AT BONHAMS AMELIA ISLAND AUCTION
Chassis no. BT26-3
Engine no. 1986
2993cc DFV Ford-Cosworth Engine
Tubular Steel Space Frame Chassis with Stressed Skin Sections
5-Speed Manual Hewland DG-300, with ZF Differential
Front Suspension: Double Wishbones with Coil Springs over Dampers and Anti-Roll Bar
Rear Suspension: Double Wishbones with Twin Radius Arms, Coil Springs over Dampers and Anti-Roll Bar
*Winner of the 1969 Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport Park
*Driven by two Grand Prix racing legends: Jochen Rindt and Jacky Ickx
*Brilliant Ron Tauranac space-frame chassis design
*One of the best handling Formula 1 chassis of the period
*Competed in 9 frontline qualifying rounds of the 1969 Formula 1 World Championship series
Splendidly well-presented, running order, Formula 1 Brabham in which – on September 20, 1969 - star Belgian racing driver Jacky Ickx won the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport Park, Ontario. It is also the actual car in which Jacky Ickx - the renowned six-times Le Mans-winning racing driver - finished 2nd in that same year's Mexican Grand Prix, 3rd in the French, 5th in the Dutch and 6th in the Spanish round of the 1969 Drivers' World Championship series. He also qualified on pole position in Canada and shared fastest race lap there with his team chief, Jack Brabham, driving a sister BT26A. Furthermore, in the 11th and final round that year's World Championship series – the Mexican GP at Mexico City - Jacky Ickx also set fastest race lap after his team leader Jack Brabham had started the race from pole position. At the end of that memorable year Jacky Ickx finished second in the Drivers' World Championship standings – beaten only by new World title holder Jackie Stewart, in his Tyrrell-entered Matra-Cosworth MS80.
And there is still more which adds further to the serious-collector appeal of this individual Formula 1 Brabham. Chassis '3'- which is offered here in its 1969 Cosworth DFV V8-powered 'BT26A' configuration - had actually started life as the 1968 Braham Formula 1 factory team's Repco V8-engined BT26 which was campaigned in four late-season Formula 1 races by the great Austrian racing driver Jochen Rindt.
Charismatic, devil-may-care and always truly spectacular to watch, bluntly-spoken Rindt would regretfully leave Brabham for the rival Lotus team for the 1969 and 1970 Formula 1 seasons. In 1970 he would win for them five World Championship GP races, before losing his life so tragically in an accident at Monza during practice for that year's Italian Grand Prix. His accumulated points total at that time was not caught by his nearest rival – Jacky Ickx (who had himself) left Brabham to drive for Ferrari – and so Jochen Rindt became Formula 1's first (and thankfully thus far the only) posthumous World Champion Driver... Brabham BT26 chassis '3' now offered here is the Grand Prix car in which he confirmed his sheer class during 1968.
And there is still more which recommends this mouth-watering Brabham to any discerning buyer. In addition to its 1969 World Championship-series Grand Prix successes, chassis '3' as offered here also won the August 16, 1969, non-Championship Formula 1 Oulton Park Gold Cup race in England, driven yet again by Jacky Ickx, after he had also finished 4th in the car in that year's BRDC International Trophy non-Championship race at Silverstone, on March 30.
Spooling back through the car's history to its 1968 exploits in the hands of Jochen Rindt – chassis '3' actually qualified on pole position for its debut World Championship-level appearance in the Canadian GP at Ste Jovite-Mont Tremblant in September that year. It ran third in the race until its terribly unreliable Repco 4-cam V8 engine – which had handicapped the BT26 cars repeatedly through the earlier part of that season – sent the car boiling into retirement, having completed 38 of the scheduled 90 laps.
In the following United States GP at Watkins Glen, Jochen Rindt then qualified his Repco V8-powered chassis '3' sixth fastest, and ran fourth early in the race until the engine let go again after 73 of the scheduled 108 laps. For his final race in chassis '3' – the 1968 Mexican GP, Jochen Rindt qualified tenth but left the race early, this time with ignition failure, after 10 laps.
The background to that unsuccessful 1968 Formula 1 season for the Motor Racing Developments Ltd Brabham team had been two consecutive seasons of tremendous success. Jack Brabham himself had won both the Formula 1 Drivers' World Championship and the Formula 1 Constructors' Championship crown in 1966. That then-unique achievement was followed up by team driver Denny Hulme's victory in the Drivers' competition of 1967, which was secured with a second consecutive Formula 1 Constructors' Championship title for Brabham and its then still two-cam Repco V8 engines.
Brabham's back-to-back World Championship-winning cars in those two pioneering seasons of 3-liter Formula 1 racing were both multi-tubular spaceframe designs conceived by Jack Brabham's business partner and designer Ron Tauranac. At a time when their main opposition had adopted stressed-skin monocoque chassis technology, the uncompromisingly-practical Brabham and Tauranac partnership kept faith with well-understood multi-tubular spaceframe chassis design, and refined it to the ultimate degree. Their cars' chassis frames were not only light, easy to work upon, and sufficiently rigid to promote exceptionally responsive handling and tremendous driveability, but were far more simple than any monocoque to repair and rebuild in the event of crash damage.
Ron Tauranac was a superb practical designer who always recognized and addressed the core of any requirement. All of his many Brabham designs, not just for Formula 1 but also in production for minor-Formula and sports-car use, had become paragons of driveability and good handling since their introduction under the MRD title in 1961, and under the 'Brabham' name from 1962.
Ron Tauranac's World Championship-winning BT24 team cars of 1967 had been delightfully compact, well-packaged cars which were both quick and forgiving, enabling their drivers to take liberties under braking and cornering which the opposition could not match. Those 1967 Brabham-Repco BT24 cars achieved no fewer than three 1-2 victories, in the French, German and Canadian GPs, and for 1968 Ron Tauranac sought to improve upon their design in his new replacement BT26.
He explained: "We tried to make a lighter but stronger frame by using alloy sheet panelling instead of tubular triangulations. This allowed us to use smaller-gauge, thinner-section tubes for the basic frame, and the whole thing was built in a different way. Instead of making the bulkheads first and then joining them together in the jig, we laid down the bottom part of the frame on a flat bed, built the top deck immediately above it, and then put the side members in between. We used similar main rails to the earlier cars, but with 5/8-inch 20-gauge square-tube carrying stressed panelling on the floor and around the cockpit deck, on the sides and behind the seat, and in the dash panel frame, around the driver's thighs. It worked OK, but it might have proved cheaper to build a monocoque in the long run...".
This Brabham BT26 was a bigger car than the preceding BT24; 1½-inches longer in wheelbase, 5-inches wider in front track, and 5½-inches wider at the rear. The wider track was to apply a longer lever moment to the latest Goodyear tyres and so achieve better turn-in performance. Outboard coil-spring and damper suspension and wishbone geometry was basically similar to that of the Championship-winning BT24s.
For 1968 – with the Cosworth-Ford DFV V8 engine approaching maturity, Ferrari's refinement of their 3-liter V12 power units and BRM's own new V12 - it was self-evident that Brabham would need more power from their Australian-made Oldsmobile-derived Repco V8 engines.
Consequently, Repco in Melbourne developed a new 4-cam V8 engine for Brabham's Formula 1 programme, featuring twin overhead camshafts and 4-valves per cylinder on each cylinder bank. These Repco Type 860 power units were late in development for the 1968 season and although they proved competitive while running, they tended not to keep running for very long... Dropped valve inserts, oil loss, failed oil pressure and water leaks dogged the programme. Constant and worrying wear in the units' formerly untroubled Alfa Romeo-made cam followers proved another headache
One interesting sidelight which typifies contemporary Formula 1 came from the Belgian GP at Spa 1968 where, during practice, Jack Brabham had another valve insert detach. Repco concluded that shrinkage had caused the problem. Jack Brabham flew himself home to England that evening while John Judd and Norm Wilson of Repco collected a fresh engine at Heathrow air-freighted from Melbourne. It was stripped down overnight while team machinist Ron Cousins came in to the team's Guildford works to fit new parts. The modified cylinder heads were then cooked in Jack Brabham's home kitchen, where long-suffering wife Betty awoke to find her house filled with acrid oven fumes, before her husband flew the finished components back to Spa...
Yet those 4-cam Repco 860 engines could perform. They showed their true potential in practice for the wet 1968 Dutch GP at Zandvoort, where Rindt qualified on the front row, only 0.16sec slower than Chris Amon's pole-position Ferrari V12. Jack Brabham qualified his BT26-Repco on the second row. At Rouen for another wet race – the 1968 French GP – Rindt qualified his BT26-Repco on pole position to prove conclusively there was nothing wrong in principle with the 4-cam Repco 860 engine, only for his car's fuel tanks to split early in the race.
The 1968 German GP was yet another of that damp year's wet races, the Nürburgring shrouded in mist and drizzle. Ninety minutes before the start a cracked titanium valve-spring retainer was noticed in Rindt's engine, and a mad scramble ensued to replace its cylinder heads with a pair cannibalized from the team's spare. The race V8 was reassembled with just ten minutes to spare before the start and Rindt then skated his nimble BT26 around in the rain to finish third, while Jack Brabham in the second BT26 was fifth – the Brabham team's finest race of that troubled year.
Meanwhile, the Brabham influence upon aerodynamic development in Formula 1 must not be forgotten. Jack Brabham himself was a former RAAF aircraft mechanic who had become an enthusiastic and immensely capable private pilot, flying his own twin-engined aircraft. As early as 1966 he had noticed that his contemporary BT19 and BT20 cars seemed to have a distinct advantage over the otherwise more sleek rival Lotus-Climax 33 in very fast corners. The Lotus nose cone was notably up-turned in side elevation, with a lengthy underside exposed to the direct airstream. The Brabham nose shape was more bluff with less curvature on both its upper and lower surfaces. It is probable that this generated less lift than the Lotus design. Ron Tauranac recruited expert help from British Aircraft Corporation aerodynamicists at nearby Brooklands in 1967-68, and genuine aerodynamic progress was then made.
At Spa in 1967 Denny Hulme's old Brabham-Repco BT19 car carried strip dive-planes each side of its nose to kill front-end lift. Back at Spa for the 1968 Belgian GP, Brabham tied with Ferrari in introducing chassis-mounted strutted rear aerofoils with their effect counter-balanced by broad dive-plans each side of the extreme nose. Strutted wings then grew and developed rapidly upon the BT26-Repco cars – although concentration upon the team's engine problems allowed others (notably Team Lotus) to advance further, faster - and rather more recklessly...
For 1969 the Brabham team's existing BT26s were altered to accommodate the latest Cosworth-Ford DFV V8 engines in place of the unloved Repco 4-cam V8s. Two existing BT26s were uprated as DFV-powered works cars, chassis '2' for Brabham himself and '3' for new works team recruit Jacky Ickx. Ex-works prototype BT26 chassis '1' was sold to private entrant Frank Williams for his driver Piers Courage, and also DFV-powered.
Jack Brabham won the BRDC International Trophy race at Silverstone driving BT26A-2 on Goodyear G14 tyres and with tall twin strutted wings both fore and aft. He subsequently destroyed chassis '2' in a pre-French GP testing accident back at Silverstone, breaking his ankle and missing mid-season Grand Prix races. A replacement 'BT26A-4' was completed in time for the British GP in which it was driven by Ickx to finish 2nd, and in which he subsequently won the German GP at the Nürburgring. Jack Brabham returned to racing at the Italian GP, driving chassis '4' – and these two works Brabham-Cosworths then finished 1-2 in the Canadian GP – Ickx ahead in chassis '3; now offered here.
These Brabham-Cosworth BT26As were arguably the best-handling Formula 1 cars of the 1969 season, but again they suffered on reliability. Jack Brabham himself qualified on pole for the season-opening South African GP at Kyalami and ran 2nd until his car's wing collapsed, while Ickx's sister car also shed its wing there. In Barcelona, Brabham had an engine failure and Ickx broke a wishbone though classified 6th. At Monaco – where tall strutted wings were finally banned - Brabham collided with a BRM but Ickx disputed 2nd place until a rear suspension upright broke, leaving Piers Courage a splendid 2nd in his Williams-entered Brabham-Cosworth. Ickx and Brabham then placed 5-6 in Holland – but after Jack's testing accident the young Belgian really shone as he always did when alone as team leader.
In the French Grand Prix at Clermont-Ferrand, he finished 3rd after running 2nd most of the distance. He was then 2nd in the British GP at Silverstone – before starting from pole at the Nürburgring and setting fastest lap there en route to his notable German GP victory there in chassis '4'. A spate of engine failures ruined the team's Italian GP, but Jack Brabham subsequently qualified his BT26As on pole for both the United States and Mexican GPs...
For 1970 regulation changes made it mandatory for Formula 1 cars to have metal-sheathed fuel tanks – so Ron Tauranc designed the conventional monocoque stressed-skin fuselage Brabham BT33 to replace these BT26s – which survive today as the ultimate expression of Formula 1 spaceframe chassis design.
In Mexico City within an hour of the finish of the 1969 Grand Prix there, American owner/entrant Doug Champlin bought chassis '3' now offered here, to be campaigned by his driver Gus Hutchison in the SCCA-sanctioned L&M Continental Championship series in the USA and Canada. Gus Hutchison then made his debut in this illustrious car in the December 28, 1969, L&M race at Sebring, Florida, immediately finishing 2nd.
He then contested a further six 1970 L&M rounds in this car, winning two of them at Sears Point and Dallas, placing 4th at Edmonton and 8th at Riverside, while being classified only 20th and 25th after problems intruded at Laguna Seca and Seattle. He also drove this car, chassis '3', in the 1970 United States GP at Watkins Glen, but was forced to retire due to a fuel leak after 21 laps. For Continental Championship racing Champlin and Hutchison had retired the Brabham in fav
or of a 5-liter Lola-Chevrolet Formula A/5000 replacement, but the BT26A was retained by Mr Champlin for many years. On November 6, 1985, he finally sold it to Roger Meiners who restored it to its 1969 Canadian GP-winning form. He then drove the car to 6th-place finishes in both the 1991 and 1992 Watkins Glen Reunion events.
Mr Meiners sold the car in 2002 to prominent race car enthusiast and collector Robert L. 'Bob' Baker of Paragon Racing Ltd, Nebraska, in 2002 – and it is now offered here direct from his Estate.
Only four complete cars and one spare works team chassis comprised the rarefied family of Brabham BT26As through 1968-69. They proved in many ways to be at least the competitive equal of such now-renowned World Championship winning designs as the Lotus 49 and the Matra MS80.
As reviewed here, the Brabham BT26/BT26As won Grand Prix races at the Nürburgring and at Mosport Park, and took pole positions and/or set fastest Grand Prix race laps at such demanding venues as Rouen-les-Essarts, Ste Jovite-Mont Tremblant, Kyalami, Montjuich Park in Barcelona, the Nürburgring and the Magdalena Mixhuca circuit in Mexico City.