Jack Sears, the first person to win the British Saloon Car Championship, has died at the age of 86.
Sears scooped the 1958 title in the championship’s inaugural year following a season-long battle with Tommy Sopwith in which both racers finished level on points. The championship was decided by two five-lap head-to-head races in identical Riley 1.5s, with Sears winning by 1.6 seconds after battling treacherous conditions.
His second championship came in 1963, this time with the help of a thunderous seven-litre Ford Galaxie, effectively ending Jaguar’s dominance of the over 3-litre class.
Sears’ interest in cars and motor racing began at an early age, his passion a reflection of his father Stanley’s. He first turned a wheel in anger at Veteran Car Club rallies in 1950, later making his race debut in an MG TC at Goodwood. He went on to campaign his father’s 1914 TT Sunbeam with some success.
As well as capturing two touring car titles, Sears also excelled in GT racing. He made his Le Mans debut in 1960 at the helm of a works Austin-Healey, and went on to finish fifth while driving for Maranello Concessionaires alongside Mike Salmon in 1963 – his best result at La Sarthe. The following year he famously reached 185mph on the M1 motorway while testing an AC Cobra Coupe ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
His final season in racing was marked by highs and lows. He won the Nürburging 6 Hours behind the wheel of a works Lotus Cortina, then suffered an horrific accident while testing a Lotus 40 at Silverstone, after which he retired from competition.
Though retired, ‘Gentleman Jack’ was never far from the action. He passed on his love of racing to his son, David, who bettered his father’s record by finishing third at Le Mans in 1990, while sharing a Porsche 962 with Tiff Needell and Anthony Reid.