David Brabham is one of motorsports most well known drivers. Not only is David the son of the British F1 legend Sir Jack Brabham but an ex F1 driver himself, Le Mans winner and now driver coach for MSA Team UK.
1. How did you get into motorsport?
Its probably a story that most people think is a bit strange for someone coming from a family as successful as ours. I had absolutely no interest in motorsport up until the age of 17 because my dad had retired and my brothers were racing but it wasnt a passion, it wasnt something I was into, although I was kind of interested in seeing how my brothers were doing. I was much more interested in football as a kid. Then I went to an agricultural boarding school to learn about farming because I was being groomed to become a farmer and then I ended up leaving school at 16 to work on the farm. I ended up going to the States for 3 months to watch my brother Geoff racing his first year in Indy Car and for me that was the first time that I saw motor racing for what it was. I saw a go-kart, which I didnt know people could race. I thought Ooh, Id like to have a go at that. That was the spark that made me change direction and go from farming to racing.
2. Who or what was your inspiration?
I guess where does inspiration come from? It doesnt matter where it comes from. When I was in the States and seeing what my brother was doing, talking to the team and engineers inspired me to have a go. At that time, my brother and I were very close, and still are, he was a very good driver, as was my father, although I was 5 when he retired so didnt know much about his racing but I knew more about my brothers and that was my inspiration.
MSA Team UK related
3. How did you get involved in MSA Team UK?
The MSA were running a programme in rally called MSA British Rally Elite and developed a programme to help rally drivers and navigators. They wanted to do a similar thing in car racing. So, they put out a tender. At that time, I was working with some drivers randomly alongside my own career because I like helping people. I've gone through a lot of ups and downs through my career so could relate to any issues they were going through and I found that just talking to them improved their performance. I saw this as an opportunity to do more in this field. So, I did a presentation with another chap called Don Macpherson and we did a pitch and we ended up getting the job. So we put a programme together which started 6 years ago and has developed into what it is today. It was called the MSA British Race Elite. That later turned into MSA Team UK when I took over from the rally programme and I'd say that in the last 2 years, the MSA has become a lot more involved with the way they wanted it to go and right now, theyre taking it on from in house and Im an adviser/consultant to them.
4. What does your position involve?
Well my position before was running the programme; I was an assistant to the race drivers. I would organise a programme that helped them with their fitness and nutrition, the business and technical side of racing, sponsorship advice, PR, marketing and things like that. Now, obviously the programme has slightly changed, its fallen in line with other sports. If you look at the coaching methods by the top sports or even TeamGB, the MSA have now gone more bespoke and now have performance managers behind the drivers. My job now is to oversee that.
5. Do you ever feel that you learn from the young drivers that you coach?
I think anybody who helps or teaches someone, if you listen to the words of advice that you give them sometimes you learn a lot about yourself and the person that you’re coaching. It’s a two-way thing in the learning process. I would never pretend I know everything. It’s amazing what you can learn when you do this kind of thing.
6. Who is the most successful driver that you’ve coached?
I guess if you look at the programme, the proper drivers are obviously Max Chilton (who’s just gone to Formula 1), James Calado (who’s just had a successful season in GP2 and is doing another), Sam Bird (who’s been a test driver for Mercedes F1). Those guys have done very well. The programme is starting to see the pros of what they’ve put into the drivers and what they’ve learnt. The majority of the drivers have been to the programme and have worked harder than others.
7. What tips would you give to a young aspiring driver?
I guess the standard advice is that if you’ve got a passion for something, go for it. You never know what can happen. It’s easy to say in your mind ‘I can’t do it’ but it’s an expensive sport and you’ve got to go out and find the funds or you might be lucky enough to be able to afford it. Look for ways to improve yourself. The only limit is yourself. Go to race or go kart meetings, speak to people and make the opportunities happen.