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WilliamsF1 History 67-77 - Early Years

By Andrew Hooper
May 20 2002

Williams Team History 1967-77
Frank WilliamsFrank Williams was born 16 April 1942. His motor racing career was to commence in 1964 when he raced a crash repaired F3 Brabham with owner Anthony "Bubbles" Horsley. For 1965 Williams raced a Cooper Ford T72 then switched to Brabham in 1966. With this car he was able to score his only F3 victory in Sweden in August 1966. Williams was to leave his driving career after after a crash in his Brabham in Portugal at Vila Real road circuit. The end of 1966 saw Williams retire to run a racing car sales business. During this period Williams gained reputation as excellent businessman. A skill that was to be used extensively over the next decades.

1967 saw Frank wanted to move into entering his own car. At end of season F3 race he entered a Brabham BT21B driven by Piers Courage. Piers also drove for Frank in Formula 2 and in 1969 the decision was made to move into Formula One. Williams was able to acquire a Brabham BT26 chassis with the intention to enter the car in the 1969 Formula One Championship with Piers driving. During that season Piers scored a second place in the Monaco and United States Grand Prix. Frank seemed to be ready to move into the upper echelons of Formula One.

During 1969 Frank meet Alessandro de Tomaso, an Argentine businessman, who had previously had built a Formula 2 car by Gianpaolo Dallara. Tomaso wanted to build a new Grand Prix car which Frank would enter and Piers would drive. Williams was to supply the engines , drivers. Piers agreed to drive turning down an offer to drive for Ferrari with Jacky Ickx. The new Cosworth DFV Tomaso 505 was far from what Piers had expected. As the season progressed the car improved but Piers was to tragically lose his life when, at the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, he crashed and his car caught. Williams was totally devastated by his death.

After this tragedy the team struggled through the rest of the season by which time Frank's company Williams Racing Cars was in financial difficulties. But Frank Williams continued to establish himself as a Formula One constructor.

In 1971 Frank was to run Henri Pescarolo driving a March 711. Sponsorship from Politoys would allow Frank to buld a Formula One chassis which Henri would crash in the 1972 British Grand Prix. In 1973 Frank was able to secure sponsorship from Marlboro and the Iso-Rivolta sports car company. It can be said that these were the first true Williams Formula One cars. Frank would continue to struggle with a lack or resources. By 1975 the situation had improved little but it was at this time that he meet the Canadian Walter Wolf who was to eventually buy a 60% share of Williams Racing Cars. The team was renamed Walter Wolf racing for the start of the 1976 season. The team purchased a Hesketh 308C which was on the market after the Hesketh team closed down.

Despite the promise of a new owner and car the situation for the team did not improve, with the car being seriously un-competitive. The situation reached the point where Frank left the team and move to the now famous site at Didcot to rebuild his team, Williams Grand Prix Engineering. He purchased a March 761 and ran Patrick Neve. Frank was able to get a young engineer to work for the team by the name of Patrick Head. This was the beginning of the now famous Williams & Head partnership.

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