Zandvoort, The Netherlands - Friday 2 September, 2016
1966 50th Anniversary Celebrations Begin
On September 4 1966, Jack Brabham became the first driver in motorsport history to win the Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship in a car of his own make – an achievement that has never been, nor is ever likely to be, equalled.
50 years on and David Brabham, Jack’s youngest son and multiple Le Mans winner, has kicked-off two weeks of celebrations marking the milestone anniversary, starting with the Historic Grand Prix Zandvoort.
David commented: “It is incredible to think that 50 years ago my father once again made motorsport history by becoming the only Formula One driver to ever win a World Championship in a car of his own construction. This feat is unlikely to ever be repeated, as today's technology and complex machinery means it is no longer a hands-on experience for drivers, or possible for a wily driver / engineer to make it to the top.
“Jack was a real pioneer who thought outside the box, took on the establishment of the bigger factory teams and beat them. Together with Ron Tauranac, they also became the biggest racing car manufacturer in the world in the 1960s. His outstanding achievements and encouragement also inspired the likes of Bruce McLaren to go it alone as an owner-driver team.
“I've always felt that my father’s achievements have been somewhat understated, but I think that's down to him and his personality, as he was down to earth, happy to speak to anyone and just got on with it.
“It has been really special to see so many people wanting to celebrate his great achievement this year, like the Grand Prix Ball, Historic GP Zandvoort, Goodwood Revival and Reims all making an effort to recognise this historic occasion.
“We are very proud of our father in so many ways, but our duty is to carry the legacy and the Brabham name into the future in the same pioneering spirit, by bringing the Brabham team back in a game-changing way through Project Brabham.”
Fittingly, as David attends the Historic GP Zandvoort this weekend, the Dutch GP was one of four consecutive races where ‘Black Jack’ reigned victorious that halcyon year.
After an initial disappointing start thanks to a gearbox issue at Monaco, Jack went on to dominate mid-season, first winning the French Grand Prix at Reims followed by the British Grand Prix at Silverstone before reaching Zandvoort.
The 1966 Netherlands Grand Prix fell shortly after Jack’s 40th birthday, spurring a good deal of age-related banter from the media and his much younger rivals, and so ‘Geriatric Jack’ hobbled on to the starting grid. Wearing a false beard and leaning on a jack handle as a walking stick, Jack was helped into his pole-sitting Repco-Brabham BT19 before throwing away his ‘cane’ and delivering yet another dominant performance.
Following a fourth season victory in Germany - which he marked out as one of the most satisfying of his career - Jack took the Championship spoils at Monza despite retiring with an oil leak after initially leading the race. With John Surtees and Jackie Stewart also forced to retire, Jack’s third place classification was enough to take the crown and his place in history.
David will be honouring his legendary father by driving Ron Maydon’s 1967 Brabham BT24 through the streets of Zandvoort on Saturday evening and in the daily ‘Force and Friends’ demonstrations. Following hot on the heels of the world-beating BT19, the BT24 sealed back-to-back Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles in 1967, this time with Denny Hulme heading up a Brabham 1-2.
Returning to the UK next week, David will head to the Goodwood Revival for the Sir Jack Brabham Tribute parade.
1 - German GP 1966 © LAT Photographic
2 - Dutch GP 1966 © LAT Photographic
3 - Winning Brabham team 1966/67 - Jack Brabham’s private collection
4 & 5 - David Brabham, Brabham BT24 at Historic GP Zandvoort 2016 © Chris Schotanus