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Sir Jack Brabham dies: his Adelaide legacy


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Adelaide’s pitch to host the Australian Grand Prix in 1985 owed a lot to Jack Brabham’s “diplomacy of credibility”, says Adelaide motor racing identity Mike Drewer.

Reflecting today on the passing of the three-time formula one world champion Sir Jack Brabham, aged 88, Drewer said Brabham’s links to Adelaide were long and strong.

“His overall contribution to Australian and world racing was enormous and Adelaide benefited from much of that,” Drewer said.

Drewer remembered seeing Brabham race at Port Wakefield, north of Adelaide, back in 1955.

“It was the Australian Grand Prix on a purpose-built dirt track and my Dad took me there; it’s seared into my memory.

“He won in a rear engine car and it was his first GP win; that was followed by him moving to England and having such a remarkable career.

“He was and still is the only man to win a world championship in a car which he himself designed and maintained.

“He won three world championships and in doing so established a sort of diplomatic credibility for Australian racing among European officials.”

Brabham (left) waiting for the start of the German Grand Prix in 1962.

Brabham (left) waiting for the start of the German Grand Prix in 1962.

Drewer was part of the group of enthusiasts that pushed the notion that Adelaide could host a modern-era Grand Prix and benefit from the international attention it would bring to the city.

He’s still involved in running the Clipsal 500.

“When it came to Adelaide hosting a Formula 1 GP in 1985, Jack’s groundwork in establishing that credibility was crucial to getting the race, the international media attention and drivers from all around the world.

“He was the guest of honour at that first Adelaide street circuit event in 1985.

“He retuned to Adelaide regularly, often as part of the Classic Adelaide event,” he said.

“Adelaide’s been blessed with some big names in world car racing.

“Our own Vern Schuppan and then Jack Brabham racing on our circuits all those years ago has been the foundation of our  motor racing heritage.

“It’s a very sad day.”

A former Royal Australian Air Force mechanic, Brabham’s motorsport career started on Australian speedway dirt tracks in the late 1940s and included a South Australian Speedcar Championship in 1949.

Brabham then went to the United Kingdom and joined the Cooper Racing Team, with which he won the 1959 and 1960 Formula One championships.

He was the first racing driver in history to be knighted for his services to the sport in 1979 and was also the only Formula One driver to have won a world title in a self-built car.

He won the Formula One World Drivers Champion title in 1959, 1960 and 1966 and the Formula One World Constructors Champion title in 1966 and 1967.

Brabham also had 14 Grand Prix wins.

The Port Wakefield Grand Prix track can still be seen in this Google Earth image (far right).

The Port Wakefield Grand Prix track can still be seen in this Google Earth image (centre of image at far right).

The sporting great made his last public appearance on the Sunshine Coast on Sunday.

He was at the head office of Aeromil Pacific at the local airport to be reunited with the 1967 BT23 race car he designed and built, the Sunshine Coast Daily reported.

The car, which was bought by company managing director Steve Padgett, was used in the 1967 Formula 2 races in Europe.

Brabham at the 1966 French Grand Prix.

Brabham at the 1966 French Grand Prix.

-with AAP

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