Watch: Racing drivers train to become World Champions at Snetterton in this video from 1959

Screenshot from Racing Drivers School (1959). Photo: British Pathe

Screenshot from Racing Drivers School (1959). Photo: British Pathe - Credit: Archant

A video uploaded to YouTube by British Pathé shows footage of a group of men discovering what it took to become a World Champion racing driver in the late 1950s.

Screenshot from Racing Drivers School (1959). Photo: British Pathe

Screenshot from Racing Drivers School (1959). Photo: British Pathe - Credit: Archant

Today a one pound coin won't buy you very much, but in 1959, just a little over a pound a week was enough to pay for tuition at the very first Racing Driver School at Snetterton Circuit.

The school was founded in 1957 by champion driver Jim Russell and was intended to bring 'the thrills of high speed competition driving, often a wealthy man's sport, to within the reach of everyone'.

Screenshot from Racing Drivers School (1959). Photo: British Pathe

Screenshot from Racing Drivers School (1959). Photo: British Pathe - Credit: Archant

The aspiring racing drivers would attend a full day of learning, once a month for a year and their weekly fees would cover the cost of instruction, use of cars, plus fuel and running costs.

Pupils were given cockpit drills and taught how to manage corners, skidding and speed, with the majority of students setting their sights on a place in the World Championship, though the narrator informs us that some simply wished to improve their everyday driving techniques.


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'All too common gaffs like breaking in a corner, instead of before and then accelerating through it, are brought to light and corrected,' he says. 'The knowledge that one is capable of handling a car correctly at high speed, plus the driving discipline instilled at the school, gives added confidence to a driver motoring comfortably on the open road.'

The final stages of training at the school involved racing practice. The successful pupils who had passed the course, which was roughly 70pc of the group, were allowed to enter club events where their performances were watched by RAC officials.

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After six approved tests, they could then enter international events, using school sponsored cars. At the time, the Jim Russell Racing Driver School was the only place in the world where these type of cars were allowed to be entered into an actual race.

The success of the driving school later led Russell to enter promising students into Formula 3 races, one such student was Brazilian driver Emerson Fittipaldi, who subsequently won nine F3 races and went on to become the 1969 MCD Lombard Champion. Today Fittipaldi is best known for winning both the Formula One World Championship and the Indianapolis 500 twice each, as well as the CART Championship once.

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