This week in 1973 Roger Williamson was killed amid horrible scenes throughout the Dutch Grand Prix. On the finish of the earlier season, by which he had gained two F3 titles, Williamson spoke to IAN PHILLIPS for the 14 December 1972 difficulty of Autosport journal.
On the age of 24, following two very profitable System three seasons, Roger Williamson is presently one of many hottest properties in British motor racing.
In two seasons the little determine crouched over the steering wheel of Tom Wheatcroft’s F3 March and GRD has gained all three F3 championships in Britain, scoring 32 wins altogether. He has raced F2 and F5000 vehicles on events and only recently put in spectacular occasions testing an F1 automotive.
Williamson’s introduction to competitors got here on the age of 11 in cycle speedway “however I used to be by no means excellent as a result of my legs have been too quick”. He then moved into karting and, after twice being runner-up within the British championship, gained it on the third attempt.
In 1968 he moved into vehicles and, after a profitable yr with a Mini and an abortive try at F3, acquired himself a Ford Anglia for 1970. He was crushed solely as soon as in that yr and wound up with the Hepolite Glacier Championship. He was on the street to the highest.
Regardless of the whole lot that has occurred over the previous two years Roger stays real and honest, nearly unaware of his success. He spends on a regular basis he isn’t driving racing vehicles at his father’s storage, North Finish Motors of Leicester, and he’s very fast to level out how grateful he’s for the help throughout this time of his dad and mom, his fiancée-of-five-years-standing (under), and, after all, to Wheatcroft whose steering and expertise has ensured his future in massive time motor racing.
I spoke to Roger lately about his F3 experiences and his hopes for the long run.
Ian Phillips: You actually got here to prominence in 1970 if you gained the Hepolite Glacier Particular Saloon Automobile Championship along with your Anglia. Was it at all times your intention to maneuver into single-seaters?
Roger Williamson: Properly, no, not initially, I wished to remain in one thing with closed wheels. Once we had completed with the saloon automotive, we wished one thing like a two-litre sportscar, however once we acquired right down to the kilos, shillings and pence we determined that will be a lot too costly.
Then we considered an enormous saloon, one thing like a Chevrolet Camaro or Ford Mustang, however then this similar drawback arose. I feel it was going to value one thing like £9000 or £10,000.
So then we went right down to the Racing Automobile Present and we simply walked spherical there and selected F3. The value was about proper, you may purchase a whole automotive for about £3000 or £4000, and you have a model new full automotive as a substitute of one thing second-hand. Additionally it was one thing vaguely resembling karts, which I had been introduced up on and we thought that could be the best way to go.
“I wished a global formulation. I wished to get on to the Continental circuits and get myself a few bit. As soon as we had selected F3 we wished to get the place the large boys have been” Roger Williamson
IP: Did you contemplate another single-seater formulation apart from F3?
RW: F3 was the one factor that I may actually afford and I wished a brand new automotive. System Atlantic on the time was not confirmed because it was model new; F5000 was too costly; Clubmans didn’t attraction to me in any respect.
I wished a global formulation. I wished to get on to the Continental circuits and get myself a few bit. As soon as we had selected F3 we wished to get the place the large boys have been.
IP: You have been profitable nearly instantly in F3, was it simpler than you anticipated?
RW: It was actually. Once we began the season we deliberate on midfield positions after a race or two simply to get ourselves sorted out. We didn’t count on to try this properly till the next season, however issues went higher than anticipated.
I picked an excellent automotive because it occurred and we had good engines; I am not saying we had the most effective engines, however we had good, aggressive engines. On the time there weren’t that many variations on tyres and we had Dunlop, which have been simply nearly as good as, if not higher than, Firestone. Really I feel it was much more luck than judgement that issues happened proper. All the things that we picked got here proper for us.
We had some unlucky issues occur early on within the season however the principle drawback was cash, maintaining with all people.
IP: How did Tom Wheatcroft (above) grow to be concerned?
RW: I feel Tom first noticed me race at Mallory Park early on within the season and he got here into the transporter with any person; I did not know who he was then. As you realize we have at all times acquired tea on within the coach and we simply requested him if he wished a cup of tea, which was fairly regular, we did it to all people.
The following time I noticed him was at Monte Carlo and after the race there, we completed seventh, after coming from the again of the grid, and he simply got here to me and requested if I would really like one other engine. He requested me why I hadn’t put a recent engine in for the race. I mentioned, ‘Properly I have not acquired one, that is all I’ve acquired’. I would acquired no wings on the time or moist tyres both.
He mentioned would I like one other engine and I mentioned, ‘properly, sure’. I nonetheless didn’t actually know who he was! One factor led to a different and we have simply acquired on like a home on fireplace, proper from the phrase go. Everyone retains saying to Tom, when does Roger’s contract end with you, however we do not want a contract; we simply go by phrase of mouth and that is adequate for us.
IP: Apart from the monetary facet, has he performed an enormous half in your success in different methods?
RW: Sure, I feel so. His contacts, I feel greater than something, in all probability not in as a lot because the racing as a result of that is right down to me anyway. However I’ve met lots of people that I might not have met aside from understanding Tom.
IP: Does he determine on ways or something like that or advise you in any means earlier than a race?
RW: No. The race is left fully to me. As soon as we have out from the marshalling space it is all mine.
IP: You have been profitable sufficient in 1971 (under) to maneuver on to different issues, why did you determine to remain in F3?
RW: Actually this was Tom’s thought, however then I needed to agree with him afterwards. We had not executed that many racing miles in 1971. We had executed plenty of races, however not that many miles. We had not executed plenty of testing.
Though we in all probability put ourselves in a humorous place carrying on, we nonetheless had not gained the whole lot we may have gained. There have been issues that we had missed out and we thought it might be good expertise. We hoped to do some F2 races anyway.
IP: It appeared that after having a good quantity of success in 1971 you’ll be the person to beat and the goal for everyone else in 1972. Have you ever discovered that there was plenty of aggression in direction of you?
RW: When I’ve allowed them to, sure. When issues acquired a bit tight, I felt it a bit and also you do really feel it within the paddock. You at all times get this with drivers. I benefit from the competitors; should you’re the person to beat, you are the person to beat.
“Should you can simply break that two seconds, simply to maintain your self out of the tow, then all of them battle and fall over one another and actually then they gained the race for me” Roger Williamson
If any person else was the person to beat I might be the identical. They’re there to be crushed and that is what all people tried to do, that is what I anticipated them to do.
IP: On various events it seemed fairly straightforward for you. You bought a reasonably good lead on the primary lap and simply pulled away. Was it actually that straightforward?
RW: I feel that was simply my very own ways. I geared myself up for a fast begin and tried to get away on the primary lap however it did not at all times work. All of it relies upon how a lot the individuals behind battle amongst themselves. Should you’ve acquired individuals behind you who knew what you have been going to do, they’d simply observe you and there was nothing you may do about it.
However should you can simply break that two seconds, simply to maintain your self out of the tow, then all of them battle and fall over one another and actually then they gained the race for me.
IP: What do you contemplate as being your finest race in F3?
RW: Oh, blimey, a tough query! I feel there are in all probability one or two. One that stands out in my thoughts in 1971 was the one the place I beat Dave Walker at Oulton Park. The great factor about it was how properly David took it afterwards. He did not stroll the opposite means within the paddock when he noticed me, we have been nonetheless good mates and he came to visit and mentioned: “If anyone was going to beat me I am glad it was you.”
We have at all times acquired on properly however that was the day to beat him. He did take it properly. He didn’t get all barney and say it was the automotive or the engine; it was only a good race and one the place I got here out on high and he got here second. He’d had his fair proportion of beating me.
I feel in all probability one other one was Anderstorp this yr, which I loved, and Clermont-Ferrand (under).
IP: Beating the Alpines?
RW: Sure, on their very own floor. Particularly being surrounded by Alpines, particularly once they tried to chop the apply session by 10 minutes once they noticed we have been getting faster.
IP: Do you assume F3 is an efficient coaching floor, or do you assume it’s underpowered and too straightforward to drive?
RW: I might not say that it was straightforward to drive and I might not say it was underpowered, not if you’ve climbed out of the vehicles that I’ve climbed out of. In all probability it’s underpowered in contrast with F2s and F1s however if you get in it first time it appears like there’s loads of energy there then, though the identical as in something, when you get used to it, it loses its kick and the sensation of energy.
IP: You probably did only one System Atlantic race and a restricted variety of F2 races. Would the transition to F2 have been simpler should you had the expertise of FA energy behind you in an F3 automotive?
RW: No, I do not assume so. It is a humorous factor with single-seaters; if you transfer as much as Atlantic you have got a much bigger engine however you additionally get larger wings and greater tyres, and the impression of pace is absorbed by the wings and tyres and brakes which can be larger. All the things is larger to accommodate the job and you do not actually get that a lot distinction.
IP: Though you had plenty of mechanical failures in F2 have been you cheerful along with your performances?
RW: Sure, actually, contemplating we had not acquired all of the gear. We have been dropping into F2 races between F3 races, the mechanics had not acquired used to the automotive. We had not equipped on the engines. I feel we went two or three races and not using a spare, which was not the best way to go.
However all we wished was the competitors, to really feel what the facility was like and really feel what the competitors was like. We began to get used to the whole lot. I feel we solely did 4 races, however we began to get the sample of issues and it’ll in all probability assist us fairly a bit once we begin subsequent yr. We do know which means it’s going, whereas if we had not executed it in any respect it might be like ranging from scratch. Plus the truth that you get to know the individuals a little bit, it does assist a bit.
IP: Why did you determine to do F5000 on the finish of the yr, only for the Tarmac Championship or to get in one thing with energy?
RW: F5000 I do not assume I want to do. All we did it for was actually the Tarmac Championship. We did assume we had an enormous likelihood of successful it; what licked us actually was a few accidents that I had. However we thought that we’d simply have the ability to pinch the championship on the final minute if we may steal some factors with the F5000.
“Nonetheless I need to get the expertise, nonetheless I need to have a really feel of F2 and nonetheless I need to have a crack on the European championship” Roger Williamson
There was a chance by doing F5000 and Atlantic, of us getting fairly near Frank Gardner for the Tarmac, and with £2000 at stake it was value a go.
IP: What did you consider F5000?
RW: It is OK, but when you are going to drive a automotive like that you just would possibly as properly drive an F1. F5000 is an efficient formulation should you’ve acquired as much as the highest and are coming down hill once more.
IP: After your spectacular performances in F5000 did it happen to you to go straight into F1 for 1973?
RW: Sure, lots of people mentioned that we should, however nonetheless I need to get the expertise, nonetheless I need to have a really feel of F2 and nonetheless I need to have a crack on the European championship. That is the actual foundation behind it, we now have not had that a lot F2 expertise however we will in all probability take some F1 races in and blend F2 and F1 like we did F2 and F3 this yr.
IP: If issues do not work out in F2, if you do not have success, will that forestall you from transferring into F1 in 1974?
RW: No, I do not assume so, as a result of I feel we’d have an issue with engines in F2 subsequent yr and that is the place all of it balances on actually. Should you choose the best engines you are there, should you do not you are out. What I need actually is expertise and racing miles.
IP: You’ve gotten been testing F1 BRMs at Silverstone lately and going extraordinarily rapidly but have determined to focus on F2 subsequent yr. Why?
RW: Properly, we selected F2 a short while in the past and we might wish to have a go on the European championship, simply to say we might had a go at it. With BRM we’d have needed to signal for 2 years and that will not have allowed us to do F2, which we had acquired to do, so that actually simply held us again.
Autosport 70: The shambles, success and demise of Britain’s first massive F1 crew
IP: BRM did give you a contract for F1?
RW: Sure, however it needed to be for 2 years.
IP: Have you ever had any gives from different groups?
RW: We have had a few enquiries, that is all I can say in the intervening time.
IP: You do hope to some F1 races subsequent yr?
RW: Sure, in all probability half a dozen or so.
IP: Hearsay has it that you just have been supplied a Gulf Mirage sportscar drive and turned it down. Are you able to affirm this?
RW: John Wyer was adequate to supply me a sportscar drive, which made me really feel excellent. I might say it’s in all probability the most effective sportscar drive that might be supplied, together with Ferrari, and I felt a bit flattered by it. However we needed to refuse, not that I wished to refuse, however we had selected F2 they usually wished us to overlook two races of F2 and two of their races however that was tough.
It might need been the 2 races that I needed to miss in F2 that have been necessary for the championship. I might not wish to assume that they’ve forgotten me, as a result of I would really like a sportscar drive.
IP: Should you had the chance would you wish to drive a sportscar or massive saloon as a substitute of, or in addition to, a single-seater?
RW: I want to drive massive sportscars; three-litre ones, the place you might be balanced out on energy as per an F1. When we now have moved as much as that stage I want to hold the facility about the identical. However I’ve at all times had a little bit tender spot for saloons, that is what I began off in. In all probability in one thing like a long-distance saloon, an enormous Ford Capri or one thing.
“I do not like second locations. I do not thoughts second locations, however I want a primary place. If I can see it hanging there, I need to attempt to seize it” Roger Williamson
IP: In F3 you have been in a position to race just about each weekend, do you assume that is necessary?
RW: Sure, that is actually why I do not need to transfer simply into F1. Everyone says transfer into F1 now, you are prepared. In all probability we have been prepared on efficiency but when I would have moved into F1 now all I might have gotten would have been F1 races and possibly lacking weeks right here, there and in every single place. I didn’t really feel that I had acquired the expertise for it.
IP: Do you have got robust views on motor racing security?
RW: Not notably. It is the identical for me as everybody else. You prefer it a bit safer clearly, but when everybody else will race there I am going to race there as properly. I might not again out and say, ‘except you accomplish that and so I am not racing’. I’ve at all times been introduced as much as race on no matter circuit you’ve got been entered on.
I wish to see a little bit of true surroundings, none of this synthetic stuff. I do not like bushes, I’ve had some nasty moments with bushes, however each time I’ve aimed in direction of a tree, fortunately I’ve missed it. Paul Ricard is a bit uninteresting; I would sooner have someplace that could be a little bit extra pure like Oulton Park or the Nurburgring. The ‘Ring I get pleasure from simply to drive spherical, not to mention race there.
IP: Would you agree that your driving on events was to win or nothing? There have been events when second or third place was a certainty and first very a lot the surface guess but you have got at all times taken the prospect.
RW: My largest drawback is that I’m going to races to win. That is what you are in it for, to win, and if I can see a little bit glimmer of hope that I can get there I am going to go. Typically it has paid off, generally it hasn’t.
I do not like second locations. I do not thoughts second locations, however I want a primary place. If I can see it hanging there, I need to attempt to seize it.
IP: You are not glad with something however first place?
RW: No. I just like the equipment to be primary and except I am giving primary efficiency then you possibly can’t count on to win.
2020 imaginative and prescient
Williamson definitely began 1973 with the unsuitable equipment in F2 – a GRD-Ford. However after Wheatcroft supplied him with a March-BMW, he as soon as once more confirmed his tempo.
Finishes have been arduous to return by, however he did take victory from pole at Monza, beating future grand prix winner Patrick Depailler.
PLUS: Roger Williamson – Britain’s new hope wasted
Two weeks later he made his world championship F1 debut within the British Grand Prix, driving a employed manufacturing facility March. Williamson certified 22nd of 29 at Silverstone, in entrance of John Watson and Graham Hill, however was eradicated within the notorious multi-car crash triggered by Jody Scheckter at Woodcote.
He began 18th at Zandvoort and had climbed to 13th within the Dutch GP when a tyre failure despatched the March into the obstacles. Williamson was not critically damage by the influence, however he was trapped beneath the automotive, which caught fireplace.
Solely fellow racer and team-mate David Purley tried to return to Williamson’s help because the race continued however – in footage that is still a few of the worst ever recorded in sport – he was unable to free the 25-year-old, who died of asphyxiation.
Williamson’s demise was probably the most tragic and pointless fatalities in F1 historical past and was a contributing issue within the push for higher security in motorsport, which continues to this present day. Purley was awarded the George Medal for gallantry and in 2003 Wheatcroft unveiled a statue in Williamson’s honour at Donington Park.