I couldn’t let the news that Australia’s legendary Grand Prix driver Jack Brabham has died aged 88 pass without comment.
As a senior citizen, these days I watch modern sports heroes mostly on the television, marvelling at their skills, their finely-honed abilities … and above all, their published salaries … with admiration but also a smidgeon of detachment.
Inevitably perhaps – these things happen to us all – the sporting heroes I recall with greatest affection and respect are always those of my youth. Somehow they still seem ‘bigger’ and ‘greater’ that the idols with feet of clay that modern youngsters fawn over.
I’ll leave it to the sports journalists and pundits to review properly Jack’s motor-racing career in depth.
Instead, I’ll just record here that his Formula One career lasted 126 races between 1955 and 1979 and that he won the world championship three times (1959, 1960 and 1966), the last of which was unique in that it remain the only F1 championship in history won in a car that was designed and built by the driver himself.
My personal ‘connection’ with Jack began in the early 1960s.
One Christmas Eve night my brothers and I (all clad in our pajamas) had been barred – to our intense puzzlement – from entry to the sitting room by a locked door, beyond which loud post-dinner adult male whoops of joy and a strange whirring could be heard.
The next day we discovered the cause – the family had acquired its first-ever box of the Scalextrix motor car racing game.
I’ll never forget the fact that – I cannot now remember whether it was via my insistence, or perhaps a random act of kindness by my father – I was allocated a green, rear-engined, Cooper and Jack Brabham as ‘my’ driver.
Throughout the 1960s – and through much of the 1970s as well until we all left home, if I’m being perfectly honest – Scalextrix was one of our favourite means of family sporting competition. Over time, of course, we upgraded the track, all the accessories and buildings and – mostly particularly, the cars … many times, but I’ll never forget the endless hours of enjoyment and excitement that first Scalextrix Christmas, and that first Jack Brabham-driven Cooper car, gave me.
Tip of the hat to you, Jack!