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  There is an old saying that goes you should never meet your heroes, they only disappoint you. This is often especially true of sporting heroes. Most of them have to be fairly ruthless to reach the top and even those that aren't begin to believe their own publicity and this can make for a pretty unlikable individual.

 That photo - Goodowood 2004

  There are those that, although successful, never quite make the very top of the pile, men such as Elio de Angelis or Riccardo Patrese, who are heroes to more thinking fans who prefer more rounded personalities than the uber-successful and they rearly disappoint when you meet them but truly likable champions are a bit thin on the ground.


  I have been fortunate to have met a few that are the exceptions to the rule, even, you could say the exceptions that prove the rule. Phil Hill and Emerson Fittipaldi spring to mind. Included in that few was Jack Brabham. His accomplishments and championships will be known to anyone who reads this and do not really need endless repeating. I would rather speak more of the man than the myth.


  I first met Jack at Fred Vogel's motoring bookshop in Sydney back in 2004 when Fred asked me to photograph the launch of Jack's biography (The Jack Brabham Story written by Doug Nye) and what initially struck me was how, well humble is close but not quite the right word, but lacking in an overblown sense of self importance, he was. Although he was not shy about speaking about his own achievements - it would have been a pretty boring book launch if he was, he seemed happier talking about the progress of his sons and the contribution of Ron Tauranac to his own success. I might have been happier at the time if Fred hadn't introduced me as "the official pornographer" but such was Jack's mischevious sense of humour that that is how he refered to me on the few other occassions we met.

 Jack with Ron Tauranac (L) at his book launch

  Another measure of the man came early the following year when I produced a calendar containing photos taken at the 2004 Goodwood Revival. The cover was a shot of Jack in a BT19 which he was quite taken by. As a courtesy I had sent Jack a copy. I wasn't expecting any response but thought at best I might get some acknowledgement from a secretary or someone else on his behalf. What I wasn't expecting was the guy on the other end of the phone to say "Hi Sam, it's Jack Brabham calling to thank you…" And this was before, during about a ten minute chat, he figured out I was "Fred's pornographer". You can't imagine many of the more modern champions taking the time to personally call and thank someone for receiving something so mundane as a photo in a calendar, even if he did like it. The gratitude and respect he showed us lesser mortals, from everyday fans, to writers, photographers and competitors was what made Sir Jack Brabham stand out from the pack.


  Australia and the motor racing world has lost a true sporting hero who was more than worthy of that title.


  Jack, "Fred's pornographer" salutes you.


Sam Snape


May 24 2014