Sir Jack Brabham’s life and legacy celebrated in special event at Silverstone

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The life of Formula 1 legend Sir Jack Brabham was celebrated in a special event at Silverstone Circuit in England yesterday as his closest family and friends came together to honor his achievements and legacy.

Brabham was the first Australian to win the Formula 1 world championship in 1959, and went on to also clinch the title in 1960 and 1966.

Brabham’s third and final championship was particularly poignant as it came in a car that he had designed himself for his own team. He remains the only driver to have achieved such a feat in F1 history.

In a special event at Silverstone on Friday, over 400 people gathered to celebrate Brabham’s life following his death back in May at the age of 88. The memorial service was led by his son, David, and attended by many of his contemporaries including Sir Stirling Moss, Sir Jackie Stewart and John Surtees.

“It was a special day for the Brabham family to have over 400 people turn up for the event, and to have some of the racing greats take time out to tell their stories about Jack was extremely touching,” David Brabham said. “We had a fantastic response from those wishing to attend and the media interest was staggering.

“It was a marvellous opportunity for friends and fans to get together and remember ‘Black Jack’, and also support one of Dad’s charities, Kidney Research. I’d like to thank the BRDC, Silverstone and my Brabham team members for a superbly organised event.”

A number of Brabham’s cars were also present for the event, with figures from F1 such as Daniel Ricciardo, Mark Webber and Jean Todt sending special messages in tribute to ‘Black Jack’.

“Jack certainly knew how to drive a car,” said ’50s F1 legend Sir Stirling Moss. “When I think back about him, I think what an amazing man he was. He was fast, he knew what he was doing, he was mechanically savvy with the car, I’d say he was my toughest competitor of all. Every week we were racing against each other in different countries, and it’s difficult to think of anyone who gave me more trouble to be honest.

“He was a very complete racing driver, I tell you that. Racing in those days was a sport, I mean Jack lent me a back axle once in Australia, knowing that I might beat him, that was the kind of man he was. It’s a very special occasion to be here today, but then he was a very special man. I must say I’ve had some of my best ever races against him and I remember him with great joy.”

Those wishing to donate to Kidney Research UK can do so by clicking here.

American Flat Track puts emphasis on fans in building 2020 schedule

American Flat Track
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American Flat Track put an emphasis on fans and feedback from other series while also acknowledging everything is tentative while hammering out its schedule for the 2020 season.

The 18-race schedule over nine weekends will begin July 17-18 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida, about 20 miles from AFT’s headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The dirt track motorcycle racing series, which is sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, shares a campus with its sister company, NASCAR, and American Flat Track CEO Michael Lock said the series closely observed how it’s handled races in its return during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and also built AFT’s procedures from NASCAR’s post-pandemic playbook of more than 30 pages.

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“I speak personally to the committee within NASCAR that has been put together for the restart, regularly talking to the communications people, general counsel and other relevant operations departments,” Lock told NBCSports.com. “So we’ve derived for Flat Track from NASCAR’s protocols, which I think are entirely consistent with all the other pro sports leagues that are attempting to return.

“Obviously with NASCAR the scale of the business is completely different. There were some times more people involved in the paddock and the race operations for NASCAR than the numbers of people at flat track. Our scale is much smaller, and our venues are generally smaller. So we can get our hands around all of the logistics. I think we’re very confident on that.”

While NASCAR has had just under 1,000 on site for each of its races without fans, Lock said American Flat Track will have between 400 to 500 people, including racers, crews, officials and traveling staff.

But another important difference from NASCAR (which will run at least its first eight races without crowds) is that American Flat Track intends to have fans at its events, though it still is working with public health experts and government officials to determine how many will be allowed and the ways in which they will be positioned (e.g., buffer zones in the grandstands).

Lock said capacity could will be limited to 30-50 percent at some venues.

American Flat Track will suspend its fan track walk, rider autograph sessions for the rest of the season, distribute masks at the gates and also ban paper tickets and cash for concessions and merchandise. Some of the best practices were built with input from a “Safe to Race Task Force” that includes members from various motorcycle racing sanctioning bodies (including Supercross and motocross).

There also will be limitations on corporate hospitality and VIP access and movement.

“I think everything the fans will see will be unusual,” Lock said. “Everything at the moment is unusual. We will roll out processes that are entirely consistent with the social distancing guidelines that will be in place at the time of the event. So we’re planning for a worst-case scenario. And if things are easier or better by the time we go to a venue, it’s a bonus.”

Lock said the restrictions are worth it because (unlike other racing series) AFT must have fans (even a limited number) for financial viability.

“We took a decision fairly early on in this process that it was neither desirable nor economically viable to run events without fans,” Lock said. “I can think of some big sports like NFL or like NASCAR where a huge chunk of that revenue is derived from broadcast, which means that your decision making as to how you run an event, where you can run an event has a different view than a sport like ours, or even like baseball, for example, that needs fans. Because the business model is so different.”

Broadcast coverage is important to American Flat Track, which added seven annual races over the past five years and can draw as many as 15,000 to its biggest events.

Lock said AFT ended the 2019 season with more than 50,000 viewers for each live event, making it the No. 1 property on FansChoice.TV. This year, the series has moved to TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. “We’re expecting a really strong audience from Day 1, particularly with all this pent-up demand,” Lock said.

NBCSN also will broadcast a one-hour wrap-up of each race (covering heat races and main events).

Because the season is starting three months late, the doubleheader weekends will allow AFT to maintain its schedule length despite losing several venues. And there could be more, Lock said, noting that there still are three TBA tracks.

“There may still be some surprises to come from one venue or another of delay or cancellation,” he said. “But we are intending to run as full a season as possible.”

Here is the American Flat Track schedule for 2020:

July 17-18 (Friday-Saturday): Volusia Speedway Park, Barberville, Florida

July 31-Aug. 1 (Friday-Saturday):  Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, Ohio

Aug. 28-29 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, Northeast United States

Sept. 5-6 (Saturday-Sunday): Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, Illinois

Sept. 11-12 (Friday-Saturday): Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Sept. 25-26 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, Texas

Oct. 2-3 (Friday-Saturday): Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, Georgia

Oct. 9-10 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, North Carolina

Oct. 15-16 (Thursday-Friday): AFT season finale, Daytona Beach, Florida