Monday
Dec072009

What Makes David Run? SCi Five Questions With "Brabs"

We were fortunate enough to catch up with David Brabham during the off-season… hmmm… well, during our off-season. Seems this year’s overall winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the American Le Mans Series LMP1 Champion doesn’t really “do” the off-season.

To give you an idea, David was a VIP guest at Macau back in November, after organizers announced that he would attend to help celebrate the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Macau SAR. Brabham won the prestigious Macau F3 Grand Prix back in 1989, beating the likes of Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen and Eddie Irvine.

“For a Formula 3 driver, Macau is the Holy Grail. I think everybody recognizes it’s a tough race to win. It’s still seen as the place for a young driver to demonstrate his talent,” noted Brabham. “I was fortunate enough to win Macau and Formula 3, and then I went from Formula 3 to F1. Macau can do that to your career.”

This weekend, Brabham will fly back to Australia for the MINI Challenge, which will tie in with the 50th anniversary of the legendary Sir Jack Brabham securing his first F1 title.

“I don’t get back to Australia that much these days, so I was delighted to be asked by MINI Australia to come to the Homebush event and drive a MINI John Cooper Works,” he said. “I get to come back home, drive a MINI around a new street circuit, bring my family over from the UK and help celebrate my Dad’s 50th anniversary, so Christmas has come early. I must thank MINI Australia and Toleman Motorsport for inviting me, I can’t wait.”

As part of a celebration honoring his father, David will be driving a Brabham BT6. Sir Jack, 83, and his wife Margaret will be special guests of V8 Supercars Australia at the Sydney Telstra 500. This will be a rare reunion of most of the family including sons Geoff, Garry and David… three generations of Brabhams.

So, as you can see, I’m not kidding when I say catch up.

JT: David, thanks for taking the time… obviously you’re spreading yourself pretty thin these days.

First and foremost, congratulations on a fantastic year. Honestly, I can’t fathom what it must mean to you personally and how you process the enormity of it all. How do you digest the accomplishment… I mean, you won the biggest and you beat the best… on two professional fronts!  Speaking both professionally and on a personal level… where do you put it?

DB: This year has just been an amazing experience, to think that I won Le Mans this year after all the years of trying, plus the ALMS Championship, means a lot to me. I would say that you can’t do this alone, so I have been very fortunate to have driven with great teams and team mates. I learnt more about being more aware and appreciative of the journey getting there and not just the result.

I know you’re an avid believer in family and privacy. You have the unique perspective of having grown up in an environment that somewhat parallels what your kids must be experiencing. How does that play into your roll as a father? Do you play down your accomplishments or work at keeping them in perspective? Do you take cues from your own childhood experiences?

When I come home from a race weekend, I am straight into the family life with the wife’s and kids, trying to fit into there schedules. It is not easy to wind down from a weekend of racing, but the family bring me down to earth pretty quickly…! Plus I have a business here in the UK running a young driver development program, which takes my focus away from racing when I get home.

Your family, including your father must be enormously proud. What has their reaction been?

I think dad is still smiling to be honest, they we all very happy for me.

Not asking you to put words in his mouth, but how does your dad view the racing you do today compared to the racing he did? I guess I’m thinking about the business side of things and the funding challenges facing drivers and teams.

Dad rarely compares his day to mine, he has always been someone who focuses on the future.

Can you talk about the dynamics of jumping into the Le Mans ride and winning the 24 hour and what it was like to have to instantly fit and gel together with a new team in such a short compressed period of time? What was the toughest part of that?

The Patron Highcroft Racing team I drive for has about 20 people compared to Peugeot who had over 100, so getting to know how the team worked and the people in it was difficult. They made me feel very welcome and by time I did the race after all the testing I did with them, I felt part of the team.

Lastly, and feel free to wax on poetically, what about those Highcroft guys? Seriously, the team, Duncan, Patron, Acura, the car, the effort… and the Championship. Standing where I stand, we see a dream team… but I’m sure the work, dedication and effort left no time for dreaming while it was all going on. Given the compression of time with Puegeot and Le Mans, tell us about the personal roller coaster ride of getting to the LMP1 championship.

I can’t say enough about the Highcroft team, they have worked so hard in achieving the ALMS crown. When the Aucra program got started, Highcroft were the least known team, but we have delivered all the major achievements for Acura from winning the first overall pole, first overall win and the ALMS Championship, so what can I say. I have so enjoyed working with Duncan and the whole team the last 3 years and I hope that we can continue into the future.

Well, I think I speak for a lot of ALMS fans when I say we’re looking forward to seeing you and the Highcroft gang back in 2010. You guys never fail to provide a plenty of excitement and good clean racing. Have a great holiday and we’ll see you at Sebring for “Wheels Down” in February. Thanks again.

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