ON SUNDAY morning Sir Jack Brabham arrived at Sunshine Coast Airport to be greeted by a small number of friends and admirers.

Just 24 hours later the great man was dead, bringing the curtain down on one of the most incredible sporting lives we will ever know.

It was fitting that Sir Jack's final public appearance - hosted by the legend's friend Steve Padgett - was spent among those who appreciated and marvelled at the 88-year-old's achievements.

Not only was Sir Jack a triple Formula One world champion, he remains the only man to have won a world championship driving a race car of his own construction.

This was in 1966, when the then 40-year-old piloted a Brabham BT19 chassis, complete with Australian-built Repco engine, to four Grand Prix victories and a dominant title win.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to the intimate event on Sunday where we were in the presence of greatness.

Having arrived by helicopter, Sir Jack greeted us all with a warm smile and took time to meet everyone in the room and shake their hand.

The purpose of his visit was to be reunited with a 1967 Brabham BT23 race car, bought by Mr Padgett and recently arrived on the Sunshine Coast.

Although suffering from hearing and vision problems, and having been ill for some time, Sir Jack seemed touched to see the car once more, and listened as Mr Padgett told his old mate it would be fired up in his honour.

The great man sat on the car's rear wheel as the engine barked, and ever the expert engineer, Sir Jack seemed to lean closer, feel the vibration from the motor, and appeared ready to explain what tiny changes would be needed to win the next race.

What will stay with me was how warmly Sir Jack treated all his guests.

Without complaint he signed autographs and memorabilia, then posed for photographs, often with a smile reminiscent of those seen when he was winning races in the 1950s and '60s.

I was able to sit down with Sir Jack and ask him some brief questions with the help of his wife, Lady Margaret.

As a lifelong fan of Formula One, I would happily have spoken with him all day about his incredible career in those most glamorous and dangerous of times.

Those old eyes had seen incredible joy and sadness. Lady Margaret said Sir Jack had lost 30 friends to racing accidents during his career.

In that aspect Sir Jack was a survivor. Great contemporaries like Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt and Bruce McLaren were killed before they could enjoy retirement.

And as a survivor Sir Jack lived a full life. He served in the RAAF during the Second World War, won races as a driver and car constructor, then raised a family of car racers. His sons and grandsons all forged impressive racing careers.

Sir Jack's death will of course be mourned, but at his passing I recall one of my favourite quotes of his.

"The big aim now is to die without an enemy in the world. I'm going to outlive the bastards," he said.

I'm sure the great man won that battle, too.

Formula One career

Years active: 1955-1970.

Races: 128.

Wins: 14.

Podiums: 31.

Pole positions: 13.

World championships (as driver): Three (1959, 1960 and 1966).

World championships (as constructor): Two (1966 and 1967).

Other highlights

 The only driver to with an F1 world championship in a car of his own construction (1966, Brabham BT19).

 Four-time winner of the European F2 Championship.

 Australian of the Year in 1966.

 Knighted for services to motorsport in 1978 - the first motorsport knight.

 Named a National Treasure in 2012.


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