Jack Brabham’s last-corner heartbreak
At Monaco, Jack Brabham seemed to have his second win of the 1970 season fully gift-wrapped. With Jochen Rindt closing fast, however, the slower car in front of Jack before the last corner of the last lap suddenly posed a problem. Jack couldn’t afford NOT to pass Piers Courage’s DeTomaso, so close was Rindt – but on which side, going into the last hairpin, should he do so? Piers, uncharacteristically, was giving no indication, which left Jack facing two invidious choices: either he should do so down the inside – risking a brake drama on the marbles; or maybe he should take the outside – where Piers Courage, in the slower car, might run him wide and Rindt might slip down the inside. Jack chose the inside…and instantly locked an inside front. Suddenly he was on ice, sliding into the straw bales. And into the lead, on that last corner, thus sliced an awesome Jochen Rindt, whose previous lap had been nearly a second faster than Jackie Stewart’s pole time. In association with AP Archive’s little-seen footage, re-live the awesome 1970 Monaco GP with Peter Windsor.
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Being a not dissimilar vintage to you my greatest and fastest (not always the same thing!) Formula One driver is also Jim Clarke
My other two heroes are Jochen Rindt and Ronnie Peterson. So it was great to see you highlight this wonderful race.
I might take a slightly different view to the reason why Jack made that tactical error on the last lap and I think although you highlight Jochen’s incredible charge over the closing laps, it missed two aspects.
Firstly, Jochen had, of course, driven for Jack in the preceding season. Brabham would have had, even in those days that preceded all the telemetry of today, a clear indication of Rindt’s speed in a decent Grand Prix car. He had certainly shown in 1968 that his style and aggression evident even in the pedestrian Cooper Maserati of 1967 was proof of a real talent to control a car.
Secondly, I believe that Jack was, as you say, aware of Jochen’s chase down over those last few laps. But he would have also known that he was being chased by the one driver on that track that day who had both the courage and the skill to make an effort even in one of Monaco’s fiendishly difficult and slow corners, and make it stick.
Brabham was not known to waver under pressure, despite his ‘win at the slowest speed philosophy’ (understandable in those dangerous years).
I think that there was only one man that day who could have pressured the normally imperturbable Aussie into that error. And that was the incredible Rindt.
I was a big fan of the Formula Two scene in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Almost all the cars having the same FVA/FT200 combination. It was the ability and controlled aggression of Rindt and Peterson over the other outstanding drivers and world champions in Formula Two that made me idolise them. And today they remain, with Jimmy, my heroes.
Peterson’s death some years after Rindt’s put me off Grand Prix racing for a very long time.
Hi John. Valid points all – and thanks for writing. On this occasion, however, I really do think that Jack was much more a victim of Piers Courage’s lack of awareness. I say this because Jack had won the South African GP with consummate ease, had taken the pole in Jarama and had the Monaco GP, the next race, absolutely in the bag. He was full of confidence, in other words. Of course he was very aware of what Jochen was capable – but then he’d also beaten Jochen a few times along the way over the past few years. So I don’t actually think that Jack “made a mistake” in Monaco. He timed the race perfectly. And passing back-markers there usually wasn’t a problem, particularly at the back end of the race, when very few cars were still running. Jack also knew Piers very well: it’s just that Piers very uncharacteristically did exactly what Jochen Mass did to Gilles at Zolder in 1982: stayed in the middle of the road and made no sign as to which side he should be passed. I guess you could argue in hindsight that Jack was pressured into making a quick judgement due to the pressure of Jochen behind him – but how do you factor Piers’ carelessness into the pace at which you want to win at Monaco? If you’d said to Jack – or Jochen – before the race, “by how much would you like to be leading going into the last corner?” I’m sure that both of them would have said “one second is enough”. And it should have been.
None of this is to detract from Jochen’s drive; I’m a huge Rindt fan too. The thought has just occurred, though, that maybe Piers, being a very close friend of Jochen’s, kind of knew what he was doing…but no. Better not let that one go any further…!
Again, thanks for writing in.