Sir John Arthur 'Jack' Brabham was born in early April of 1926 in Sydney Australia. He attended school until the age of fifteen, when he left to pursue a career as a mechanic at a repair garage. During World War II, he served in the Royal Australian Air Force. After serving his country, he owned a repair business. His interests and passions were also with racing and soon he was competing in midget car competition. During his first season, he proved he had the mechanical skill and driving talents necessary to become a champion; he won the NSW Championship. More importantly, he had formed a partnership with Ron Tauranac, who would became Brabham's F1 designer and remain with the company during Jack Brabham's racing career. When Brabham retired as a driver at the conclusion of the 1970 season, Tauranac briefly owned and managed the team. It was sold a short time later to Bernie Ecclestone. Tauranac's resume and accomplishments in the field of automobile racing is extensive, including the formation of the Ralt marque and the Theodore Racing F1 car.
Brabham's Grand Prix racing debut was in 1955 at the British Grand Prix in a Maserati 250F. Soon, he had joined the Cooper Car Company team, driving one of their mid-engine machines. The Cooper Cars were among the first to prove the benefits of mid-engine placement. It was an un-traditional design but offered several advantages over the front-engined layout. After many successful races, other marque's began following in the footsteps of the Cooper Cars, and put the 'Cart before the Horse.'
Brabham won the World Championship in 1959 while driving a Cooper car with Coventry Climax power. He repeated this victory the following year. He brought the Cooper racer to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1960 where he managed a ninth place finish. The car had been running as high as third during the race. Many had mocked the awkward and unusual design of the mid-engined car, but the solid performance at the 500-mile race had many re-thinking the designs of their cars. Brabham would return to Indy in 1964, 1969, and again in 1970.
Brabham Racing Organization
In 1961, Brabham and Tauranac formed the Brabham Racing Organization. The first few years of racing were rather unfruitful for the team and they endured very little success. The team had little financial backing and expenses were always monitored closely. For 1961, only a single car was created. The following year, 11 examples of the BT2 Formula Junior racers were constructed. The BT3 Formula 1 car was created in 1963 and driven by Jack Brabham to many impressive finishes. Brabham drove it to a fourth place finish in its second Grand Prix outing. This accomplishment led Jack Brabham to become the first driver to ever score world championship points in a car bearing his own name.
The single seater cars that followed the BT2 and BT3 shared many similarities in design and components. They were constructed from a spaceframe chassis and did well in competition in the entry level formula series. More was needed to compete strongly in the higher formulas. Even though this was the case, Dan Gurney was able to pilot a BT7 to the Formula 1 victory at the 1964 French Grand Prix.
By 1966, the Brabham Racing Organization was an established marque with growing financial stability from car production. Rule changes in 1966 increased the displacement size from 1.5-liter to 3-liters. Brabham began work, in conjunction with Coventry Climax, on a flat-16 cylinder engine. The engine was intended for the BT19, but development delays meant the project was sidelined and a suitable engine was required. A replacement was found in Australia. The engine was called the Repco, derived from an all-aluminum Oldsmobile engine, and developed by Frank Hallam and Phil Irving. John Judd provided additional assistance to enlarge its displacement size to nearly 3-liters. The result was nearly 300 horsepower which was adequate. Torque, though, was rather low.
The V8 Repco engine was mounted in a one-off BT19 and driven by Jack Brabham to many victories, resulting in his third World Championship. Part of his success was that the Brabham marque was one of the only teams that had a suitable three-liter car. Few others had been able to adapt from 1.5 to 3.0-liter form. The potent engine, nimble car, and talented driving had given Brabham his third World Championship title.
The BT20 was introduced part-way through the 1966 season and driven by teammate Denny Hulme. Hulme navigated the car to a victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, the highlight of the car's career and retired a short time later. For the following season, two new models were introduced. The BT23 was intended for Formula 2 competition while the BT24 was built for Formula 1. The BT24 was powered by a Repco engine which had been tuned to produce 330 horsepower. By now, the competition had caught up with Brabham, and his technology and techniques were becoming obsolete. Strong reliability and the driving talents of Hulme and Brabham helped the team achieve three first and second finishes. Hulme won the Driver's Championship that year and Brabham finished in second. The Brabham team secured another Constructor's Championship.
The Brabham BT26 was created in 1968 and intended for Formula 1 competition. Power was from a Repco 860 engine, thus the vehicles name at the time was commonly known as the Repco Brabham. The V8 engines featured twin cam heads and four-valves per cylinder. It was capable of producing around 400 horsepower. The engine was powerful, but very unreliable which resulted in an eighth place finish in the Constructor's Championship. The prior two years, Brabham had won the Constructor's Championship. Two chassis were created; one for Jack Brabham and the other for Jochen Rindt. Chassis number 1 was involved in a crash so a third car was created for the final three races of the season.
The following season, Brabham replaced the Repco engines with Cosworth DFV units. Chassis number two was sold to Frank Williams who later installed a DFV engine and competed during the 1969 season with Piers Courage as the driver.
Brabham constructed a fourth car, also with a DFV powerplant. With the Ford/Coswroth DFV engines, the cars names were changed to BT26A. With the proper engines in place, the cars were finally able to prove their true potential. Jacky Ickx won the German Grand Prix in chassis number 4 and finished second in the World Championship behind front-runner, Jacky Stewart. The Brabham team finished second in the Constructors' Championship behind Tyrrell and their Matras.
At the conclusion of the 1969 season, rules changes made the cars obsolete so the two remaining Brabham cars were sold.
For 1970, the Brabham BT33
was introduced and driven by Jack Brabham and Rolf Stommelen. Power was from Cosworth DFV power and the car rode on Goodyear tires. A total of 35 points were scored that season, earning the team a fourth place finish. The BT33 was used in 1971 and 1972, both years the team finished in 9th place.
The BT33 was the team's first full monocoque car. The change was necessary to accommodate fuel tank regulations which went into effect for the 1970 season.By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2007
Sold for $1,034,000 at 2014 Bonhams Quail Lodge Auction.
The suddenly switch in camera position and the split-second shot of a car plowing head-first into the guardrails on the outside of the Gazometre hairpin would almost seem surreal. What would be truly surreal would be the way that last second glimpse would be the way in which the championship was thoroughly wrenched from Jack Brabham's hands. It would serve as a stark contrast to the beginning of the season.
Brabham would become a two-time Formula One World Champion securing the title in back-to-back seasons. Driving for Cooper, Brabham would help lead the mid-engine revolution in Formula One and would sit alone at the top in 1959 and 1960.
Having an engineer's mind himself, Brabham would be drawn to the notion of designing and building cars to his own liking. He could see there were some around him at Cooper that could use a change. Therefore, the Australian would leave the team by which he came upon his World Championships and would form a new racing manufacturing company by the name of Motor Racing Developments Ltd.
Building cars with the 'Brabham' moniker, it wouldn't take Brabham and Ron Tauranac very long before they were building cars for Formula One. Of course, the aim would always be very simple: to win a race in a car of his own, and then, perhaps, the World Championship. But the Brabham name would extend well beyond Formula One. Besides building cars for the Formula Junior category, MRD would build cars for Formula 2, Formula 3 and even Indycar.
The team's first victory would come in 1964, just a matter of a couple of years after beginning. Dan Gurney would drive his Brabham to victory in the French Grand Prix giving Brabham his first real highlight as a car maker. Then, finally, in 1967, Brabham would finally achieve his first goal of taking victory in a car of his own. That historic moment would come at the French Grand Prix held in Reims in July of 1966. This would lead to a run of victories by the Aussie that would, ultimately, lead to the second goal, that of winning a World Championship in his own car, a reality as well.
The 1966 season would be a special one and would be followed up with a competitive 2nd place finish in the championship the following year. Then, in 1968, Brabham would supremely struggle finishing toward the bottom of the championship roster. It seemed the championship of '66 was not going to lead to a Formula One dynasty after all. In 1969, things would improve for Brabham, Jacky Ickx would finish 2nd in the championship in one of Brabham's cars, but Jack himself would only finish 10th in the standings.
But then came 1970. The 1970 season would actually start out with Brabham serving more of a substitution role than as a full-time driver. Suffering some terrible injuries in 1969, Brabham would actually retire from racing at the end of the '69 season. However, he would be unable to find a competitive replacement and would determine to drive one more season.
Jack had already sold his share of the team to Tauranac, and Ron would use his position of authority well designing an improvement for the BT26 chassis that would be used during the '69 season.
The team had switched from Repco power in 1969 to Cosworth. This had helped to turn around what had been a dismal period for the team. However, Tauranac and his team knew he needed more than just a competitive engine to turn things around fully. Keeping some proven elements, Ron would develop the first full monocoque chassis for Brabham. Combined with the Cosworth as a fully-stressed member of the chassis, the new BT33 looked similar to its predecessors but would be a marked improvement.
In total, there would be three examples of the BT33 built for the 1970 season. Chassis BT33-1, however, would not be for Jack as his decision to return to racing would be a rather late one. No, 'Black Jack' would be given the second chassis, BT33-2, and it would prove to be a match made in heaven, at least initially.
Heading into the first race of the season, the South African Grand Prix, there would be some elements of the car still being worked and fitted. One of those carrying out the work would be none other than Ron Dennis. Dennis' work, along with the rest of the crew's, would help the BT33 be competitive throughout practice and qualifying. However, during the early part of the race, Jack would be delayed and would end up well down in the order. No matter, Brabham would quickly march up through the order and would soon be pressuring Jackie Stewart for the lead. Having the pace of the Tyrrell well in hand, Jack was simply biding his time when he would get struck in the face with a rock kicked up from Stewart's car. This would delay the Aussie again, but, by the 20th lap, he would be in the lead and would never be challenged again by any other driver. Remarkably, in its very first race, BT33-2 would come home victorious and suddenly Brabham would seem refreshed and serious about mounting a charge for the championship.
Brabham would remain around the top of the championship standings when he, and BT33-2, arrived in Monaco for the famed race on the 10th of May. Jack would look strong starting from 4th place on the grid. Then, during the race, Jack would systematically move up the order passing Amon and then Stewart after the Tyrrell developed problems. Suddenly the 40 something Aussie was in the lead and in charge. BT33-2 was a new, a potent machine and it was feeding life to its namesake.
Brabham had been pulling away but was to come under pressure in the later-stages by the man he had intended to take his place within the team. Jochen Rindt had moved up to 2nd place and would be driving with abandoned in an effort to exert pressure on Jack. Still, it seemed, even as the two cars took off around the circuit on the final lap of the race, the Aussie would come through triumphant as Monaco was no easy place to pass. Everyone believed the race to be over. But then, as the television crews and everyone else looked back and forth between Brabham and Rindt, there would be this sudden, split-second shot of a car barreling into the guardrail at Gazometre. At the flag stand, awaiting the blue and yellow Brabham, the man holding the checkered flag would fail to notice the red and gold Lotus that passed by. What happened to Brabham? He should have come through by now. Then it began to set in…who won the race? Finally, Rindt would be waved down as the winner and Brabham's championship hopes would pretty much slide into the barriers right along with the lost win at Monaco.
In spite of the fact Brabham would only end up on the podium one more time over the course of the rest of the season there would be no doubt as to the potential of the Brabham BT33 and the fact it would play an important role in giving Jack even a shot at the title one last time.
Despite a crash at Zandvoort that left the car inverted in a ditch, BT33-2 would carry on through to the end of the season. The following year, the car that would give Brabham his last win in Formula One, would be bought by Alain de Cadenet. However, the car was not to sit in some collection. Instead, the car would be bought to give British driver Chris Craft a shot at Formula One.
After this adventure the car would be used for parts. De Cadenet would build a sportscar for Le Mans and would use much of BT33-2. All that would remain would be the chassis itself. They would be put aside and respectively stored.
The car would eventually pass to Dick Crosthwaite as payment for a bill de Cadenet owed. Being the owner of Crosthwaite & Gardner, a restoration and preparation company, Dick would take and restore BT33-2 to its former glory.
By 1998, the car would come into the hands of its current owner and would be proudly displayed all throughout the vintage racing world. It would be put on display, and, it would also take to the track, showing just what made it a race winner more than two decades earlier.
Within the historic racing scene, the Brabham BT33s continue to prove their stature within the Brabham legacy. And though BT33-2 would come up short over the course of the 1970 season, it would provide Black Jack the means to bow out with style.
Bonham's 2014 Quail Lodge auction would sport the 1970 Brabham-Cosworth Ford BT33-2 as one of its feature automobiles. When it made its appearance there would be no shortage of interested buyers. In the end, the car would sell for $1,034,000.By Jeremy McMullen