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Snetterton Circuit
Norfolk NR16 2JU

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Monday, August 08 2016

MSV Chief Executive, Jonathan Palmer has paid tribute to racing legend Jack Sears, who died at the age of 86 last weekend.

Jack will forever be remembered as the British Saloon Car Championship's (now BTCC) inaugural champion. He won the 1958 title at Brands Hatch, but only after a shootout with rival Tommy Sopwith, with whom he was tied on points. An initial attempt to settle the matter with a coin toss was hastily dismissed by both competitors, and they duelled for the title in a pair of Riley 1.5s, Sears winning by just 1.6 seconds.

Known for his polite manners and smart style, 'Gentleman Jack' won the title again in 1963, competing in a Ford Cortina GT, Galaxie and the brand new Lotus Cortina that season. In doing so he headed a championship top six that included Sir John Whitmore, Graham Hill, Roy Salvadori and Paddy Hopkirk.

Sears didn't just excel in saloon cars; he was an accomplished GT driver, and his victories included the final Autosport 3 Hours at Snetterton in 1964 on board a John Willment-built AC Cobra. It was in a factory Cobra Coupé that year when he was said to have exceeded 180mph on the then derestricted M1. It has often been cited as the catalyst for the 70mph speed limit, however this has subsequently proven to be wide of the mark.

Sears retired from competition in 1965, but kept close links with Snetterton, often attending the Norfolk circuit's round of the BTCC, which holds a rookie championship in his name. In 2011 he formally opened the new 300 circuit with Alex Brundle. Jack's son David was also a successful driver, and through his Super Nova team and management career has helped many drivers graduate to Formula 1.

Jonathan Palmer, Chief Executive of MSV, said: "Jack Sears made a huge contribution to British motorsport and it was a privilege to have known him quite well. Jack was clearly an exceptional racing driver but what made him particularly stand out was his impeccable courtesy and good manners - something very special in the cut throat world of sporting competition. He was an exemplary role model to all who knew him."