The Australian racing driver David Brabham is not only the youngest son of the Formula One legend Sir Jack Brabham but also the most successful sports car racer from 'down under'. In his career, which lasted from 1986 to 2015, David Brabham scored three 24h Le Mans victories (overall win in 2009 and two GT1 class wins in 2007 and 2008) and two American Le Mans Series titles (in 2009 and 2010), plus numerous podiums both at Le Mans and in America.
During the 1990s, David won Japanese GT Championship title in 1996 and triumphed at Bathurst 1000 race in 1997. In the earliest years of his career, Brabham was 1989 British Formula 3 champion. Besides all, David Brabham collected 24 starts in Formula One, driving for father's team in 1990 and for Simtek Ford in 1994, but without notable results in F1 Grand Prix races.
Late start of the career for Sir Jack Brabham's youngest son
David Brabham was born on September 5, 1965, in Wimbledon, England. He was the third and youngest son of Jack Brabham, who was already a double F1 champion in 1965 and took his third title in 1966 with his own team. Although born in England, David spent a childhood in Australia. David's older brothers Geoff (born 1952) and Gary (born 1961) was also racing drivers and all three of them started their racing career relatively late.
David purchased his first go-kart at the age 17, beginning his career in 1983. After racing with go-karts for two years, David moved to the Ford Laser one-make series in 1985 and then into the Formula Ford in 1986. His next competitions were Formula Pacific, Formula Atlantic, South American Formula 3 and Australian Formula 2, in which he took the sensational victory in the 1987 Australian Drivers' Championship.
Starting 38th and winning the race!
Unlike previous years, the ADC was a single race and it was held at Adelaide street circuit on November 13, as a support race for the 1987 Formula One Australian Grand Prix. Brabham had problems with his Ralt RT30-Volkswagen in the qualifying, so he started from 38th place on the grid. During 15 laps, he managed to pass all rivals and won the race.
During 1988, David competed both in the New Zealand's Formula Pacific and British Formula 3 Championship, driving for his father's team. In 1989, David moved to England, focusing his efforts to the Formula 3. He took the British title with Bowman Racing, but also won non-championship races Macau Grand Prix and Jewson Scotland Superprix.
Finishing only one race in debut Formula One season
With Formula 3 title in his pocket and a big amount of sponsorship money, David joined Jack Brabham's Formula One team (officially named Motor Racing Development) to drive Judd V8-powered Brabham BT59. He requested to skip the first two races of the season to prepare himself. David debuted at 1990 San Marino Grand Prix but failed to qualify.
His real racing debut in Formula One was at Monaco Grand Prix, where he started 25th and retired after 16 laps due to transmission failure. Later in the season, David had five more DNQ attempts. In eight starts, he finished only one race (French Grand Prix), placing himself to the 15th place.
Joining TWR Jaguar and winning the 24h of Spa
Bad results and the lack of sponsors forced David to leave Formula One after just one season. He started the 1991 season with Roni Motorsport in the International Formula 3000, but after four races he joined Tom Walkinshaw Racing team to drive Jaguar XJR-14 in the World Sportscar Championship, alongside teammates Derek Warwick and Teo Fabi. Brabham and Warwick won the WSC race at Nurburgring.
Le Mans debut in 1992 with Toyota TS010
In 1992, David was combining the driving duties for Jaguar in North America and for Toyota in the World Sportscar Championship. In America, he finished second overall at 24 hours of Daytona and fourth at 12 hours of Sebring. In June 1992, David debuted at 24 hours of Le Mans, partnering Geoff Lees and Ukyo Katayama in the #7 Toyota TS010. They retired after 192 laps. Later in the season, David took two WSC podiums at Donington and Suzuka.
In 1993, David had a limited schedule of races and he participated only in three big events - 24h Daytona, 24h Le Mans and Bathurst 1000. At Daytona, Brabham was a member of the Bud Light/Jaguar Racing #32 crew in the Jaguar XJR-12, but they didn't finish the race. At Le Mans, Brabham was in the cockpit of the #50 TWR Jaguar XJ220 C, which competed in GT class, but the team was disqualified because of the illegal exhaust. And finally, in October 1993, Brabham and Anders Olofsson finished fourth at Bathurst 1000, driving the #2 Winfield Racing Holden VP Commodore.
One more Formula One season with Simtek Ford
In 1994, David Brabham returned to Formula One, joining the MTV Simtek Ford after his father brought some money to the team. The heavy and slow Simtek S941 was not a competitive car, but Brabham at least qualified for all 16 races. His best result was 10th place at Spanish Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya.
The season was marred by the death of Brabham's teammate Roland Ratzenberger during the qualifying for San Marino Grand, the day before Ayrton Senna lost his life on the same race track.
Driving BMW in touring car races
After one more disappointing Formula One season, Brabham again left the premium racing series and focused on touring car racing, joining BMW Motorsport for a good salary.
His main competition with BMW 318is was the 1995 British Touring Car Championship, but he also participated in few races of the German Touring Cup and FIA World Touring Car Cup, but he didn't score any notable results.
Brabham was 1996 Japanese GT champion
After just one BTCC season, David continued to change racing series and he moved to the Japanese GT Championship in 1996, driving the McLaren F1 GTR for Team Lark. The season was successful, as he took one win and three podiums in six races, winning the title together with John Nielsen.
At 1996 Le Mans race, David was also driving McLaren F1 GTR, partnering Pierre-Henri Raphanel and Lindsay Owen-Jones in the Gulf Racing's car. They finished fifth overall.
Geoff and David won the Bathurst 1000 with BMW
For 1997 season, Brabham joined David Price Racing to drive Panoz Esperante GTR-1 in the FIA GT Championship and at Le Mans, but that year would be remembered as the year when two Brabham brothers won the Bathurst 1000 race.
David paired his brother Geoff in the BMW Motorsport's BMW 320i. They crossed the finish line as second, behind teammates Paul Morris and Craig Baird, but Morris and Baird were eventually disqualified because of exceeding allowed driving time for each driver.
Successful seasons with Panoz Motorsport
The second season with Panoz was more successful for Brabham, who was competing with Panoz-Visteon Racing in the 1998 US Road Racing Championship and with DAMS team in the 1998 FIA GT Championship. At 12 hours of Sebring, Andy Wallace and David Brabham finished 2nd overall and first in GT1 class. At 24 hours of Le Mans, Brabham's partners were Andy Wallace and Jamie Davies. They finished 7th overall.
For 1999, Panoz Motorsport prepared the LMP1 prototype for American Le Mans Series and Brabham finished second in the points, after winning two of eight races, sharing the car with Eric Bernard. At 1999 Le Mans race, Brabham and Bernard were joined by Butch Leitzinger and they finished in 7th place overall.
New change after six years with Panoz
Brabham came to Le Mans three more times with Panoz prototypes, sharing the cars on all three occasions with Jan Magnussen. In 2000, their partner was Mario Andretti and the trio finished 15th overall. Two retirements followed in 2001 and 2002. In the American Le Mans Series classification, Brabham's best result was sixth place at the end of 2002 season.
After six seasons with the same manufacturer, its was a time for a new change in 2003. David joined Veloqx Prodrive Racing in the American Le Mans Series, driving the Ferrari 550 Maranello and finishing third in the GTS class standings.
Maiden Le Mans podium with Bentley
At 2003 24 hours of Daytona, Brabham took DP class victory and fourth place overall with a Ford-powered Multimatic prototype, together with Scott Maxwell and David Empringham. In other two big endurance races, at Sebring and Le Mans, David was a member of the Team Bentley, together with Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell. Their #8 Bentley Speed 8 finished third at Sebring and second at Le Mans. It was David's first podium at Le Mans, next to the winning crew in the #7 Bentley.
In 2004, Brabham was driving two cars in the American Le Mans Series (Saleen S7-R and Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT), taking only one podium. At 2004 Le Mans, he was driving Zytek Engineering's Zytek 04S LMP1 prototype, alongside Andy Wallace and Hayanari Shimoda. The trio retired after 167 laps.
Golden Le Mans period with Aston Martin Racing
It was David's last Le Mans retirement, after that, he joined Aston Martin Racing and his golden Le Mans period followed, with two class victories in four years. In 2005, the first season with Prodrive and Aston Martin Racing, Brabham took class victory at Sebring 12h, driving the Aston Martin DBR9 together with Darren Turner and Stephane Ortelli. At Le Mans, Brabham, Turner and Stephane Sarrazin finished third in GT1 class classification.
At 2006 Le Mans race, Brabham partnered Antonio Garcia and Nelson Piquet Jr in the Team Modena's Aston Martin DBR9. They finished ninth overall and fourth in GT1 class. Except for Aston Martin, Brabham was driving GT2 class Panoz Esperante in the 2006 American Le Mans Series, scoring one win and three podiums in ten races, to finish fifth in the points.
Two consecutive Le Mans GT1 class wins
In 2007 season, Brabham was driving Highcroft Racing's LMP2 prototype Acura ARX-01a in the American Le Mans Series, scoring four podiums and finishing fifth in the points. At 2007 Le Mans, Brabham finally scored his maiden victory. Brabham, Darren Turner and Rickard Rydell were partners in the #009 Aston Martin DBR9 and they took the GT1 class victory with one lap advantage over Corvette Racing's crew.
In 2008, David Brabham and Darren Turner were again GT1 winners at Le Mans, this time, partnered by Antonio Garcia in the #009 Aston Martin DBR9. In the 2008 American Le Mans Series, Brabham was the runner-up in the LMP2 classification, after winning four of eleven races with Patron Highcroft Racing's Acura ARX-01a.
ALMS championship title and Le Mans overall win in the same year
And then the season 2009 came, the most successful one in David's career. In the American Le Mans Series, Patron Highcroft Racing's Acura ARX-02a was a dominant car in the LMP1 class and David took the championship title, together with teammate Scott Sharp.
The highlight of the season was Le Mans 24-hour race in June, where David was a member of #9 Peugeot Sport Total crew, together with Marc Gene and Alexander Wurz. The trio in the Peugeot 908 HDI won the race, bringing the third and last Le Mans victory for Peugeot. It's interesting that David's brother Geoff also won Le Mans with Peugeot sixteen years earlier, in 1993.
2010 - one more ALMS title for David Brabham
In 2010, David Brabham took his second consecutive ALMS title, still driving for Patron Highcroft Racing. He won four of nine races and took the title together with teammate Simon Pagenaud. With the same team, Brabham traveled to Le Mans, but the #26 HPD ARX-01C prototype was far from the top and finished 9th in the LMP2 class (25th overall). Brabham's teammates were Marino Franchitti and Marco Werner.
In 2011, Brabham had a diverse schedule of races, but his main competition was the FIA GT1 Championship with Sumo Power GT team and their Nissan GT-R R35 GT1. His partner was Jamie Campbell-Walter and they scored four podiums in twenty races, to finish tenth in the points.
In 2011, David skipped Le Mans, but participated at 12 hours of Sebring, finishing second. His co-drivers in the Highcroft Racing's prototype were Simon Pagenaud and Marino Franchitti.
Full season in the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship
In 2012, Sumo Power team was renamed to JRM and it entered the inaugural season of the FIA World Endurance Championship, hiring David Brabham, Peter Dumbreck and Karun Chandhok as the drivers of the #22 HPD ARX-03a in the LMP1 class. The trio finished fifth in two races (Fuji and Shanghai), while at Le Mans they were sixth overall.
It was Brabham's 18th and the last Le Mans participation, but also the 2012 season was his last full-season in a career. Since then, he had occasional participations in the various racing series, mostly with Extreme Speed Motorsports in the United Sports Car Championship and World Endurance Championship, but also he had few guest appearances in the V8 Supercars Championship. At greatest Australian race, Bathurst 1000, David Brabham competed eight more times except in his victorious drive in 1997.
David's last race in a career was 6 hours of Silverstone in April 2015, the first race of the 2015 FIA WEC season. He closed his career with sixth place in the LMP2 class, driving the HPD-ARX-03b prototype for Extreme Speed Motorsports.
The Project Brabham wants to revive historic Brabham team
After leaving the cockpit of race cars, David is focusing on his Project Brabham, which was announced in Autumn 2014. The idea was to revive the Brabham racing team through the crowdfunding program and fans' support. The first stage is the Brabham-Digital website.
The initial plan was to enter the 2015 FIA WEC and 2015 Le Mans with the new team. Obviously, the plan failed to materialize, but the Project Brabham is still exists and maybe sometimes the new Brabham team, under the name which left the significant trail in the history of motorsport, would return to the world's racing scene.