So he was – and it was sensational! He caught Jackie Stewart leading in John Coombs’s famous Jaguar E-Type ‘4 WPD’, and ripped past him to win. He had hurtled from last to first in one of the most sensational races ever run on British soil. We all stepped back, mouths agape – this was a side of ‘Gentleman Jack’ we had neither seen before, nor really suspected. Sears the Tiger had emerged, red in tooth and claw…
In the Willment Cobra Coupe he finished 5th in the South African Kyalami 9-Hours and for 1965 was signed-up to the works Lotus-Cortina Ford team in parallel with a works Cobra Daytona Coupe drive in the FIA GT World Championship, the cars run by Alan Mann. With Dr Dick Thompson Jack finished eighth at Le Mans, and with Sir John Whitmore second in class in the Reims 12-Hours.
But in mid-season Jack was given a drive in the works Lotus-Ford 30 Group 7 sports-racing car, and that September saw him testing the 5.3-litre V8-engined Lotus 40 variant at Silverstone when the unstable, vicious car got away from him and crashed violently, rolling over him, nearly severing his left arm, cracking several vertebra and inflicting burns and scalds.
It was the end of ‘Gentleman Jack’s serious racing career, but he would serve motor sport most nobly for many more years as a Director and then President of the British Racing Drivers’ Club. His own personal car collection had grown to add a Ferrari 250GTO to the many early veteran and fine vintage cars that father Stanley had collected.
At last year’s Revival Meeting I drove Jack and his former Cobra Daytona team-mate Allen Grant – and Allen’s wife Dixie – around through that weekend. Jack had been hoping to drive one of the Coupes in their high-speed demonstration, but RAC regulations being what they are it proved impossible since he would have had to wear approved crash-hat, multi-layer romper suit, gloves and goodness knows what else and “Quite frankly Doug – I just can’t be bothered with all that…”. He was really down, but after a quick discussion the alternative emerged of him driving Paul Vestey’s Willment Cobra roadster – the 1964 Brands Hatch heroine in effect – to lead the formation lap of the TT Celebration race. He wouldn’t need a romper suit for that, and in the assembly area he carefully removed his superbly-cut sports jacket, painstakingly folded it – as a gentleman naturally would do – and placed it safely in the Cobra’s boot. Then he drove out for what proved to be his last public hurrah – and we loved him for it, and from his post-drive reaction I am pretty sure he also really appreciated those sadly fleeting few minutes.
The previous evening I had driven him and Allen and Dixie Grant back into Chichester through the traffic. There was much chatter, and reminiscence and laughter. And then suddenly Jack was jabbing a finger towards the windscreen and barking at me “There Doug – he’s left a space – Go For It!”. Then he remembered himself, and added “…dear boy”.
Racers you see. Real racers. They do grow old…but, God bless them, they seldom grow out of it…
‘Gentleman Jack’s son David Sears became very prominent as driver and team director in his own right, of course, and today - to Jack’s entire family, and to his many friends - we offer our most sincere condolences for their loss. Remember the good times. In so many ways Jack Sears represented the very best in British motor racing… We will remember him with deep affection, and respect.