Sunday, April 16, 2017

Frank Williams Born In South Shields, England - April 16, 1942

April 16, 1942
Frank Williams
(Photo; f1.wikia.com)
Born in South Shields, County Durham, England.
He is the founder and team principal of the Williams Formula One racing team. In the late 1950s a friend gave Williams a ride in his Jaguar XK150 and young Frank was immediately hooked on fast cars.

After a brief career as a driver and mechanic, funded by his work as a travelling grocery salesman, Williams founded Frank Williams Racing Cars in 1966. He ran drivers including Piers Courage and Tony Trimmer for several years in Formula Two and Formula Three. Williams purchased a Brabham Formula One chassis, which Courage drove throughout the 1969 Formula One season, twice finishing in second place.

In 1970 Williams undertook a brief partnership with Alejandro de Tomaso. After the death of Courage at the Dutch Grand Prix that year, Williams's relationship with de Tomaso ended. In 1971 he raced Henri Pescarolo with 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.

In 1976, Williams short on cash took on a partner in oil magnate Walter Wolf. Though the team continued functioning, it no longer belonged to Frank Williams and 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 Williams F1.

The team's first win came in 1979 when Clay Regazzoni drove the Cosworth powered Williams FW07 to victory at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Their first Drivers' and Constructors' championships both came in 1980 with Australian Alan Jones winning the drivers' championship and the team winning the constructors title by 54 points. Between 1981 and 1997, the team won six more drivers' championships and eight more constructors' championships.

A car accident on March 6, 1986, in France resulted in Williams sustaining a spinal cord injury and becoming tetraplegic. While driving a Ford Sierra rental car from the Paul Ricard Circuit to Nice airport, Williams lost control of the car which then rolled over causing him to be pressed between his seat and the roof resulting in a spinal fracture between the 4th and 5th vertebra. He had not been wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident. Williams' passenger and the team sponsorship manager Peter Windsor sustained only minor injuries. Since the accident, Williams has used a wheelchair.

In May 1994, following the death of Ayrton Senna in a Williams at Imola, he was charged with manslaughter in accordance with Italian law, but was cleared after several years. Since Senna's death, all his F1 cars have carried a little tribute to Senna featuring the Senna "S" logo. The Williams FW33, FW34, FW35, and FW36 all have this on their front wing supports.

On March 2, 2012, Williams announced he would be stepping down from the board of Williams F1 and will be replaced by his daughter Claire, although he would still remain with the team in the role of Team Principal.

Honours received over the years include; In 1987, the Queen awarded Williams the title of CBE. He was knighted in 1999. He has been made a Chevalier of France's Legion d'honneur, this honour accorded for his work with Renault engines. In 2008, Williams was awarded the Wheatcroft trophy. On December 19, 2010, he was awarded the Helen Rollason Award for "outstanding achievement in the face of adversity" at the BBC Sports Personality of The Year Awards. On October 15, 2012, the main road through the new Great Western Park development in Didcot was named "Sir Frank Williams Avenue" with Williams unveiling its name plate.

In 1974, Frank Williams married Virginia Berry. They had two sons, Jonathan and Jaime and a daughter, Claire. Virginia was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and died on March 7, 2013, at the age of 66.

Virginia Williams wrote an autobigraphical book, A Different Kind of Life. It that describes her experiences in the formula one team's formative years as well as her husband's near-fatal accident in 1986.

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