FRANK WILLIAMS 75TH BIRTHDAY 18 APRIL 2017  l  PHOTOS BY HONDA, ICI, STEFFEN SCHULZ, KLAUS EWALD & RESEARCHRACING ARCHIVES

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Sir Francis Owen Garbett Williams was born on 16th April 1942 at South Shields, United Kingdom,  as a son of an Royal Air Force Officer and a teacher. In his early days he had been a Formula 3 driver and a Marathon runner. In 1966 he founded the first company of his own called Frank Williams Racing Cars selling motorsport equipment to private racing automobilists and also entering cars in Formula 2 and 3. In 1969 Frank Williams was able to buy a Brabham Ford BT26 customer car to be driven by former Reg Parnell Racing B.R.M. driver Piers Courage, who scored two excellent second places at Monaco and in the United States. For 1970 Williams became a so-called semi works team in cooperation with Italian sports car maker Automobili de Tomaso from Modena . The de Tomaso Ford 505/38 had been designed by Gianpaolo Dallara and the expectations were very high. But after some troubled races at the beginning of the 1970 season Courage had a  big mysterious accident during the Dutch Grand Prix making the car catch fire to kill the driver immediately. The reason for the catastrophy never had been found. In 1971 and 1972 Frank Williams entered March Ford customer cars for Henri Pescarolo and young Brazilian Carlos Pace. For the 1972 British Grand Prix Williams introduced the first ever car of his own called Politoys Ford FX3 named after it`s title sponsor, an Italian model car and toy manufacturer. But Pescarolo had a big crash the same place, where Jo Siffert had been killed some months before, at Pilgrim`s Drop. While the Frenchman remained completely unhurt the car was completely destroyed. A few months later the FX3 appeared again  under the name Marlboro ISO Rivolta Ford. In contrast to de Tomaso, who really had been constructors of their own rights, Italian sports and small  car maker and also motorcycle producer  ISO Rivolta only were title sponsors of the Williams Fords in 1973 and 1974. But because of the first energy crisis ISO went into bankruptcy and so the car were re-named into Williams for 1975 and 1976, partly with Marlboro backing.  Frenchman Jacques Laffite scored an excellent second place in the 1975 German Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring, the best result for the team of Frank Williams since his close friend Piers Courage had performed well  in 1969. In the middle of  1975   Frank Williams signed a contract with Austro-Canadian oil millionaire Walter Wolf. For the 1976 season they bought Hesketh Ford 308Cs, re-named into Williams Ford FW05,  to be driven by former Ferrari star Jacky Ickx and French novice Michel Leclere, but success did not really come their way. This was the reason, why both parties decided to go separate ways for 1977. Walter Wolf Racing entered a single Harvey Postlethwaite designed Wolf Ford WR1 for Jody Scheckter, Frank Williams and his designer Patrick Head founded Williams Grand Prix Engineering to enter a March Ford 761 customer car from the year before, backed by the  Belle Vue brewery company and for the first time by Saudia airlines. The driver was Patrick Neve from Belgium, who died at the beginning of 2017 at the age of only 66 years. For 1978 Williams and Head constructed a complete car of their own, the Williams Ford FW06, with Saudia as their title sponsor and backed by further Saudi Arabian companies for the team`s single entry, Alan Jones from Australia. The FW06, that`s early reliability problems could be cured after a while, showed enormous potential. While the FW06 was a simple and conventional automobile, Head dared to design a ground effect car like the worldchampionship winning Lotus Ford 79. The FW07 for Jones and the new second driver of the team, Clay Regazzoni from Switzerland, was the best Grand Prix car of the 1979 season. Regazzoni scored the Williams team`s maiden victory at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, ten years, after Frank Williams had entered Grand Prix Racing. Grand Prix wins of Jones in Germany, Austria, The Netherlands and Canada followed that year. In 1980 Alan Jones became the  Williams team`s first ever world champion scoring five Grand Prix victories in the FW07. Later Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Alan Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve followed Jones,  first in Ford, then in Honda and Renault powered Williams cars making the the Didcot and later Grove based company also nine times winner in the constructors`s worldchampionship. For a few years  21 per cent of the shares of Williams Grand Prix Holding are traded at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Sir Frank Williams still owning the majority of the group is sitting in a wheel chair because being paralysed in a 1986 road car crash in the South of France. On 1st May 1994 he again was personally confronted with a fatal crash of one of his drivers, when Ayrton Senna was killed during the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. Legal action was taken against Frank Williams being the car owner and leading members of his team such as Adrian Newey and David Brown by the Italian authorities for many years, but finally all were proved not guilty. After Enzo Ferrari, Colin Chapman, Ken Tyrrell and  Jack Brabham  had passed away and Peter Sauber had sold his team to Swiss investors Frank Williams is the last living titan in  the list of charismatic team owners and constructors in their own rights. Meanwhile  the daily business operation is done by his daughter Claire and the team`s technical director and co-owner Paddy Lowe, while Patrick Head has retired from any office within the company some years ago

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