Posts Tagged ‘Geoff Brabham’

(M Bishop)

Geoff Brabham gets the jump from Grace Bros Racing team-mate Andrew Miedecke and Alfie Costanzo at the Hume Weir, Australian National F2 round on 15 June 1975…

Birrana 274 Ford Hart, Rennmax BN7 Ford Hart and Birrana 274 again- Costanzo won that day but Geoff won the series.

In the black helmet at far right on the second row is Ray Winter in the Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ still a winner seven years after it first raced in Frank Gardner’s hands in the summer of ’69 Tasman Series.

The high water mark of Australian National Formula 2 racing (1.6 litre, DOHC, 2 valve- which effectively mandated the Lotus Ford twin-cam engine- the ducks guts version was the Hart 416B circa 205bhp injected variants) was in 1974 when an infusion of sponsorship dollars from shirt manufacturer Van Heusen resulted in an influx of drivers stepping up into the class and/or acquiring new cars.

Geoff Brabham during wet Oran Park practice in 1975. Birrana 274 Ford/Hart. No F2 championship round that year held at OP (oldracephotos.com.au)

Guys like Leo Geoghegan, Enno Buesselmann, Bruce Allison, Ken Shirvington, John Leffler, Chas Talbot, Wolfgang Prejawa with Sonny Rajah jetting in from Malaysia and Graeme Lawrence did a round or two from NZ. In some cases drivers ‘stepped down’ from F5000- Bob Muir, John Walker, Kevin Bartlett and Max Stewart to name a swag. For the sake of clarity Leo was an established ace- having finally won the Gold Star, the national drivers championship he deserved in 1970, he retired and then did a ‘Nellie Melba’ and returned to drive Malcolm Ramsay and Tony Alcock’s new Birrana 272 in mid-1972.

An absolute corker of a 1974 series was won by Leo in the ‘works’ Grace Bros sponsored Birrana 274 Ford-Hart in a closely fought battle with the Bob and Marj Brown owned Birrana 273 raced by Bob Muir and Leffler’s ‘tricky-dicky’, superb, variable rate suspension Bowin P8.

Sex on Wheels. John Leffler’s John Joyce designed Bowin P8 Ford-Hart at Sandown’s Dandy Road during the 1975 Tasman meeting, DNF suspension (B Keys)

Predictably in some ways the Van Heusen money ended up supporting ‘taxis’ in 1975 despite the great show put on by the F2’s in 1974. All the same, the 1975 championship was a good one given all the newish cars about.

Into late 1974 or early 1975 Costanzo bought Leo’s championship winning car- and in that ’75 season gave his career the shot in the arm it needed after running around in an old Elfin 100 Mono F2 for way too long. I think Alfie did travel to Italy seeking a drive in the late sixties, without success- imagine if he had popped his bum into the right car back then rather than a decade later at the end of the seventies when Alan Hamilton’s Porsche Cars Australia finally gave him the drive he deserved- the ex-VDS/Brown Lola T430 Chev F5000 and subsequently the McLaren M26 Chev and Tiga Formula Pacifics into the early eighties.

Miedecke, Rennmax BN7 Ford/Hart in the Calder paddock 1975. It was a small, neat bit of kit- conventional but for the chassis as per text. Uncertain if this is the first or second of the two Calder rounds won by Miedecke and Costanzo respectively (oldracephotos.com.au)

Brabham and Miedecke stepped up from Formula Ford- a Bowin P6F and Birrana F73 respectively, retaining their Grace Bros support which helped fund far more sophisticated and expensive cars than their FF’s. Geoff took the obvious choice in acquiring a Birrana 274- a low mileage, late build car from Neil Rear in WA whilst Andrew sought the ‘unfair advantage’ with a new Rennmax- the BN7 from Bob Brittan’s Sydney workshop.

In fact it wasn’t that edgy a choice really as his car was a refinement of Doug Heasman’s BN6 which hit the track about 12 months before- the speed of which was proven by Bob Muir in one or two races in the car before he got the Brown’s Birrana ride at Enno Buesselmann’s expense.

This photograph shows clearly the middle monocoque and front spaceframe sections of the ex-Miedecke BN7 recently (via R Bell)

 

Apropos the above- chassis front section (via R Bell)

The BN7 design was different to the paradigm of the era in having a monocoque centre-cockpit section and spaceframes both front and rear- the more usual approach was an ally mono from the front ending in a bulkhead aft of the drivers shoulders with an ‘A-frame’ at the rear to carry the engine and suspension.

Both the P8 Bowin and Rennmax were wedge nosed designs with side radiators whereas the Birranas and Elfins (works 622 as raced by Walker and 630) followed the ‘Tyrrell’ bluff nosed approach with a front radiator.

Amaroo Park 1975. Brabham Birrana 274, Winter Mildren Sub, Miedecke Rennmax BN7 and Hong Kong’s John McDonald Brabham BT40. Brabham won from McDonald and Winter (unattributed)

 

Paul King in the foreground beside his Birrana 374 Toyota F3, whilst Ray Winter strides across the track. His car is the famous Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Ford-Hart ex-Gardner/Bartlett/Muir. The guys had a territorial dispute after Paul got a blinder of a start and Ray attempted to assert F2 superiority into the first corner. Hume Weir 1975 (M Bishop)

In a year of strong competition between Brabham, Costanzo and Miedecke Geoff took the title with three wins at Amaroo, Symmons and Phillip Island from Alfie with two wins- Hume Weir and Calder and Andrew, who won the first Calder round in May. Arguably the quickest of the trio was Costanzo but reliability was a little lacking on both his and Miedecke’s part.

With my new drivers licence I no longer had to rely on my reluctant dad to cart me around to race meetings- I saw the Calder, Sandown and Phillip Island rounds that season and well recall a chat with Geoff and Peter Nightingale, his mechanic/engine builder, after the final ‘Island round in late November which Brabs won in fine style.

He had his ‘tail up’ in his modest way and was looking forward to taking on the world in Europe.

Doug Heasman, Rennmax BN6 Ford from Peter Macrow, Cheetah Mk6 Toyota, Hume Weir, date uncertain (M Bishop)

Interest was added to the series with lady racer Sue Ransom doing some events in Leffo’s Bowin P8 Ford/Hart- I pissed myself with laughter watching him pop her Willans six-pointer on at Calder, he was far more judicious with the crutch straps than he would have been with a fella. In those days the two lady-quicks were Ransom and Christine Cole/Gibson, I always thought it a shame Sue didn’t race the Bowin for longer than she did. Leffler himself did a round or two in Paul England’s Brabham BT36/Dolphin in amongst his Bowin P8 Chev F5000 commitments- the Brabham/Dolphin was also raced a couple of times by Tony Stewart- a talent lost.

Other drivers who added colour were Ken Shirvington, Chris Farrell, Enno Buesselmann, Doug MacArthur in the Lola T360 Bartlett and Lawrence had ‘guested in’ the year before when it was imported and owned by Glenn Abbey- and Ray Winter still pluggin’ away in The Yellow Sub, albeit substantially modified by Mawer Engineering.

Brian Shead, Cheetah Mk5 Toyota ANF3- Mk5 the prettiest and one of the most successful Cheetahs of all- amazing what Shead produced from that little ‘shop in Mordialloc (M Bishop)

The quicker of the 135bhp ANF3 cars (1.3 litre, SOHC or pushrod engines on carbs) could always give an average driven 205bhp F2 a run for its money, dudes like the two Brians- Shead and Sampson, Paul King, Peter Macrow and Dean Hosking to name several who extracted all these little cars had to give.

(M Bishop)

I’ve no idea who the ace felling a ‘pine plantation’ at Hume Weir is, I’m intrigued to know? Ditto the car.

(M Bishop)

What about the career trajectory of the 1975 F2 protagonists you ask?

Miedecke did another F2 year in the BN7 in 1976, Costanzo acquired a Lola T332 F5000 and was immediately quick in it against the established 5 litre aces whilst Brabham headed off to Europe for a couple of Ralt RT1 Toyota F3 seasons before launching his pro-career in the US.

Etcetera…

Geoff Brabham Birrana 274 leads a group of cars up the Calder return to the paddock road- remember that setup? Peter Macrow’s Mk5 Cheetah and Paul King’s Birrana 374 behind. Geoff’s chassis, ex-Neil Rear was ‘274-018’, it was then bought by Ray Winter to replace the Sub but if memory serves he had a huge accident in it, Lakeside maybe? Now in the Holmes family collection (oldracephotos.com.au)

 

Ray Winter in the Mildren Ford Hart ‘Yellow Submarine’ at Oran Park circa 1975 (B Williamson)

 

 

 

 

Photo Credits…

Mark Bishop, oldracephotos.com.au, Bruce Keys, Ray Bell on The Nostalgia Forum, Bob Williamson

Tailpiece: Graeme Crawford, Birrana 273 Ford F2- he won the national title in this car in 1976- from Brian Shead’s self built Cheetah Mk5 Toyota F3, Hume Weir 1975…

(M Bishop)

Finito…

 

 

geoff and jack

‘Cmon Dad £1 a week isn’t much…you know i’m saving for a racing car!? Lets cut a deal and then you can go back to qualifying ok?…’

I doubt he did the deal, Jack a notoriously tough negotiator and parsimonious, but Geoff did get his first racer, a Bowin P6F Formula Ford in 1974 and did rather well from there, Jack doing his bit along the way!

 

jack and geoff

Geoff’s first racing car drive? Jack clicking the watches at Oran Park, Sydney 16 August 1972. Car is the Jack Brabham Ford owned Bowin P4X normally raced by Bob Beasley, and in a bit of trivia, the car in which  Jack won his last single-seater race at Calder in 1971 in the ‘Race of Champions’ which pitted current and past stars against each other in FF’s (Getty Images)

brabham bowin p6f

Geoff Brabham in his Bowin P6F FF during his 1974 national campaign, F1 driver, Larry’s brother Terry Perkins won that year in an Elfin 620 (Bob Jane Heritage)

Brabham had done a few races in 1973 in an Elfin 620 FF but mounted a serious camapign for the Australian National FF title in 1974 driving John Leffler’s championship winning car from ’73. These Bowins were very advanced for their day; wedge shape, hip radiators and rising rate suspension front and rear, this in a car first built in 1972.So advanced were the cars that later Reynard designer, Malcolm Oastler was still winning in a P6F in 1983.

http://www.bowincars.org/mediawiki-1.6.12/index.php?title=Bowin_P6

Geoff progressed to Australian F2 in 1975 winning the title in a Birrana 274 Ford, ANF2 then was a 1.6 litre, DOHC 2 valve formula, effectively mandating the Lotus Ford twin cam engine, the ‘ducks guts’ variant, the ‘Hart 416B’ producing circa 205bhp.

This wings and slicks experience was important for Brabham in his UK F3 and US Super Vee racing in various Ralt RT1’s over the next 3 years.

brabham amaroo

Brabham, Birrana 274 leads the F2 field at Amaroo Park, Sydney in 1975. He won the title. Ray Winter Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ in 2nd and Andrew Miedecke Rennmax BN7 3rd, all Hart Ford powered. Birranas’ were jewels of cars built by Malcolm Ramsay and Tony Alcock in Adelaide between 1971 and 1974, around 21 were built; FF,F3,F2.Unable to make a $ in Oz they ceased construction, Alcock moved back to the UK joining Graham Hill and was on that fateful flight… (Unattributed)

gb raltrt1

GB BP British F3 Championship 1977. Brands Hatch 11 September. Ralt RT1 Toyota DNF in a race won by Derek Daly’s Chevron B38 Toyota. (David Lawson)

Brabham raced in the British F3 Championships in 1976 and 1977, moved to the ‘States in 1979 and won the Super Vee Championship in a Ralt RT1 also breaking into ‘big cars’ late that year with a Single Seat CanAm 5 litre Hogan HR001 Chev.

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Who said spaceframes were a thing of the past in the elite categories by 1979? GB in his Hogan HR001 Chev, Riverside GP, 4th. Jacky Ickx heading out to practice behind in his Lola T333CS Chev, Jacky won the CanAm title that year. Al Holbert raced the Hogan for most of the year, but it wasn’t quick or reliable, GB drove it in the last 2 rounds. (Chris Nally)

brabham vds

VDS001 Chev, GB won the CanAm in this car in 1981. VDS raced the Lola T530 in the previous 2 years, this Trevor Harris designed car used the centre of a Lola T530 monocoque; the fuel cell, roll bar and engine mountings. Front suspension was T530 derived but the rest of the car, inclusive of Tony Cicale designed body was built at VDS California workshop. (Unattributed)

Over the following years he mixed Indycars and CanAm winning the 1981 Championship in Count Rudy Van der Stratens VDS Teams self built car, VDS001 having been quicker than teammate and 1980 Champion Patrick Tambay in identical Lola T530 Chevs in the second half of the season.

He raced Indycars from 1981 to 1987, and then periodically, in the early 90’s, in the last 4 years just competing at Indianapolis, his best Indy finish 4th in a VDS entered Penske PC10 Ford in 1983.

brabham indy car

VDS Racing Penske PC10 Ford, Q 26th finished 4th at Indy in 1983, his best result. (Unattributed)

In sports cars he was an ace, winning 4 IMSA GT Championships with various of Nissans sports cars run by ‘Kas’ Kastner in the US.

He competed at Le Mans with Nissan in 1989 and 1990 and was a logical choice for Renault as a safe, experienced, fast driver as part of the 1993 Peugeot Team to repeat the success of the year before, the 3.5 litre V10 905 Evo 1 a very quick car, in essence a 2 seat GP car. He won the race partnered by Eric Helary and Christophe Bouchot, taking a race win that Jack didn’t, JB wasn’t a LeMans regular but did compete with Matra in 1970, his final season in Europe. https://primotipo.com/2014/09/01/easter-bathurst-1969-jack-brabham-1970-et-al/

Jack settled the family in rural Wagga Wagga in New South Wales in 1971, well away from motor racing but it was not long before the pleasures of bucolic life, whatever they may be, were overwhelmed by the Brabham boys ‘need for speed’, all graduating from Australian Formula Ford to F3 in the UK in turn!

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Peugeot 905 Evo 1 Le Mans 1993. GB won the race partnered by Eric Helary and Christophe Bouchot. Jean Todt popped him into the car for the final stint. (Unattributed)

Geoff Brabham returned to Australia in the early ’90’s racing both 2 litre ‘Super Tourers’ and ‘V8 Supercars’. He was runner up in both the 1995 and 1997 Super Touring Championship and won the 1997 Bathurst 1000 Super Touring race partnered by his brother David.

brabham in bmw

Mid 90’s in Australia in one of his BMW 2 litre ‘Super Tourers’. (Unattributed)

GB had a remarkably diverse career, as versatile in his time as Jack was in his, and a career of achievement especially if comparisons with his father, such a difficult act to follow, are put to one side!

The Brabham Racing Dynasty continues with Geoffs’ son Matthew finishing 4th in the 2014 Indy Lights Championship driving a Dallara Nissan for Andretti Motorsport. http://matthewbrabham.com/ David Brabhams’ son Sam is also competing and hoping to make the Le Mans grid this year…

Etcetera…

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Another angle of the wild VDS001 Chev in 1981. GB Used both this car and Lola T530 Chev to win the CanAm title that year. Circuit unknown. (Unattributed)

brabham ralt rt4

GB contested a few of our Formula Pacific Australian Grands Prix at Calder. Here Ralt RT4 mounted in 1983, he finished 4th in the race won by Roberto Moreno, also, inevitably in a Ralt! Alan Jones, Jacques Laffitte also contested the race. (John Brewer Collection)

brabham road america

GB at Road America IMSa 1992. Nissan NP91C 3rd behind 2 Eagle Mk3 Toyotas. (Mark Windecker)

905 drawing

1992/3 Peugeot 905 Evo 1. Carbon fibre chassis weighing 750Kg. ‘SA35’ 80 degree 3499cc DOHC 4 valve fuel injected V10. 670bhp@12500rpm. 6 speed ‘box.

Tailpiece…

geoff and jack moulton

Photo Credits…

Bernard Cahier, Chris Nally, Mark Windecker, RIAM Photo Archive, John Brewer Collection, David Lawson, Bob Jane Collection, Getty Images