Jim Russell: 1920-2019

by Graham Keilloh on 3rd April 2019

The founder of the famous racing school, and three-time Formula 3 champion, has passed away aged 98

Jim Russell and Bruce McLaren in the 1959 Le Mans in a Cooper T49 Monaco

Motor Sport is very sad to learn of the passing of Jim Russell, at the age of 98.

Russell is best known for setting up his famous International Racing Drivers' School at Snetterton in 1956. In 1969 he opened a similar school in Canada, at Circuit Mont-Tremblant, and that still thrives today.

The schools have used state-of-the-art machinery and believe they have developed more successful drivers and world champions than any rival.

Graduates include Emerson Fittipaldi, Derek Bell, Gilles Villeneuve, Danny Sullivan, Jimmy Vasser, Jacques Villeneuve, Jenson Button and Greg Moore, as well as more recent pupil Racing Point Formula 1 driver Lance Stroll.


More: 50 years on – Frankenheimer's Grand Prix


Jim Russell's school was also instrumental in the famous 1966 John Frankenheimer film Grand Prix, coaching the actors who were playing driving roles as well as overseeing the construction of replica Formula 1 cars based around junior single-seater machines, for the film's racing scenes.

Russell also had considerable success as a driver. Having served with the RAF as well as being a garage owner, he turned to driving relatively late at the age of 32, when a friend invited him to attend his local circuit at Snetterton. Russell quickly made plans to race himself.

Jim Russell Racing School Lola 2009

He went on to become one of the finest 500cc British Formula 3 exponents and won three championships in a row between 1955 and '57, as well as several Formula 2 and sports car races. He raced and often beat contemporaries such as his best friend Ivor Bueb, as well as Stuart Lewis-Evans.

Russell's racing career effectively ended after injuries sustained in an accident in a Cooper T49 Monaco at Le Mans in 1959, though he did return briefly to the cockpit in 1961 with some success.

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