At the House of Lords reception for Sir Frank Williams on November 28 plenty of people paid fitting tribute the great man. He is “passionate” about his chosen profession. He is “a true ambassador” of British motor sport. “His dedication knows no bounds”.
All true. Very true.
What do those words really mean, however? What is their context? What lies behind them?
I thought the following extract from a February, 1971, edition of Autosport might add a little texture to today’s image of Sir Frank Williams. It is the Formula 2 Temporada series in South America (Bogota, Colombia, to be precise). F1 drivers like Graham Hill, Henri Pescarolo and Jo Siffert are competing. And everyone, as ever, is right on the limit….
“For some, the four clear days between races provided time to relax,” wrote Paul Watson. “but for others there had been little time for enjoyment. Immediately following the first Colombian GP, Frank Williams had hot-footed it back to England, carrying with him the two March chassis as hand baggage (!) and with an order list from other drivers as long as your arm.
“Williams, who has a reputation for getting things done smartly, was on March’s doorstep by Tuesday morning and back on a plane for Bogota by Wednesday so that he arrived back in Colombia by Thursday night, much to Derek Bell’s astonishment! The two March chassis had been repaired and strengthened where they were broken, this being where the front of the monocoque joins the bulkhead. As the Bogota series was very much a development programme for Williams, he had fitted aluminium braces to the top and bottom of Pescarolo’s bulkhead while Bell’s had been left without, to find out whether any permanent additional strength will be needed for future races.
“Williams took with him orders for a great many other spares and these were supposed to be sent in time for practice on Feb 12. However, as is often the case when freight has to change planes, it got lost, so that all the spares Natalie Goodwin had been waiting for to repair Cyd Williams’ car never arrived. Neither did Jurg Dubler’s gearbox parts, the Eifelland tyres and a number of other items. However the Kyalami-spec 4000 ft fuel metering units did arrive in Frank Williams’ pocket and these were duly distributed to Stommelen, Hannelore Werner and Brian Cullen, all of whom had suffered fluffy engines in the previous race due to the use of standard, sea-level cams. It had been hoped to build up some special 8000ft cams at Felday Engineering, but Mac Daghorn just hadn’t had enough time to get this done…”
For the record, Frank’s two March 712Ms qualified third (Stommelen) and ninth (Bell) and finished second and third in the race (in that order).
Just another weekend in the life of the racer that is Sir Frank.