A friendship quickly mushroomed to the point where Ecclestone managed Rindt’s interests, advising him to leave Cooper (then in the final throws of greatness) and join Brabham for 1968; and 12 months later, from Brabham to Lotus where, in Ecclestone’s opinion, the cars were fragile but fast enough to win the title.
The prophecy would prove correct on both counts, Rindt becoming the first and only posthumous world champion after being killed during practice for the 1970 Italian Grand Prix.
Having sworn never to get close to a driver following the loss of Lewis-Evans, a distraught Ecclestone felt even more responsible for the death of someone with whom he had created an almost brotherly bond. And yet the lure of racing would somehow prove irresistible despite its larcenous nature during a period when fatalities were commonplace. Within a year, Ecclestone was beginning negotiations for the purchase of Brabham.
Jack Brabham, the team’s founder, had retired, leaving the company in the hands of his partner, Ron Tauranac. Being a studious designer rather than an astute businessman, Tauranac had no wish to run the show and accepted Ecclestone’s advances based on Tauranac’s reasonable assumption that the asset value was worth £130,000. When it came to signing the contract, Ecclestone calmly offered £100,000 on the understanding that Tauranac could walk away from the deal if he wished. It was perfectly legitimate. Tauranac reluctantly signed – as Ecclestone correctly if coldly assumed he would.