by Dr. Iain Corness
Vale Sir Jack Brabham
The late Sir Jack Brabham at full noise.
Sir Jack Brabham passed away last week, aged 88. “Black Jack” as he was known,
had a very rare engineering talent allied with superb driving skills. He was the
only F1 driver to win the Driver’s Championship (WDC) in a car he designed and
built himself. He won the WDC three times. He came through the ranks of the dirt
speedway after WWII, then went to the UK and into FIA style racing. Sir Jack was
of the ‘never give up’ school of endeavor, and Sir Stirling Moss remarked that
normally when you passed a driver in the race you forgot about them, but not
with Jack who would come back with a vengeance. He was highly competitive. Much
will be written in the motoring media about his history, but his legend will
Fellow Aussie Mark Webber wrote in his website, “I was saddened to hear the news
of Jack’s passing today - he is the epitome of a champion racing driver and a
true blue Aussie. He was a trailblazer; he took the hardest road and made it
easier for the rest of us to follow. When I think of Jack, I think of a
tenacious individual; an absolute grafter; he did it his own way and made it
stick. There were no real rules or a manual for Jack; he figured it for himself.
What he achieved taking on the best in the world and winning one of his three
world titles in his own machinery is the stuff of pure legends.
“On a personal note, Jack was simply the biggest name in the Webber household.
He was inspirational. My dad followed his career from when he raced in Australia
and then did his best to keep track of Jack’s progress when he moved overseas to
take on the best in the world.
“I was very fortunate that I was introduced to Jack before I left Australia and
to be in his presence as a 17 or 18-year-old as I must have been at the time,
just blew me away. He provided me with endless support and advice over the years
and became a close confidante - even right up until the last couple of years
when, after hearing the rumors that I might move to Ferrari, he told me he would
be very disappointed if I went there because for him, it was the absolute
betrayal because they were his motivation - the ones he wanted to beat in his
“Jack and Margaret were always generous with their time and I’m proud that,
although I was unable to repay that support by joining him and Alan Jones as
world champions, I gave him some very happy moments by winning some of the more
prestigious special Grands Prix.
“Jack was a legend in the truest sense of the word, an inspirational Aussie
battler and someone who will never be forgotten.”
As always, Mark Webber speaks from the heart. Another inspirational Aussie.
The final words are from Jack himself who finished a recent TV program with the
following inspirational thoughts, “The big aim now is to die without an enemy in
the world... I’m going to outlive the bastards.”
Prince Bira’s 100th
I received an email from Mike Day up in Suphanburi to remind
me of another famous driver who has gone to the great racetrack in the sky.
“Greetings from the rice paddies of Suphanburi. You may recall I last contacted
you shortly before Christmas 2010 to report the death of Ceril Birabongse
(Prince Bira’s wife). I wondered if any of your motoring enthusiast readers (who
are perhaps VSCC members too) are aware that July 15th will mark the 100th
birthday of Prince Bira?” (Thanks Mike.)
I think we should all raise a glass for Sir Jack and Prince Bira, two drivers
who made their mark in history.
Driving in Thailand
Many international companies will not let their expat
employees drive cars in Thailand, figuring it is cheaper to employ drivers than
have employees missing in action. Of course there is one very different aspect
to driving in Thailand that has to be got used to very quickly, and that is the
ubiquitous motorcycle. Let me quote from the book Farang, the Sequel, “Typical
of Asian cities, motorcycles are family transport, delivery vehicles and the
ideal commuter chariot. I am waiting for some enterprising motorcycle
manufacturer to begin advertising their new 125 cc step-through as ‘The ideal
motorcycle for a family of five’. Don’t laugh, five on a motorcycle is
commonplace, in fact you can buy an extra little saddle seat which fits in front
of the main seat and is used for small children (who hang onto the rear vision
mirrors) or the family dog, which just takes its chances. Mind you, a large
percentage of the family pooches travel in the wire basket carrier at the front,
cleverly blocking the headlights at night.
“No, motorcycles are everywhere, though mainly in the left hand lane, but at the
intersections they weave their way through the cars in all lanes to end up as a
raucous pack at the front. This massed Moto-GP takes off, not on the green, but
at some time before the green, when the majority decides it is safe enough to
go. Hence the motorcycles lying on their sides in the middle of the
intersection, having collided with vehicles playing ‘last across’ from the other
direction. Traffic lights in Thailand are only advisory, not compulsory!
“Successful driving in Thailand does take a fair degree of observation skills,
looking out for the dreaded two wheelers. Probably the same observation skills
as used in the West to avoid speed cameras, red light cameras and plain clothes
police cars. And other drivers with the raging red mist in their eyes.
“I could go on for days about the motorcycles. There is a saying here which goes
: You know you’ve been in Thailand too long when you look both ways before
crossing a one-way street! Funny, but very true. Motorcycle riders will just
happily ride against the flow of traffic and smile and bob their head (usually
helmetless) to say “Thank you” as they thread their way through and across your
bows. Motorcycles will also just poke their front wheels into an oncoming stream
of cars until it is either stop and let them out (because there is always many
more than just one of them), or run into them or into the oncoming traffic.
“In the mornings, the motorcycles are people carriers. As I drive to work, I
pass dozens of motorcycles and scooters with mothers at the handlebar and
several children in school clothes perched behind and in front. Some are driven
by the school children themselves, all looking as if they are only 10 years old,
but are probably at least 13. Yet they are riding with the flow of traffic and
not racing each other or the cars and trucks and buses. I know that at 13 years
of age if I had been given open slather to ride a motorcycle to school in the
traffic, my parents would not have had to worry about what to give me for my
14th birthday. I wouldn’t have made it!”
What did we learn from the Monaco GP?
Well we learned that Nico Rosberg can stand all the pressure
that his Mercedes team mate can give him, and we also learned that Lewis
Hamilton is not above childish threats.
The race started under a cloud, generated by memories of Michael Schumacher’s
consolidation of pole position in 2006 by stopping on the circuit and making it
impossible for another driver to get a clear shot at pole. Rosberg’s last lap
ended up down the escape road producing yellow flags and an irate Lewis Hamilton
uttering not so veiled threats of retribution a la Senna and Prost.
Unfortunately he did not get close enough during the race to wield his
threatened big stick.
Lewis also went for the ‘sympathy vote’ after practice, proclaiming that he came
from a poor background and Nico’s family was rich. Oh dearie, dearie me!
Hamilton has changed very much from the polite youngster he was who started with
McLaren, and that change does not sit well with many fans. His constant public
bickering with his race engineer is also very juvenile.
But you will be as thrilled as we were about how fuel efficient Hamilton was
compared to Rosberg.
But back to the race. It was not an exciting one, but then Monaco never is,
despite the announcers talking it up.
Red Bull had a catastrophic failure when someone pressed the “Webber Button”
when it was accidentally plugged in to Vettel’s car to produce a DNF for the man
once known as “The Finger”. On the other side of the Red Bull garage, Daniel
Ricciardo continues to impress, out-qualifying his World Champ team mate yet
again and driving solidly to a well deserved third place.
Kimi Raikkonen remains an amazing enigma. Woke up at the start, does a blinder
round the outside on the first corner getting up to third, then when things went
bad returned to the taciturn Finn in sleep mode to the end. I hope the Ferrari
pit crew had his ice cream ready for when the race ended.
Alonso (Ferrari) was strangely subdued, running in 4th for most of the race,
perhaps inadvertently taking one of Raikkonen’s sleeping pills dissolved in the
ice cream. Or perhaps it was just the cameraman who was asleep and missed the
Hulkenberg (Force India) was also covered in invisible paint, as was Jenson
Button’s McLaren, Massa (Williams) and Grosjean (“Lotus”).
Rosberg lapped the entire field after Alonso backwards, and eight drivers failed
to finish, the high attrition rate producing anomalies such as Bianchi
(Marussia) ending up ninth, just through being there, not through some
particularly brilliant driving.
There is absolutely no truth in the rumor that the other drivers paid for Pastor
Maldonado’s fuel pump failure at the start, as it was cheaper to do that than to
pay the repair damage he could produce in the rest of the field if he got going.
The next race is June 9 in Canada, and let us hope we can see some racing. At
least the track is conducive to excitement, even if Monaco isn’t.