BTCC Legends Jack Sears and Jason Plato take to the track at Silverstone
Silverstone Circuit has today (Wednesday 6 August) made a wish come true for two legends of British motor sport. Inaugural British Touring Car Champion Jack Sears, who won the first ever driver's title in 1958, and 2001 Champion and current BTCC driver Jason Plato swapped saloon cars from their respective eras as part of a unique celebration to mark the 50th, 60th and 80th anniversaries of the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), Silverstone Circuit and British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) respectively.
1958 British Saloon Car Champion (as the series was formerly known), Jack Sears, and current SEAT Sport UK driver Jason Plato, were given the opportunity to take to the famous Silverstone track after expressing a wish to drive a car from each others respective eras when they met at the circuit back in June. Both drivers were invited to the Home of British Motor Racing to jump behind the wheels of an Austin Westminster A105 - the car Jack Sears drove during the 1958 season - and a 2008 SEAT Leon Cupra SCC.
Speaking after his experience behind the wheel of the SEAT Leon Cupra, Jack Sears said, "Today has been fantastic - we've had an absolute ball. Jason drove the SEAT for the first three laps and showed me how it's done, and how he wins races in today's championship. These young guys really can drive, but I loved being given the opportunity to drive the SEAT myself.
"Driving on slick tyres was a new experience for me and I was surprised by just how fast you can go through the corners. It is a lot quicker and you can really feel the g-forces at times. You can see why the drivers are strapped in so tightly. In my day we raced on a bench seat and half the battle was to stop yourself sliding from side to side. We didn't have seat belts or roll cages either, but the racing was great fun.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience today - I still love to drive and I've always loved racing here at Silverstone. It was wonderful to have the chance to drive my 105 again. I last raced this car in 1958, wearing just trousers, a sports shirt and tie. I tucked the tie into my shirt to make sure it didn't get caught up in the wheel - we didn't have anything like race overalls."
Jason Plato was equally thrilled to drive the Austin Westminster A105 with Jack. The SEAT Sport UK driver joked, "I would love to race in a sports jacket and tie, but I think I would get fined if I turned up for a race like that!
"I've loved it today. It is a special experience driving such an iconic car alongside a Touring Car legend like Jack. The great thing about today is that Jack and the 105 have been reunited, and the two are back out on the Silverstone track where they belong. It was great fun driving the 105, which was a serious bit of kit in its day - and you can't beat that smell of old wood and leather.
"Jack was great behind the wheel of the SEAT. I hope I have the same passion and thirst for motor sport when I'm his age. Motor racing is in our blood - it's a passion. The BTCC has been one of the most iconic saloon car series in the world and it has come along way in fifty years. It was interesting to drive both cars and see just how far the technology has come."
Speaking ahead of Silverstone's round of the HiQ MSA British Touring Car Championship, on 30-31 August, Plato added, "We will be back at Silverstone for the penultimate round at the end of August and it's going to be a great day. It's an event the drivers look forward to and always produces exciting racing. "
Silverstone is now looking forward to the BTCC's return to the Home of British Motor Racing on Sunday 31 August, when some of the greatest touring car legends and their competition saloon cars will be reunited to mark the three anniversaries. Both current and former BTCC drivers will be available to meet with fans and sign autographs throughout race day, while a range of winning BTCC competition cars, spanning the five decades of the series, will also be on display next to the open paddock.