Frank Williams - That last great independant

Do you want to post a tribute about your favourite retired drivers, perhaps you want to discuss the rantings of the MIT (men in tweed). They thought they were safer when they retired, perhaps not mumblers!! How about a tribute to those that are not drivers but still in the game?

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Frank Williams - That last great independant

Postby St. Mackem of Kansas » Mon 01 Jan, 2007 8:56 pm

Frank Williams

Francis Owen Garbatt Williams CBE (b. April 16, 1942) is founder and manager of the WilliamsF1 Formula One racing team.

Born in Jarrow, County Durham, England, to an RAF officer and a special education teacher and later headmaster, Williams was largely brought up by his maternal aunt and uncle in Jarrow when his parents' marriage broke down. He subsequently spent much of his later childhood at a boarding school, St Joseph's College, Dumfries, in Scotland. In the late 1950s a friend gave Williams a ride in his Jaguar XK150 and Williams was immediately hooked.

After a brief career as a driver and mechanic, funded by his work as a traveling grocery salesman, Williams founded Frank Williams Racing Cars in 1966. He ran drivers Piers Courage, Richard Burton, Tetsu Ikuzawa and Tony Trimmer for several years in Formula Two and Formula Three. Williams purchased an old Brabham Formula One chassis which Courage drove in several F1 events, coming in second place twice.

In 1970 Williams undertook a brief partnership with Alessandro de Tomaso. After the death of Courage at the Dutch Grand Prix that year, Williams' relationship with de Tomaso was ended. In 1971 he raced Henri Pescarolo in a chassis he had purchased from March Engineering. 1972 saw the first F1 car built by the Williams works, the Politoys FX3 designed by Len Bailey, but Pescarolo crashed and destroyed it at its first race.

Williams, short on cash (he conducted team business from a telephone box at one point after being disconnected for unpaid bills), looked to Marlboro and Iso, an Italian car company, for sponsorship. Though they pledged their support, they did not come through in time and in 1976 Williams desperately took on a partner, oil magnate Walter Wolf. Though the team continued functioning, it no longer belonged to Frank Williams, so he left in 1977 along with one of his old employees, engineer Patrick Head. The two acquired an empty carpet warehouse in Didcot, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom and announced the formation of Williams Grand Prix Engineering. This same team and partnership still competes in Formula One and is known as WilliamsF1. Their first win came in 1979 from Clay Regazzoni, the first title in 1980 with Alan Jones, and a second championship in 1982 with Keke Rosberg.

A car accident in March 1986 in France left him paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. While driving a rental car from the Paul Ricard Circuit to the Nice airport Williams lost control and the car rolled over causing Williams, who may not have been wearing a seatbelt, to crash into the roof causing a spinal fracture. Peter Windsor, Williams' passenger, sustained only minor injuries.

In 1987 the Queen awarded Williams the title of CBE. He was knighted in 1999. He is also one of the few non-Frenchmen to have been made a Chevalier of France's Legion d'honneur, this honour accorded for his work with Renault engines.

In May 1994, following the death of Ayrton Senna da Silva in a Williams at Imola, he was charged with manslaughter in accordance with Italian law, but was cleared after several years.

At the moment Frank Williams' son Jonathan is currently working for GP2 team iSport International helping young drivers start their careers.


The son of a Royal Air Force officer, Williams grew up passionate about motor racing and began racing his own Austin in 1961, funding his racing activities from his work as a traveling grocery salesman. This led him to meet other young racers including Piers Courage and Jonathan Williams both of whom had rather more money available for racing. In 1963 Frank moved to London and shared a flat in Pinner with them and Charlie Crichton-Stuart. Unable to fund his own career, he became Jonathan Williams's mechanic at Formula Junior races all over Europe. He tried to continue his own career in Formula 3 but at the end of 1966 he decided to retire and concentrate on building up a business selling spare parts and old cars. He established Frank Williams Racing Cars and rented premises in Slough. In October 1967, Williams made his debut as team owner, running Piers Courage in a Brabham BT21 at Brands Hatch. In 1968 he ran Courage in Formula 2, while running an F3 car for Richard Burton and he later ran Tetsu Ikuzawa and Tony Trimmer in F3 with some success.

In 1969 Williams bought an ex-factory Brabham Formula 1 car and entered it in selected races for Courage. The team scored two second places that year while also running cars in F2 and F3.

After this promising start Williams went into partnership with Alessandro de Tomaso in 1970 and ran Courage in a Giampaolo Dallara-designed chassis but Courage crashed at Zandvoort and was killed. Frank kept the team going but the relationship with de Tomaso finished at the end of that year and in 1971 he bought a customer March F1 chassis for Henri Pescarolo. In 1972 he expanded to run a second car for Carlos Pace. In July that year the first Williams-built F1 car appeared, although Pescarolo destroyed the Len Bailey-designed Politoys FX3 on its first outing. For 1973 Williams found backing for two years from Marlboro and the Italian car company Iso, but not all the money arrived and after struggling through the next three seasons he was forced to go into partnership with Austro-Canadian oil magnate Walter Wolf in 1976.

It soon became clear that he had lost control of his old team and in early 1977 Frank and a young engineer he had hired named Patrick Head left Wolf and established Williams Grand Prix Engineering in an old carpet warehouse in Didcot in Oxfordshire. An old March F1 car was acquired and driven by Patrick Neve while plans were made for the team to build its own cars. Thanks to Crichton-Stuart, Williams was able to get backing from Saudia Airlines in 1978 and Head's Williams FW06 was raced by Alan Jones. The team expanded to two cars in 1979 and Head built the new FW07. In July the team's second driver Clay Regazzoni won the team's first GP victory at Silverstone. Jones then won a string of victories and in 1980 took the World Championship title. In 1981 Jones and his team mate Carlos Reutemann fell out over team orders and Reutemann emerged as the team leader although both men were so disenchanted by the end of the season that they quit F1 and Williams had to hire Keke Rosberg and Derek Daly. Rosberg managed to win the 1982 World Championship despite winning only one race and in 1983 the team began a new relationship with Honda which would lead to Constructors' World Championship success in 1986 and 1987, with Nelson Piquet taking the 1987 Drivers' title.

In March 1986, Williams was paralyzed in a road accident near the Paul Ricard racing circuit. He has been confined to a wheelchair ever since.

The Williams-Honda team was dominant in 1986 and 1987 with drivers Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell but in 1988 Honda decided to join McLaren and Williams was left to run Judd engines until a new deal was struck for a supply of Renault V10 engines in 1989. The Williams-Renault partnership was even more successful than the deal with Honda with the team winning World Championships in the early 1990s with Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost. The team suffered a terrible setback in 1994 when Ayrton Senna was killed at Imola but bounced back to continue the winning streak with Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, both of whom became World Champions in 1996 and 1997 respectively.

The Williams operations expanded into touring car racing with Renault in the British Touring Car Championship and when a new long-term relationship began with BMW, the team built the successful BMW sportscar which won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1999.

Success has made Frank Williams a wealthy man but he has also been recognized for his achievements. He was awarded a CBE for his services to motor racing in 1987 and was knighted in January 1999. He is also the holder a rare foreign award of France's Legion d'Honneur for his efforts in cooperation with Renault.
F1 Formula 1 IRL Champ Cars
St. Mackem of Kansas
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Postby John » Wed 03 Jan, 2007 12:10 am

The master of his own destiny.............. :roll:
Rewritten History
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