The Adelaide Motorsport Festival’s return in 2023 saw a celebration of Brabham, commemorating the team’s 30-year history in Formula 1 30 years since its closure and on the 40th anniversary of its last Formula 1 drivers’ championship win (Nelson Piquet in 1983).
As part of the celebrations, Sir Jack Brabham’s 1966 Formula 1 championship-winning Brabham BT19 took to the track, driven by son David Brabham and grandson Sam Brabham. It was the first time that two generations of Brabhams have driven the BT19 at the same event.
Also present were the last Brabham to score a podium in Formula 1, the 1989 Brabham BT58 Judd, as driven by Martin Brundle and Stefano Modena during the 1989 Formula 1 season, in addition to the last-ever Brabham Formula 1 car, the BT60B (pictured above), driven by the likes of Damon Hill in 1992.
It was the presence of the BT60B that had the most significance in the context of the Adelaide Grand Prix. Brabham never made it to the season-ending Adelaide Grand Prix in 1992. After qualifying for just three of 11 races that season, the team folded following the Hungarian Grand Prix. With mounting debts, owners Middlebridge Group Limited were forced to close shop with attempts to revive the team for 1993 failing to materialise.
Brabham won four drivers’ championships (1966, 1967, 1981 and 1983) and two constructors’ championships (1966 and 1967) across Brabham’s ownership and later on with future Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone at the helm. When Ecclestone sold the team in 1988, a year in which Brabham didn’t enter Formula 1, the team began a downward spiral with a last podium finish in 1989.
A series of poor on-track results and off-track debts led to the team’s premature demise, with future world champion Hill finishing in 11th place, four laps behind the winner, in Hungary in 1992.
Unfortunately, the Brabham story didn’t finish in Australia, home to founder Sir Jack Brabham. Brabham himself won the non-championship Australian Grand Prix at Port Wakefield in South Australia in 1955. The Brabham team debuted in the event in 1962, winning the race with Brabham behind the wheel in 1963 and 1964.
The appearance of the last-ever Brabham Formula 1 car in Adelaide, more than 30 years since what should’ve been its final grand prix start, was a fitting way to commemorate Brabham.
Onboard the Brabham BT60B at the 2023 Adelaide Motorsport Festival: