Racing school founder and single seater racer Jim Russell dies

Racing school founder and successful single seater racer Jim Russell has died, aged 98

Racing school founder and single seater racer Jim Russell dies

After serving in the RAF and then creating a garage business with his brother Peter, Russell came to motor racing after visiting a meeting at his local track, Snetterton.

At the age of 32, he decided that he wanted to take part, and so bought a Cooper MkVI with a JAP engine for the 1952 season. His competitiveness improved when he fitted a Manx Norton engine into the chassis and wins started to come by August 1953.

Russell claimed three 500cc BRSCC National Formula 3 titles between 1955-1957.He won 64 F3 races throughout his driving career, 11 Formula 2 events and six sportscar races.

But his driving career was halted by a serious crash at Le Mans in 1959. During the night, Brian Naylor had rolled his Aston Martin at Maison Blanche. Although Naylor escaped, Russell's Cooper Monaco struck the abandoned car and he was left with broken legs and ribs, plus minor burns.

He did return to the cockpit briefly in 1961, but then decided to hang up his gloves.

In 1966, Russell was one of the leading players behind the action sequences of the John Frankenheimer's film Grand Prix. He was responsible for dressing up Formula Junior cars as F1 machines and had a hand in teaching the leading stars including James Garner to handle racing cars.

Russell created the Jim Russell Racing School at Snetterton in 1956 and it was a huge success, playing a role in the formative years of drivers such as Emerson Fittipaldi, Derek Bell and Tiff Needell.

The school has expanded and has several franchises throughout the USA and Canada, and it also had ventures at Silverstone and Donington Park.

Russell was also instrumental in the success of dominant Formula Ford chassis manufacturer Van Diemen.

Van Diemen founder, and Russell's brother-in-law, Ralph Firman initially worked for the school as a mechanic, and it later became a regular customer of the Van Diemen products with its factory based at Snetterton's gates.

"Jim was a brilliant boss to have, and he was full of life and laughs," Firman told Autosport. "He like to have fun. He was just superb at spotting talented drivers, and he must have launched 1000 racing careers over his time.

"He was an innovator too: he was the first one to run his own racing series. That was a fantastic idea, because you could have 20 or so cars and run at least 100 drivers in a bunch of races throughout the week. It was a brilliant idea.

"He was very good to me as a boss, and then when I started my Van Diemen firm. But the way he dealt with me made me feel like he was never doing me a favour, he was just doing a straight business deal. That was a great way to handle it.

"He bought a bunch of cars from me in 1973 and then again in '77, and that really helped me put the business on a firm footing."

To help promote the careers of some of his school's leading pupils, Jim Russell formed an F3 and F2 team. It had an involvement in junior single seater racing through to the end of the 1990s in Formula Vauxhall Junior.

shares
comments
WTCR star Rob Huff launches own team for TCR UK campaign
Previous article

WTCR star Rob Huff launches own team for TCR UK campaign

Next article

TCR UK merged into series for older touring cars for its second season

TCR UK merged into series for older touring cars for its second season
How Lotus emerged as a period Goodwood force Plus

How Lotus emerged as a period Goodwood force

Colin Chapman’s marque was the most successful across Goodwood’s 71 contemporary era Members’ Meetings, from 1949 to 1966. Many of the future Formula 1 pacesetter's finest creations will be in action during this weekend's 2022 event, attempting to re-live an era when period Lotus was gaining unstoppable momentum

Historics
Apr 8, 2022
How to get the best out of amateur racers Plus

How to get the best out of amateur racers

Pro-Am GT racing is booming. But how should drivers approach working with an amateur? Autosport sought out a panel of experts to explain the pitfalls amateur drivers should avoid and how professionals can help them to achieve their goals

GT
Apr 3, 2022
How Radical revamped its record-breaking flagship model Plus

How Radical revamped its record-breaking flagship model

Just over a year ago, Autosport sampled Radical’s newest offering: the SR10. Now upgraded, it’s clear to see why it’s become the manufacturer’s fastest-selling model

National
Jan 16, 2022
The second-generation Can-Am racers that took the UK by storm Plus

The second-generation Can-Am racers that took the UK by storm

When Thundersports was introduced in 1983, few could have predicted that it would bring an army of heavy metal from the United States to British circuits. The awe-inspiring former Can-Am racers became a new domestic flagship category that captivated spectators and drivers alike

National
Jan 14, 2022
The father and son team taking GT racing by storm Plus

The father and son team taking GT racing by storm

GT Cup title winners Richard and Sam Neary emerged as a race-winning force in British GT in 2021. The father-and-son pairing have done it the hard way with their family team – and 19-year-old Sam is only just getting started on a career he hopes will lead to factory opportunities in the near future

National
Jan 9, 2022
Track testing an outgoing stalwart of British motorsport Plus

Track testing an outgoing stalwart of British motorsport

The current GB3 Championship car is due to be replaced next season. Autosport got behind the wheel to discover why it's been a popular machine for drivers making their way up the junior single-seater ladder

National
Dec 15, 2021
Inside the lightweight Czech sportscar making its mark on the UK Plus

Inside the lightweight Czech sportscar making its mark on the UK

Ahead of Praga running its own standalone series in partnership with Britcar, Autosport got behind the wheel of the Czech company’s R1 at Donington – and was left very impressed

National
Dec 5, 2021
How rocket O'Sullivan banished painful memories with GB3 glory Plus

How rocket O'Sullivan banished painful memories with GB3 glory

After missing out on the 2020 British F4 title in astonishing fashion, Zak O'Sullivan was determined to earn his first car racing title stepping up to the BRDC British F3 championship. While the series underwent a mid-year name change to GB3, the Carlin driver was imperious throughout and deservedly claimed the title in his rookie year

National
Dec 1, 2021