The car that Sir Jack Brabham took to his last Formula 1 victory is going on auction.
The 1970 BT33 (chassis 2) was the last car to be designed under the partnership of Sir Jack and his acclaimed design sidekick, Ron Tauranac. Powered by a 3.0-litre Ford Cosworth DFV V8 engine, the BT33 was the final car campaigned by the three-time World Champion before he retired from racing, aged 44.
The BT33 was the first full-monocoque Formula 1 design produced by Tauranac, which followed a change in the technical regulations that demanded greater protection of the fuel tanks to reduce the risk of puncture and fire.
After personally shaking down the BT33-2 at Riverside, Brabham debuted the car at the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami, qualifying third-fastest. His chief mechanic on the car was a certain Ron Dennis, who later went on to take over the running of the McLaren F1 team in the 1980s.
“It was so hot there at Kyalami that we had to rig an intake duct to feed air down into the cockpit to keep Jack as cool as possible. I remember having to shape a section of aluminium pipe to do the job, which meant first packing it with sand to prevent it collapsing as I worked it, and then bending and beating it to shape. We got it fitted but it was all last minute and I remember being really upset by how bad it looked…” the famously fastidious Dennis recalls.
Sir Jack dropped to sixth trying to dodge a first-corner multi-car accident, but he quickly charged up to second and was in pursuit of Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell-run March 701, which was in the lead.
“I felt I could pass him. While I was trying to do so, Jackie put a wheel off the road and threw back a stone which cracked me on the cheekbone,” Sir Jack would later recall when recounting the hazards of racing with an open-faced helmet.
“Some uncharitable types suggested he’d learned a thing or two from me. My face would carry the scar for years.”
Despite the gash, Sir Jack overtook Stewart at a quarter-distance on Lap 20, motoring on to an imperious victory and an early lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
He later came within a whisker of claiming two more Grand Prix wins which would have put him in serious contention for a fourth World Championship crown if his car’s reliability had been better.
Sir Jack led Jochen Rindt’s Lotus until the final corner of the last lap at the Monaco Grand Prix when, under incredible pressure from the Austrian, he slid off at the Gasworks Hairpin.
Later that season, he looked on the verge of getting his revenge over Rindt at Silverstone, seemingly breaking the Lotus 72’s run of victories only to splutter to a halt on the approach to the last corner, out of fuel!
The BT33-2 was subsequently sold in 1971 to wealthy Franco-British owner/driver Alain de Cadenet and his associates, who then used it to try and give aspiring British driver Chris Craft a handful of Grand Prix outings late in the 1971 season. Craft failed to make the start of the Canadian Grand Prix after a practice failure, and retired with suspension troubles next time out at Watkins Glen.
The car was subsequently preserved in store by specialist British preparation and restoration company Crosthwaite & Gardiner before it moved into private hands, and has continued to appear at historic race events.
The auction of the 1970 Brabham BT33 will be hosted by Bonhams auction house on August 15, where it is expected to fetch between US$1-1.4 million.
Its sale comes less than five months following the passing of the three-time World Champion, who passed away at the age of 88 on May 19. Sir Jack remains – and is likely to remain forever – the only driver to win the Formula 1 World Championship in a car bearing his own name, built by his own company.
Images via Auto Injected, Class 25, Speed Cafe