Mark Webber leads the tributes to Australian 'trailblazer' Sir Jack Brabham
Ron Dennis also hails 'legend' as motorsport unites in respect
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 19/05/14 3:40pm
Mark Webber with Jack Brabham in 2010
Mark Webber has hailed his "inspirational" countryman Sir Jack Brabham after Australia's most successful F1 driver died aged 88.
The death of triple World Champion Brabham, the only man to win the title driving a car bearing his own name, after a long battle with liver disease has led to an outpouring of tributes from around the motorsport world.
As Australia's most recent grand prix winner, former Red Bull driver Webber said Brabham's achievements in the 1950s and 1960s had opened the door for drivers from his country to enter the world of F1.
"I was saddened to hear the news of Jack's passing today - he is the epitome of a champion racing driver and a true blue Aussie," wrote Webber on his personal website.
"He was a trailblazer; he took the hardest road and made it easier for the rest of us to follow. When I think of Jack, I think of a tenacious individual; an absolute grafter; he did it his own way and made it stick. There were no real rules or a manual for Jack; he figured it for himself. What he achieved taking on the best in the world and winning one of his three world titles in his own machinery is the stuff of pure legends.
"On a personal note, Jack was simply the biggest name in the Webber household. He was inspirational. My dad followed his career from when he raced in Australia and then did his best to keep track of Jack's progress when he moved overseas to take on the best in the world."
After emulating Brabham's journey to Europe when a young up-and-coming driver, Webber came closest to joining countrymen Brabham and 1980 title winner Alan Jones in the F1 pantheon of champions in 2010 when he led the standings for much of the season.
"I was very fortunate that I was introduced to Jack before I left Australia and to be in his presence as a 17 or 18-year old as I must have been at the time, just blew me away," added Webber, who now races in the World Endurance Championship with Porsche.
"He provided me with endless support and advice over the years and became a close confidante - even right up until the last couple of years when, after hearing the rumours that I might move to Ferrari, he told me he would be very disappointed if I went there because for him, it was the absolute betrayal because they were his motivation - the ones he wanted to beat in his day!
Brabham, Webber and Jones: Australia's three most successful F1 drivers
"Jack and Margaret were always generous with their time and I'm proud that, although I was unable to repay that support by joining him and Alan Jones as world champions, I gave him some very happy moments by winning some of the more prestigious special Grands Prix."
Amid widespread eulogies for Brabham, McLaren CEO Ron Dennis, who worked for the Australian's team when a young mechanic in the late 1960s, said: "The word 'legend' is often used to describe successful sportsmen, but often it exaggerates their status. In the case of Sir Jack Brabham, however, it's entirely justified.
"When I started out in Formula 1 in the late 1960s, I worked first for Cooper and then for Brabham. Even as a callow youth, I could recognise greatness when I saw it, and I'll always regard it as an honour and a privilege to have worked for Sir Jack. I learned a lot from him too."
The organisers of the Australian GP, meanwhile, said Brabham had established a lasting legacy.
"The contributions that Sir Jack made to the sport as well as the Australian Grand Prix will never be forgotten and his legacy will continue to resonate amongst drivers and fans alike," Ron Walker and Andrew Westacott said in a joint statement.
"Our thoughts are very much with his wife, Lady Brabham, and his three racing sons and their families."
Alan Jones said of Brabham the driver: "He's truly one of the greats. He's up there with Fangio and Schumacher and some of the great men of motor racing. Today will be a very sad day for the motor racing world."
Jack Brabham won 14 grands prix and three World Championships