Gentleman Jack Sears remembered by motorsport community and Norfolk neighbours
- Credit: IAN BURT
Tributes are pouring in for racing legend and Norfolk farmer Jack Sears, who has died aged 86.
The winner of the inaugural British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) rose to fame in the motorsport industry in the '50s and '60s, his versatility earning him a name in racing, rallying and GT driving.
'Gentleman Jack', as he was known for his eloquence and unfailing manners, retired to Norfolk in the 1960s and owned a farm in Ashill, where community leaders say he was a 'good part of village life'.
Born in Northampton in 1930 to a family which owned a successful footwear enterprise, including the Freeman Hardy Willis chain, Sears shared his father Stanley's passion for cars and made his racing debut at Goodwood in 1950.
He went on to win the BTCC twice, in 1958 and 1963, raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours and competed on circuits including the Nurburgring and Silverstone.
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Andrew Kitson, Norfolk-based motorsport artist and historian, was a good friend of Sears and his family and had done several commissioned artworks for him since the 1980s.
'Even after retiring from racing, he was still very active in the community,' Mr Kitson said.
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Sears' motorsport career came to an abrupt end in September 1965, after he was involved in a serious testing accident in a Lotus 40 sports car at Silverstone. His survival was lucky, but after a year-long recovery period he decided to focus on farming at his Wayland home.
The father of three was a trustee of the Ashill Welfare Charity, which gives donations to local residents in need. Ashill Football Club also plays annually for the Jack Sears Cup, which he donated to the club.
Richard Leighton, chairman of Ashill Parish Council, said: 'He was what I would call an old fashioned gentleman. He was very available to help with things in the village.
'He wasn't aloof, when he was out and about he would talk to anybody and everybody. If he met people who were interested in cars he would take the time to chat to them.'
John Newton, NFU Norfolk county advisor, said: 'We are sorry to hear this news. 'Gentleman Jack' was a long-standing NFU member who was well respected, for his achievements on the track and his work within the farming community of Norfolk.'
Jonathan Palmer, chief executive of MSV, which operates Snetterton race circuit, 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.'
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