‘He was enormously talented and could put his hand to anything behing a steering wheel and do well’ - voice of F1 Murray Walker pays tribute to Norfolk racing driver Jack Sears

The launch of the REV project to get Thetford and the A11 corridor on the engineering match.Speakera

The launch of the REV project to get Thetford and the A11 corridor on the engineering match.Speakerand ex racing driver, Jack Sears by a Bio Car.Pictures:SONYA BROWNCopy:For:EDP©Eastern Daily Press 2006 - Credit: Archant

The 'voice of Formula One' has today paid tribute to racing legend and Norfolk farmer Jack Sears.

Mr Sears, who was the winner of the inaugural British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) in 1958, has died aged 86.

'Gentleman Jack', as he was known for his eloquence and unfailing manners, rose to fame in the motorsport industry in the '50s and '60s, his versatility earning him a name in racing, rallying and GT driving.

Former Formula One commentator and national treasure Murray Walker has added to the tributes that have been pourung in for Mr Sears, who retired to Norfolk in the 1960s and owned a farm in Ashill.

He said: 'I know this is going to sound like a cliché but I think of Jack Sears first of all as an absolutely charming, cheerful, friendly, impeccably dressed wonderful manners man who was a Norfolk farmer who also happened to be, in his era, a gigantically successful racing driver at what he did.

'You look at his record and he won the 1958 British Touring Car Championship, which was the first championship to be held for the BTCC, in of all cars an Austin Westminster and won it again in a seven litre Ford Galaxy. He was enormously talented and could put his hand to anything behind a steering wheel and do well and he was one of the prime movers of the British Racing Drivers Club at Silverstone.

'It's a dreadful cliché but it really is true to say that Jack Sears is going to be very, very sadly missed.'

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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.

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.

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.

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.'

Would you like to leave a tribute to Jack Sears? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk