BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Jack Brabham, the three-time Formula One champion who famously pushed his car to the finish line to claim his first season title, died Monday at his Gold Coast home. He was 88.
The Australian driver — known as Sir Jack in racing paddocks around the world after he was knighted in 1979 — won world titles in 1959 and 1960 and became the only F1 driver to win a world championship in a car of his own construction — the rear-engined BT19 — which he drove to the title in 1966.
The following year the Brabham team won its second successive world championship when New Zealander Denny Hulme drove the BT20 to victory. Brabham won his final Grand Prix race in South Africa in 1970 before retiring from F1 at the age of 44.
Brabham continued to compete at different venues after his F1 retirement and his three sons, Geoff, Gary and David also had professional racing careers. Two of his grandsons, Matthew and Sam, are racing in the U.S. and Britain.
"It's a very sad day for all of us," Brabham's youngest son, David, said in a statement. "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."
In March 2009, David Brabham helped celebrate a 50-year anniversary for his father. Sebring International Raceway in Florida was the venue where Brabham wrapped up his first Formula 1 championship on Dec. 12, 1959, pushing his Cooper-Climax T51 across the finish line for a fourth-place finish.
"I was leading the race right up to the last 500 yards and the car ran out of petrol," Brabham said in an interview with The Associated Press at his home in 2009. "I coasted to about 50 yards away and I pushed the car over the line. If I would have received any assistance I would have been disqualified. I managed to finish fourth, which was enough to win the championship."
Brabham was not well enough to make the Sebring trip in 2009, so David re-enacted his father's famous finish.
Jack Brabham's career accomplishments were lengthy. In addition to his three world titles and 126 races from 1955 to 1970, he won the constructors' championship in 1966 and 1967. He had 14 Grand Prix wins and 31 podium finishes.
Australian Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker said Brabham would be "remembered as one of motorsport's most influential figures" adding that his feat of winning the world championship in a car bearing his own name was unlikely to ever be replicated.
"The contributions that Sir Jack made to the sport will never be forgotten and his legacy will continue to resonate among drivers and fans," Walker said.
Born on April 2, 1926, in the southern Sydney suburb of Hurstville, John Arthur Brabham grew up driving and maintaining his father's fruit and vegetable delivery vehicles. After a brief career in engineering, he joined the Australian Air Force as a flight mechanic and later set up his own engineering works in Sydney and became a pilot.
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