Former F1 world champion Brabham dead at 88

SYDNEY Sun May 18, 2014 9:12pm EDT

Former Formula One driver Jack Brabham of Australia is seen behind the pits before the qualifying session of the Australian F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne March 26, 2011.  REUTERS/Scott Wensley

Former Formula One driver Jack Brabham of Australia is seen behind the pits before the qualifying session of the Australian F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne March 26, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Scott Wensley

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Jack Brabham, who won three Formula One world titles and is the only man to have won the championship driving a car that bore his name, died at the age of 88 on Monday.

A fierce competitor, brilliant engineer and sound businessman, Brabham claimed the Formula One titles in 1959 and 1960 for Cooper Racing before going on to win a third in 1966 for the Brabham marque.

He died at his home on Australia's Gold Coast.

"It's a very sad day for all of us," his youngest son David, who also raced in Formula One, said in a statement.

"My father passed away peacefully at home at the age of 88 this morning. He lived an incredible life, achieving more than anyone would ever dream of and he will continue to live on through the astounding legacy he leaves behind."

A former Royal Australian Air Force mechanic, Brabham began racing midget cars on dirt tracks in Australia in 1948 before moving to Britain to pursue his career in the 1950s.

"On track he was always the toughest of tough competitors, tough sometimes to the point at which I’d wonder how could such a nice bloke out of a car grow such horns and a tail inside one," Stirling Moss, the Briton who was one of his biggest rivals, recalled in the foreword to the "The Jack Brabham Story" in 2004.

"You'd always know when Jack was on a charge because he'd crouch down and almost disappear within the cockpit. Tail-out, broadsiding, showering me with gravel and tuffets from the verge.

"Dear me, you could take the Aussie out of the dirt tracks but you couldn't take the dirt tracks out of the Aussie. But the greater side of Jack's character was always his natural sportsmanship."

In the early 1960s, Brabham set up a company with friend and fellow Australian Ron Tauranac to design and build their own cars, one of which he drove to the Formula One title in 1966 at the age of 40.

Australia's first F1 champion, Brabham raced in 126 grands prix, taking pole position 13 times and winning 14 races. His final victory came at the 1970 South African Grand Prix in his last season before retirement.

His sons Geoff, Gary, and David also forged their own careers in motorsport, while the Brabham team name remained in Formula One until the early 1990s.

"The word 'legend' is often used to describe successful sportsmen, but often it exaggerates their status. In the case of Sir Jack Brabham, however, it's entirely justified," McLaren team boss Ron Dennis, who worked on the Cooper and Brabham teams in the 1960s, said in a statement. "A three-time Formula 1 world champion, he remains the only driver to win a Formula 1 world championship driving a car bearing his own name - a unique achievement that will surely never be matched."

(Additional reporting by Greg Stutchbury and Alan Baldwin, Editing by Ian Ransom)

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