PASSINGS: Jack Brabham, Radu Florescu

Australian race-car driver Jack Brabham dies at 88; he won Formula One titles in 1959, '60 and '66

Jack Brabham, 88, the three-time Formula One champion who famously pushed his car to the finish line to claim his first season title, died Monday at his home on Australia's Gold Coast. His family announced his death but did not state the cause.

The Australian driver — known as Sir Jack in racing paddocks around the world after he was knighted in 1979 — won world titles in 1959 and 1960 and became the only F1 driver to win a world championship in a car of his own construction — the rear-engined BT19 — which he drove to the title in 1966.

The following year, the Brabham team won its second successive world championship when New Zealander Denny Hulme drove the BT20 to victory. Brabham won his final Grand Prix race in South Africa in 1970 before retiring from F1 at age 44.

Brabham continued to compete at different venues after his F1 retirement, and his three sons, Geoff, Gary and David, also had professional racing careers. Two of his grandsons, Matthew and Sam, are racing in the U.S. and Britain.

Sebring International Raceway in Florida was the venue where Brabham wrapped up his first Formula 1 championship Dec. 12, 1959, pushing his Cooper-Climax T51 across the finish line for a fourth-place finish.

"I was leading the race right up to the last 500 yards and the car ran out of petrol," Brabham said in a 2009 interview. "I coasted to about 50 yards away and I pushed the car over the line. If I would have received any assistance I would have been disqualified. I managed to finish fourth, which was enough to win the championship."

In addition to his three world titles and 126 races from 1955 to 1970, Brabham won the constructors' championship in 1966 and 1967. He had 14 Grand Prix wins and 31 podium finishes.

Born on April 2, 1926, in the southern Sydney suburb of Hurstville, John Arthur Brabham grew up driving and maintaining his father's fruit and vegetable delivery vehicles. After a brief career in engineering, he joined the Australian air force as a flight mechanic and later set up his own engineering works in Sydney and became a pilot before turning to auto racing.

Radu Florescu

Historian co-wrote 'In Search of Dracula'

Radu Florescu, 88, a Romanian-born historian, professor and philanthropist who intrigued American popular culture by co-writing a book linking the fictional Count Dracula to the 15th-century Romanian prince Vlad the Impaler, died Sunday in Mougins, France, from complications connected to pneumonia, his son John said.

Florescu wrote a dozen books but was most famous for "In Search of Dracula," which he coauthored with Raymond T. McNally. The 1972 work asserted that Irish author Bram Stoker based the Dracula character in his 1897 novel on Vlad the Impaler. It was translated into 15 languages, and the pair went on to write five more books on Dracula.

"No American has educated more Americans about Romania — and Dracula — than Professor Florescu. I was lucky to be one of his grateful students," said Jim Rosapepe, a former U.S. ambassador to Romania.

His son said Florescu was the director of the East European Research Center at Boston College, which he founded, from 1986 to 2008. In recent years, he provided scholarships for gifted Romanian students to study in the Boston area.

Born in Bucharest in 1925, Florescu left Romania on the Orient Express when he was 13 — just as World War II broke out — and traveled to Britain, where his father was acting ambassador. His father, also named Radu Florescu, resigned the post when pro-Hitler leader Marshal Ion Antonescu rose to power in Romania.

The younger Florescu won a scholarship to study at Oxford University, where he was taught by William Deakin, Winston Churchill's biographer. Florescu later moved to America, ending up in Boston.

Florescu urged Romanians to embrace their newfound freedoms after communist rule ended in 1989. He received honors from former Romanian presidents Ion Iliescu and Emil Constantinescu for his contributions to Romanian society.

— Times wire reports

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