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Brabham Appreciates Chance To Settle Fun Family Score at IMS

As when he was racing in the prime of his career at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Geoff Brabham arrives today with the hope that he has a little bit of luck.

Brabham, the 67-year-old Australian whose family name is synonymous with racing internationally, also needs to restore some order at the home dinner table with a victory in the Vintage Race of Champions (VROC) Charity Pro-Am race presented by Chopard Watch.

Last year was a microcosm of his races since 2015 in the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s (SVRA) annual Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational. He qualified second, but his car broke before he could drive.

That his son, Matt, won from the pole in a car Brabham drove the year before has translated to a heaping helping of humble pie.

“Hopefully I can do well because he won the race last year and he’s given me crap all year,” Geoff said of Matt, who is racing elsewhere this weekend. “If I could win, dinner time at night would be a little more enjoyable for me.”

That said, he admits he enjoyed seeing Matt prevail.

“If anyone was going to beat me, I’d want it to be him,” Geoff said. “I’d rather him win than me, when it comes down to it.”

The feature event begins at 1:15 p.m. (ET) with 1963 to 1972 vintage Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs in SVRA’s “Group 6” A and B Production. Amateurs start the 50-minute race before turning to professionals on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile IMS road course.

Brabham’s teammate, Peter Klutt, will start from the pole in the No. 59 1969 Chevrolet Corvette, so it shapes up to be an excellent opportunity. But Brabham has experienced enough in racing as a winner of the 1993 24 Hours of Le Mans and 10-time Indianapolis 500 starter to realize anything can happen.

One of the first races that comes to mind is the 1983 Indianapolis 500, when he finished a career-best fourth.

“The year I came in fourth was actually the one time where I got up to second place,” he said. “(Tom) Sneva was leading the race. I knew Sneva had blown up engines all month long. It suddenly dawned on me, ‘I’m running second, and I think I’ve got the two Penske covered because I was in a year-old Penske, which was better than they have.’ The thought just crossed my mind, ‘Damn, I could win this race because Sneva is going to blow up any minute.’

“As it turned out, he didn’t blow up. He won the race. And I stalled on the last pit stop. I should have finished second, but that was still a good memory.”

He also recalls driving for George Bignotti the year before, when he started 20th and was already up to 10th after just 10 laps.

“The car just felt so good,” he said. “I was just passing people left, right and center. Lap 11, the engine blew up. So nobody knew. I really felt like in those 10 laps I had a car that could challenge for the win. But everyone has got stories like that.

“You come here some years and you feel really good because you have a chance. Other years, you kiss the ground because you can still walk at the end of the month.”

Brabham resides in Indianapolis during the summer, then returns to Australia for winter. His affinity for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is still as passionate as ever.

That’s why the SVRA event is so special. The only one he’s missed was the inaugural run in 2014 due to the death of his father, Jack, a three-time Formula One World Champion.

“Like (NASCAR driver) Mike (Skinner) was saying, it’s better than staying home and watching ‘Gunsmoke,’” Brabham said.

Geoff won championships in IMSA GTP, Can-Am, SCCA Super Vee and Australian Formula 2. His son, Matt, won the 2013 Pro Mazda Championship and raced in the 2016 Indianapolis 500. Geoff’s brother, David, has also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as the American Le Mans Series in 2009 and 2010.

So Geoff is hopeful he can add a modest accomplishment today to the proud family legacy.

“With this type of racing, just getting to the finish line is a challenge,” he said. “You’ve got to have a little bit of luck and the cards have got to fall into place, like everyone else. We’ll give it our best shot.”

Just the opportunity to drive once more at Indianapolis Motor Speedway would be rewarding.

“This is the only racetrack in the world where you can drive in and the hair stands up on the back of your neck,” Brabham said. “No other racetrack gives you that feeling, I don’t think.”

 
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