Brabham's beginnings: Gnoo Blas start set Sir Jack on winning track

FORMULA FOR SUCCESS: Sir Jack and Lady Brabham at the Gnoo Blas Classic car show four years ago.
FORMULA FOR SUCCESS: Sir Jack and Lady Brabham at the Gnoo Blas Classic car show four years ago.

A YOUNG Jack Brabham made his road racing debut at the old Gnoo Blas track in Orange at the opening meeting there in January 1953.

Driving a small motorcycle-engined Vincent Cooper he oiled up the plugs on the starting grid and was slow to get away but driving furiously he soon caught the field.

However the engine couldn’t take the pace and blew up in a large cloud of blue smoke on lap nine, a disappointing result for the keen newcomer.

But that didn’t stop Sir Jack and he was back three months later in April when he managed a third place against much bigger cars.

In October 1953 the Gnoo Blas organisers convinced the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport to give Orange approval to run the NSW Grand Prix, a title used for the first time and never used in the State ever again.

Sir Jack in his new Cooper Bristol won the title along with two other races on the program and that was the beginning of his long and successful career.

He won a string of races and titles at Orange before going back overseas for his assault on Formula One (F1).

His last race at Gnoo Blas was in the South Pacific Championship in January 1959, an event he won for the second time, setting a lap record of 102m/h (163km/h) in his Cooper Climax.

Later that year he won his first world championship after pushing his car over the line in the United States Grand Prix at Sebring after running out of fuel with only several hundred metres to go in the final race of the series.

Success never went to his head. He was never pretentious. He just got on with the job, no matter what job was at hand.

He was never a fan of the razzle-dazzle and the vain posturing that went with the F1 motor racing scene.

 In fact at Zandvoort in 1966 he donned a false beard and with a walking stick hobbled across the track to his car in pole position to make a point to critics who had written him off as being too old. He then won the Dutch Grand Prix.

He also loved telling the story of one of his rare crashes.

He said not having a seatbelt actually saved his life. “My car hit the ground upside down and I wasn’t in it and that was a bit of luck.”

Sir Jack on his last visit to Orange summed up his life: “Of course, the big aim now is to die without an enemy in the world. I'm going to outlive the buggers.”

And he nearly has.

A group of Orange motor sport enthusiasts in 1985 asked mayor Tim Sullivan and council to rename Orange Sportsground Sir Jack Brabham Park and that was done with Sir Jack coming to Orange to unveil a bronze plaque in the park.


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