Australian Sir Jack Brabham, who won three Formula One world titles and is the only man to have won the championship driving a car bearing his name, died at the age of 88.

A fierce competitor, brilliant engineer and astute businessman, Brabham claimed the Formula One titles in 1959 and 1960 for Cooper Racing before going on to win a third in 1966 for the Brabham marque.

He lived an incredible life, achieving more than anyone would ever dream of and he will continue to live on through the astounding legacy he leaves behind.

David Brabham, youngest son of Sir Jack

He died at his home on Australia's Gold Coast.

"It's a very sad day for all of us," his youngest son David, who also raced in Formula One, said in a statement.

"My father passed away peacefully at home at the age of 88 this morning. He lived an incredible life, achieving more than anyone would ever dream of and he will continue to live on through the astounding legacy he leaves behind."

Described by 1980 world champion Alan Jones as "inspirational" to the Australian drivers that followed the trail he blazed, Brabham was also the subject of a tribute from his country's Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

"Australia has lost a legend," Abbott said in statement. "With his pioneering spirit, Sir Jack Brabham personified many great Australian characteristics."

A former Royal Australian Air Force mechanic, Brabham began racing midget cars on cinder tracks in Australia in 1948 before moving to Britain to pursue his career in Formula One in the mid 1950s.

Brabham became the first Australian to win the Formula One title in 1959, famously pushing his car uphill to the finishing line to seal the triumph after running out of fuel on the final lap at the US Grand Prix at Sebring.

After his second triumph for Cooper, Brabham set up a company with friend and fellow Australian Ron Tauranac to design and build their own cars, one of which he drove to the Formula One title in 1966 at the age of 40.

"On track he was always the toughest of tough competitors, tough sometimes to the point at which I'd wonder how could such a nice bloke out of a car grow such horns and a tail inside one," his British rival Stirling Moss recalled.

Brabham's impressive record

In total, Brabham raced in 126 grands prix, taking pole position 13 times and winning 14 races and was knighted for services to motor sport in 1979.

After retirement, Brabham sold his his team to Bernie Ecclestone, the Briton who would go on to run the sport, and returned to Australia.

His sons Geoff, Gary, and David later forged their own careers in motorsport, while the Brabham team name remained in Formula One until the early 1990s.

Source: Reuters