BTCC Crazy

BTCC Greats - Jack Sears

BTCC Crazy drives down memory lane to look back on the career of another BTCC Great. This week’s edition features the first ever champion of the series who was crowned in 1958, Jack Sears.

The inaugural British Saloon Car Championship (BTCC as we now know it) was launched in 1958 with it being open to four separate classes, up to 1200cc, 1201-1600cc, 1601-2700cc and 2701cc and above. This meant that there would be equal championship points awarded to each class meaning that anyone could win the series without even winning a race. The first official race of the series was held on Boxing Day of 1957, with the final event on October 5th 1958 at Brand Hatch.

At the wheel of his Austin Westminster, Sears competed in class C and by the end of the year found himself tied on points with class D leader Tommy Sopwith. The organisers had said that if this had been the case then the destiny of the title would be settled with the toss of a coin, however the drivers were not prepared for that to happen.

A decision was taken to run the last round at Brands Hatch and run a five lap shootout. Two identical looking Marcus Chambers-owned Riley One-Point-Five works rally cars were brought along for the shoot-out. To make it fair, both Sears and Sopwith would race five laps, then swap cars and race another five laps. Their times would be combined to see who was fastest and be crowned champion.

The track that day was a soaking wet one and it allowed Sopwith to draw first blood as he won by 2.2 seconds. However in race two once they had swapped vehicles, Sears took a commanding victory of 3.8 seconds to win the first ever championship by 1.6 seconds.

Racing in the early days of the BTCC was a far cry from what we all experience in the 21st century. Sears drove a car that he used on a daily basis and once described as car his wife took down to the shops and when she returned he took it off to a race meeting. Safety was considered but not like it is in the modern era. Sears, known as ‘Gentleman Jack’, was seen as fearless along with the other drivers as they set after the love of motorsport.

After clinching his first title in 1958, Sears moved to driving Jaguars in four continuous years, three of them being in a Jaguar Mark Two. The year of 1962 saw Sears win his class but missed out on the overall championship, having to settle for third place instead.

The following year in 1963 would be the second crown in his career. Sears this time throughout the season competed in two different classes from time to time and also drove three different cars. The cars he drove were a Ford Cortina GT, Ford Galaxie and a Ford Cortina Lotus. What made Sears second title special was the competition that he was against within his own class. The year of 1963 saw Jack Brabham in the series as well as Formula One legends Graham Hill and Jim Clark grace the touring car scene and deliver high octane action. In the end it was Sears who captured his second title by two points of John Whitmore and in 1965, Sear retired from the world of motorsport after 15 years behind the wheel of some of the greatest machinery.

The 2013 season see’s the championship head into its 55th year of existence and Sears will once again be part of it as a new chapter will be wrote in the history books. With the new era of NGTC (New Generation Touring Car) now in full flow and adding up to most of the grid, there are still a few drivers who have opted to run S2000 machinery for the coming season.

Series director Alan Gow thus took the decision to allow S2000 cars to compete meaning a new championship would be up for grabs. The former double champion was therefore honoured by having the brand new contest in 2013 named after him. So far there are at least six confirmed drivers for the ‘Jack Sears Trophy’ with more expected to be announced before lights out at race one.

Sears will be in attendance at many rounds this season (2013) and the winner of the coveted trophy will receive it from the man himself at the final round in October which takes place at Brands Hatch GP.

In next week’s edition of BTCC Greats, we look back on the career of the flamboyant Frenchman who clinched one BTCC title and now has dominated the world stage of touring cars, Yvan Muller.

Article originally written on Tuesday, 19 March 2013. Read more articles from the BTCC Crazy Archive.