David Brabham Makes History with Acrua and ALMS in 2008
It is a tough chore for any second-generation driver to match the marks set by a parent.
For David Brabham, it has been a more difficult chore since his father [Jack] was a Formula One world driving champion and his older brother [Geoff] was a sports-car champion and Indy Car star. Both Brabhams have been enshrined in motorsports Halls of Fame.
As the youngest of the Brabhams (David's middle brother, Gary, was also an accomplished driver), David had plenty to live up to when he decided to follow the Brabham legacy as a racing driver.
He made the usual steps for a young racer, going from karts to small formula cars to prototype sports cars and even to Formula One machines.
David defeated legendary F-1 champion Michael Schumacher in the 1988 Macau Grand Prix for formula cars. He was on the fast track to stardom, winning the Australian Formula Two championship and the British Formula Three title.
After starting 24 races with two Formula One teams, Brabham made a similar career decision as his older brother, Geoff. He moved into the sports-car ranks.
"I think that if I was in the right place at the right time, I could have made a good career in Formula One," said Brabham, the 42-year-old Australian. "But, like in many sports, timing is everything. The seats didn't open for me at the right time. And the right seats opened in sports-car racing. It was a great decision for me. I love driving sports cars."
Now, Brabham is making his own legacy.
Known as "Brabs" in the paddock area, David has put together a career that continues to set records. After racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans twelve times without a victory, Brabham has won the GT-1 class the last two years in the most famous sports-car race in the world. And his records continue to grow with each subsequent victory.
When he drove the Highcroft Acura to the overall pole at Houston last year, Brabham became the first driver in American Le Mans Series history to win at least one pole in each of the four divisions of competition [LMP1, LMP2, GT-1 and GT-2].
"That was very exciting for the whole Highcroft team," said Brabham, who now resides in Maidenhead, England. "We were a very young team and still learning. Then we got that pole at Houston and we had a chance to win that race. We were able to go on and get four podium finishes in 2007 as a rookie organization. That was a solid start for the team."
In 2008, Brabham has become more of a sports-car "folk hero" with his sensational come-from-behind drives in the Patrón Highcroft Acura ARX-01b. He took an LMP2 class win at Long Beach over Romain Dumas in the Penske Porsche with a great inside move on the next-to-last lap.
The Long Beach victory gave Brabham another ALMS "first." He became the first driver to win a race in each of the series' four divisions.
He won his second Le Mans crown in June, then headed to Patrón Highcroft Racing headquarters in Danbury, Conn., to make preparations for the second half of the ALMS tour.
At Lime Rock Park in mid-July, Brabham, along with codriver Scott Sharp, recorded Acura's first overall American Le Mans Series victory over Timo Bernhard in the Penske Porsche. It was another come-from-behind triumph, as Brabham came from five seconds down with just 10 minutes remaining to make an outside Turn One pass.
"Wow! That Lime Rock weekend was huge for Patrón Highcroft Racing, Acura and myself," said the personable Brabham. "That is a weekend I will always remember. We were racing close to the team's headquarters [45 minutes away] and we had a big group of supporters at the race. Then we won the pole, having just nipped my friend Gil's [de Ferran] car. It was a one-two qualifying performance for Acura, and it was the first time for that feat. Then, to come back and pass Timo on the next-to-last lap for the overall win was incredible. I am so proud to be a part of Acura racing history with that victory."
Brabham might be following in the footsteps of his father and older brother, but the Acura pilot has unquestionably made his own legacy. Don't be surprised if he continues to expand on it in the potent No. 9 green and blue Patrón Highcroft Acura ARX-01b.
"I have driven a lot of racing cars in my career," Brabham says. "But this Patrón Highcroft Acura is the best I have ever driven."