With the secondary championship trophy bearing his name having already been sealed at Rockingham by Lea Wood for 2013, inaugural British Touring Car Championship title winner Jack Sears talks about one of his Silverstone memories in the sport.
Wood wrapped up the Jack Sears Trophy for S2000-specification machines at the recent visit to Rockingham, and 1958 and 1963 champion Sears spoke at the BTCC official media day earlier this year about the current BTCC field, speaking highly of the younger generation of drivers in particular filling the 2013 grid.
“I was thinking”, said Sears, “it is 50 years since I won my second championship in the NASCAR Ford Galaxie owned by the John Willment Racing team. And I thought, ‘What’s going to happen in the next 50 years? And who will be around in 50 years time?’
“It won’t be me, but I hope that one of these young drivers will still be about at the racing.”
Silverstone memories – When the Americans beat the Brits in 1963
Sears recalls a race from his euphoric era that sticks very firmly in his motorsport memory banks, which took place 50 years ago at the circuit at which the BTCC visits this weekend for its penultimate meeting – Silverstone.
Driving a NASCAR-style Ford Galaxie during that season, Sears fought the block-like and over-powered American muscle car to a famous victory at the home of British motorsport that season, beating the might of the UK which came then from the beautiful Jaguar Mkll machines, wheel-hopping Mini Coopers and Ford Cortinas driven by the likes of Formula 1 champions, Graham Hill and Jim Clark.
Sears takes up the story: “John Willment was a motorsport enthusiast who decided to start a motor racing team in 1963. He decided that a Ford Galaxie, prepared to NASCAR standards at North Carolina, could beat the Jaguars and could possibly win the [BTCC] championship.
“So I was asked to driver the car; it didn’t come over until early May and its first race was at Silverstone in a Daily Express International Trophy meeting. In those days it was Thursday practice, Friday practice, Saturday race.
“I got to the circuit on Thursday, and there were no tyres for the car! There were road tyres only, so I persuaded the team to let me go and have a few laps on road tyres just to get a feel of the car, and it was up until about the third lap when the tyre blew as I entered Hangar Straight. I parked up on the grass and had to sit the session out until it was over and they came and collected me.
“I got all kinds of friendly waves from Graham Hill going by me, and everyone I think thought that this Galaxie has been maybe talked up too much. They were specially prepared these Galaxies, they bore no resemblance to the road car at all, like the saloon cars of today.
“I had to make a gentle start because the car did not have a particularly strong clutch, because in America on the ovals, NASCAR always had a rolling start.
“I couldn’t dump the clutch, I couldn’t slip the clutch, I had the let the clutch right back gently and got the power on – all 450bhp of it – so off I went and I was fourth heading into Copse corner at the old, original grand prix circuit of Silverstone.
“I followed them around to Becketts and I found out that I went through Becketts just as quickly as they did, so as we entered Hangar Straight they were strung out in front of me, and I thought: ‘there’s space to go past this lot’. So halfway down the Hangar Straight I went passed the lot of them and thought, when I brake for Stowe (I had drum brakes), I thought that the Jaguars would come storming past me with their 4-wheel discs.
“The next thing was, as we hammered off out of Stowe down to Club, I thought that they would try and get past me under braking there….but they didn’t. Up through Abbey curve which was almost flat and into Woodcote corner – by now I’d got a lead of about 150yrds, which increased a little bit each lap.
“It got to the point where, after about the third lap, I’d only changed down to third – with the four-speed manual box on the floor – for Becketts only, everything else I took in top. I thought I had a comfortable lead so I stayed in fourth for the rest of the race and won it. Everybody said ‘oh fantastic, Silverstone is really perfect for the Galaxie!’”
It proved a memorable race and indeed a memorable season for Sears, who claimed his second and last BTCC title with the Galaxie before handing the car over to Formula 1 legend Clark at Brands Hatch, ironically the man who would acquire his title next season in Colin Chapman‘s enviable Lotus Cortina.