AN important piece of Sir Jack Brabham’s racing history has come up for auction in Monaco.
The Brabham-Climax BT3, his team’s first F1 car, is one of the vehicles set to go under the hammer on Friday at Bonhams’ Les Grandes Marques à Monaco sale ahead of the principality’s biennial historic race meeting.
As its BT3 type number suggests, this design was the third produced by Sir Jack and legendary designer Ron Tauranac, but it was actually the first car to carry both the Brabham name and the ‘BT’ type designation.
The original Formula Junior, retrospectively referred to as BT1, and its replicas designed for customers, retrospectively dubbed BT2, were built under the acronym of Brabham and Tauranac’s company Motor Racing Developments.
The change to the Brabham name was made when it was pointed out by motorsport journalist Jabby Crombac that the French pronunciation of MRD – merde – didn’t paint the product in the most flattering light…
Only one BT3 was built, chassis F1-1-62, and Brabham used it through 1962 and 1963.
It was finished in time for the British Grand Prix at Aintree but Brabham elected to use his Lotus-Climax instead due to the wrong exhaust being supplied for the BT3, before the first Brabham F1 car made its first world championship Grand Prix start at the Nurburgring for the German Grand Prix.
However, while the car made only five championship race starts – its best results a pair of fourths at the United States and South African Grands Prix in 1962 – Brabham raced the BT3 in a further eight non-championship F1 races.
The terms ‘F1’ and ‘Grand Prix’ are used interchangably nowadays when referring to world championship races, but the era featured many non-championship races for F1 cars throughout Europe that regularly drew top teams and big fields.
The 1963 Solitude Grand Prix, held on a fast, tree-lined 11 kilometre road circuit near Stuttgart, was one such non-championship event and was the site of the first F1 race win for the Brabham team.
Brabham was among a class field for the 25-lap race, headed by the Team Lotus entries of Jim Clark, Trevor Taylor and Peter Arundell, although fellow top teams BRM and Ferrari were absent.
“(I qualified second) to Jim Clark’s inevitable Lotus which then did us all a favour by breaking a driveshaft at flag fall,” Brabham recalled.
“I then had a terrific battle with Trev Taylor in the second Lotus, before it also failed, which left me in a comfortable lead … you can imagine how it felt when I passed the chequered flag at last, and ‘Brabham-Climax’ had scored our first Formula 1 race win.
“It wasn’t a World Championship round, it wasn’t a full-blown Grand Prix, but it proved we had a car capable of winning. That was a great moment, and I relished it.”
Brabham claimed another F1 race win in the BT3 at the non-championship Austrian Grand Prix, held at the notoriously bumpy Zeltweg aerodrome, before making his final start in the car at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Superceded for 1964 by the BT7 and BT11, the BT3 was sold to British privateer Ian Raby, then passed through the hands of several racers – including one who fitted it with a Chevrolet V8 for hillclimbing! – before being acquired by legendary British enthusiast and patron Tom Wheatcroft at the end of the decade.
The car remained a part of the impressive Donington Collection for the next three decades before being sold to its current owner, who had the car prepared for historic racing and has appeared at the Goodwood’s Revival and Festival of Speed meetings, as well as the Monaco Grand Prix Historique.
The Brabham BT3 is expected to fetch €450,000 to €650,000 (AU$670,000 to AU$981,000) when it goes under the hammer on Friday afternoon local time.
Click HERE for the full listing on Bonhams.