of my own limitations’ i responded.

Do buy the book, its a great read over the festive season or otherwise!

‘Brabham- The Untold Story of Formula One’, published by Harper Collins, ISBN: 978 1 4607 5747 5 (hardback) and ISBN: 978 1 4607 1122 4 (ebook)

Photo and other Credits…

Terry Wright’s ‘Loose Fillings’, Stephen Dalton Collection, Dick Simpson, Getty Images, Nye/Brabham, Bruce Wells

Jack loved the races he did for Matra in 1970- all he had to do was rock up and drive rather than have responsibility for ‘the lot’.

Here he is in the MS650 3 litre V12 prototype during the Brands Hatch 1000km- he shared the car with Jean-Pierre Beltoise to twelfth, Jack’s best result was a win at Montlhery later in the year, the Paris 1000km, his co-driver on that occasion was Francois Cevert in an MS660.

Finito…