JLB: MY BEST YEARS OF RACING
IN our look back at the 2012 Australian Formula Ford Championship, we charted the career progress of a highly competitive, and talented, group of racers.
WORDS: Mark Walker IMAGES: Richard Craill & Mark Walker
Jack Le Brocq’s story post-Formula Ford is well documented, placing on top of a staunch rookie class from his Supercars main game debut season in 2018, to taking over the Chaz Mostert’s seat at Tickford Racing, to being victorious at Sydney Motorsport Park earlier this year.
But the wheels were put in motion for his career progression by his formative years in Formula Ford, which saw Le Brocq claim the national title in 2012.
From karting to Formula Vee, Le Brocq stepped up into Formula Ford for the 2010 season, racing a French Mygale chassis for Bruin Beasley’s CAMS Rising Stars/Minda Motorsport outfit.
On the Australian Championship front, 2010 was a learning year, with best results of fifth, earned in the concrete canyons of Townsville and the Gold Coast.
While Cam Waters romped away with the 2011 title, Le Brocq finished the year second in the points, with four wins and 12 podiums from 23 races.
An end of year trip to the UK saw Le Brocq take in a round of the MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain at Silverstone, and the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, where after winning a pre-final, he failed to make the finish of the main event.
With the necessary budget to continue overseas a sticking point, Le Brocq returned home, determined to claim the local title.
“I loved the Formula Ford years, I think they were probably some of the best years of racing I’ve ever had,” Le Brocq told The Race Torque.
“It was one of those cool periods of time because I worked with Bruin in the factory, and we would go away racing with the same crew… Baz Ryan was around then, Glen Dollman, Glen Wood, and a few of the other fellas, we all had a lot of fun.
“That 2012 season was great, there was a top group of guys out front of the field, and we all pushed each other pretty hard.”
So how did those relationships work out with other drivers?
“Macauley (Jones) was my teammate, Macca’s a good guy, I always still have a good yarn with him every time we catch up today, and there’s always a bit of banter flying around with Garry (Jacobson), probably much more since the Formula Ford time!”
The Year that Was
After the Formula Ford circus diverted to open the 2011 season on the streets of Adelaide, the 2012 return to Albert Park gave a reasonably clean sheet for the competitors to work from.
Qualifying back in sixth required the elbows to come out for the first race, which ultimately saw Le Brocq gain the lead on the last lap from Mathew Hart to claim the win by half a second.
Positions were reversed in a time certain second race after a tight battle, before leading lights to flag in the finale, held at lunchtime on Grand Prix Sunday.
“Being on that Formula One podium and spraying champagne was unreal… Formula Ford around that circuit was incredible, it kind of felt like being back at Silverstone again, it was so big and wide, fast and flowing,” said Le Brocq, with the top three finishes also provided with the experience of the season’s only press conference in the national media centre.
The second round of the year was contested at Symmons Plains, but Le Brocq seldom looked a threat on the two long drag strips, with a long-overdue engine rebuild later in the season providing him with a boost on some of the faster circuits.
“All the way through Formula Ford, even when I did Formula 3 there, Symmons was never really a happy place for me,” said Le Brocq.
“It wasn’t until the Supercar round there a couple of years ago that things really clicked.”
Round three was at Phillip Island, where he was a race winner back in 2011.
After leading much of the Saturday race, had to settle for third, albeit only 0.5sec off the winner Hart in a classic drag race to the finish.
A wet Sunday morning race saw Le Brocq have to work his way back through the field, claiming the lead on the penultimate circuit, and setting the fastest lap of the race,
“I love the wet conditions, it hasn’t been too good for me over the last couple of years for whatever reason, but in DVS, Formula Ford, everything else, the rain hasn’t been a problem,” said Le Brocq
“I had my first DVS win in the Nissan in the wet, and some pretty good results. There was a wet race at Bathurst in 2012 that we won as well.
“I don’t know what the secret is… you just have to be smooth, I think the general driving style from the Formula Ford back then suited me quite well in damp conditions.”
The Phillip Island finale meanwhile saw the number 49 machine lead all the way to win by five seconds.
The Championship then headed north to Townsville, where on a weekend of big carnage, Le Brocq steered clear of the slew of broken canoes, taking a clean sweep of the wins.
Hart hit back at Queensland Raceway with his own clean sweep, with Le Brocq in the thick of the action, and never off the podium from the three races.
Although Le Brocq scored pole and the race two win, Jacobson hit back with two successes of his own, and the ultimate round victory at Sandown.
The championship then aimed up the Hume Highway to Mount Panorama for the 50th anniversary Bathurst 1000 event, racing in front of a massive crowd trackside.
Significantly, it was also the only time that Duratec powered Formula Fords raced at Bathurst, with Le Brocq taking a clean sweep, including the sodden race two.
The weekend was unfortunately punctuated by a massive shunt in Friday qualifying, with Shae Davies crashing at McPhillamy Park, before coming to rest on the racing line just beyond the blind corner exit.
Jacobson collected the stranded car at full pace, while Anton de Pasquale miraculously dodged the carnage.
Both drivers were on the way to the hospital, with Jacobson out for the season with a broken arm, handing the title to Le Brocq a round early, which as it transpires, was fortuitous.
“Winton was a shocker for us, I drove an Aussie Racing Car the week before on the Gold Coast, and I picked up a heap of bad habits from that,” mused Le Brocq.
Still, second place with the fastest lap was a fitting end to the Formula Ford chapter of his career.