First champion Jack Sears dies aged 86

Jack Sears, the inaugural champion of the British Saloon Car Championship, has died. He was 86.

Jack Sears (centre) is presented with the 1958 BSCC trophy.

Known as "Gentleman Jack", he raced in the BSCC, precursor to the British Touring Car Championship, for six seasons between 1958 and 1963.

In 1958, driving an Austin Westminster, he ended the season level on points with Tommy Sopwith. The title was decided in Sears' favour after a two-legged shoot-out at Brands Hatch at the end of the year.

  • Video: The 1958 title was decided by a shoot-out at Brands Hatch.

He was a class winner in a Jaguar in 1962, before winning the overall title for a second time the following year.

He also competed in the Le Mans 24 hours, finishing fifth in a Ferrari in 1963.

He retired from motor racing two years later after an accident in testing at Silverstone, and concentrated his energy on the family farm in Norfolk.

Jack Sears, pictured at the 2014 TOCA Night of Champions Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

The BTCC launched the Jack Sears Trophy in 2013 in recognition of his unique achievement. This year it will be presented to the highest-scoring rookie driver in the championship.

Dave Newsham, who won the trophy in 2014 was among the first to pay tribute to Jack:

BTCC Series Director Alan Gow said "It is with great regret and genuine sadness to learn of Jack's death.

"I really liked Jack a lot - not only as an extremely talented and inspirational racing driver, but more importantly as a hugely popular, humble and impressive human being.

"Jack loved this championship and continued to play an active part in the BTCC right up until his passing.

"He will be sorely missed by everyone involved in the BTCC, but our immediate thoughts are with his family and closest friends at this time."

A minute's silence will be held ahead of the next round of the championship, at Knockhill next weekend.

Jack's son David continued the motor sport tradition of the family, initially a driver and then setting up his own team and managing other drivers.