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Does anybody here believe Jack Brabham?
Kim Chapin
October 10, 1966
Doubting fellow drivers may call him a plodder, but the quiet Australian, who led the rich U.S. Grand Prix before dropping out with mechanical difficulties, has now won his third world racing championship
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October 10, 1966

Does Anybody Here Believe Jack Brabham?

Doubting fellow drivers may call him a plodder, but the quiet Australian, who led the rich U.S. Grand Prix before dropping out with mechanical difficulties, has now won his third world racing championship

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But he is difficult for a stranger to know. "To get anything out of Jack," says his wife, Betty, "is like fishing—you've got to reel in the line. He's not shy, but he is quiet." His business manager, Phil Kerr, says poignantly, "Underneath it all, he is human."

Brabham is a superb mechanic and a cum laude student of racing machines, as even his severest critics admit. And since nobody has yet built a perfectly reliable car, these assets count every bit as much as driving skill. Jack's home-built racer is powered by an eight-cylinder engine from Repco, an industrial concern in Melbourne. Compared to other power plants on the Grand Prix circuits, the Repco is a deceptively simple thing. It has neither the sophistication of the new 16-cylinder BRM engine that Clark, Hill and Stewart used Sunday, nor the potential of the 12-cylinder Honda and Weslake. All the Repco-Brabhams do is win.

This season brought a switch in the Grand Prix formula from a 1.5-liter engine to one twice as big. The result—standard when engines are changed—was chaos. "It usually takes a year to get a new engine to where it's bulletproof," said Gurney. With just one race left on the calendar (in Mexico City, October 23), only Brabham has yet produced a reliable three-liter engine.

Brabham eschewed the complicated and the unproved, choosing instead an engine that is essentially a racing version of the defunct Oldsmobile aluminum V-8, a sturdy unit meant for passenger cars. While the other factory teams wallowed in experimentation, Brabham, in effect, stole the 1966 championship.

He did not finish the season's first race at Monaco on May 22, but three weeks later, in the rain-plagued Belgian Grand Prix, Brabham was fourth and picked up his first three points toward the title. Then came a remarkable streak. In a month and four days he won four consecutive Grands Prix—at Reims, France; Brands Hatch, England; Zandvoort, Holland; and on the N�rburgring in Germany. At Monza, Surtees and Stewart, the only drivers who could have caught Brabham, were eliminated from the championship fight when they, like Jack, did not finish the race.

At the Glen there were a few hopeful signs that somebody else had finally figured how to make a three-liter engine perform quickly over a reasonable period of time. During trials no fewer than 14 of the 19 drivers broke the existing practice-lap record of one minute 11.16 seconds (116.36 mph) for the 2.3-mile course set by Clark in a Lotus-Climax last year.

Most of the top qualifying was done on Friday in the face of a bitter wind that forced at least one driver—Gurney—to wear a topcoat over his fireproof racing suit during part of practice. Lorenzo Bandini, driving the only Ferrari entered, had the best speed of the day, 120.577 mph, followed closely by Hill and Surtees. Bandini kept the pole until the last hour of qualifying on Saturday, when Brabham, who practiced very little the second day, went out just before the track's close and turned in a 121.017. Clark, meanwhile, also slipped in a fast lap and wound up beside Brabham on the first row.

Right up until the start on Sunday afternoon there was doubt as to which of two cars Clark would choose to drive. He very nearly took an old two-liter Lotus-Climax that he had campaigned unsuccessfully this season, but at the last moment he and Team Manager Colin Chapman wheeled out a Lotus-BRM.

As the race began—in sunshine, for a change—Bandini, Brabham. Clark and Surtees broke from the grid, and while they did not exactly leave the rest of the field behind, it became clear that the winner would come from this quartet. Bandini's margin over Brabham was never more than three car lengths in the early stages and on the 10th lap Brabham passed the Italian in the 90� turn that sends the drivers sliding into the short pit straightaway.

Surtees, meanwhile, had an unfortunate encounter with Peter Arundell, who was driving the Lotus Clark had given up. Neither car was damaged, but the 1964 world champion lost three laps in the pit checking his over.

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