High bid of €440,000 at 2012 RM Sothebys. (did not sell)
One of the favorite teams up and down the paddock, Williams Grand Prix Engineering would get its start literally through a lot of hard work, sweat and even some tears. And while the team has become one of the most successful in Formula One history its start would be less than spectacular. But that would all begin to change when Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head rejoined forces and developed the FW06.
Though he was the son of a Royal Air Force officer, having a job as a traveling grocery salesman was not about to be able to fully fund a career in racing. Still, Frank Williams would do his best as motor racing was a great passion of his. Unfortunately, by the end of 1966 he had come to realize that his talents didn't necessarily lie in being a driver. Therefore, he focused on starting a second-hand car and parts business.
The business would be successful enough to allow him to start his own team named Frank Williams Racing Cars. During his short racing career he would participate in races against the likes of Piers Courage and Jonathan Williams. In fact, he had even shared an apartment with them in London while he tried to get his own racing career on track. This relationship would prove to be important as he would enter cars for Courage during the late 60s and would actually be successful. Courage, driving an ex-factory Brabham entered by Williams, would go on to earn two 2nd place results in 1969.
Unfortunately, things would go downhill from there. Courage would die in a crash at Zandvoort taking away the promising driver and much of the hopes Williams would have with his new partnership with Alessandro de Tomaso. This partnership would come to an end at the end of '70 and the team itself would be taken away from Williams after having gone into partnership with Walter Wolf in 1976.
With the team gone and out of his control it seemed the legend that would become Williams was dead in the water. Still, Williams had fought all throughout his life to do what he was passionate about and he wasn't about to give up now.
Williams wasn't the only one to have left Wolf. Patrick Head, a young engineer, would also leave the team but would agree to join forces with Williams for a fresh start in 1977. In an old warehouse in Oxfordshire the two men would establish Williams Grand Prix Engineering. And the rest, as they would say, is history, but not quite.
While the foundations would prove to be strong, it was something of an unknown quantity at the time. The two men would need to field a team and build a car that would get them where they both wanted to go.
Sir Frank would be able to secure financing from Saudia Airlines which would allow the team to make the necessary improvements Head had in mind with the March chassis the pair had managed to buy before the start of the season. Head would set about on his task of making the chassis competitive, especially since the ground-effects cars were already coming into the picture.
Now wasn't the time to try the radical. Instead, Head would focus on using what worked and getting the maximum out of everything. He would take the March body and would begin to make the necessary evolutions that would allow it to be competitive throughout the season. He would place the oil cooler in the nose of the car but raked backward to such a degree that it would not hinder the aerodynamics of the nose of the car all that badly. Head would keep the bodywork simple but would continue to have it wrap tightly around all of the components. This would force Head to get creative in the positioning of certain elements. One of those elements would be the positioning of the radiators. He would place one of either side of the car, flush-mounted in the wedge-shaped sidepods. This would help with airflow around the side of the car but would provide the necessary cooling to the tried and tested Cosworth DFV V-8 engine that would power it. Just ahead of the 475+ bhp V-8 Cosworth, the driver would sit tall in the cockpit with only a single-piece windscreen in front to help offer protection.
Williams and Head had their car. They just needed the driver. Alan Jones had scored his first victory during the 1977 season. The Australian would be approached by Williams and would agree to drive what was dubbed the FW06 for the 1978 season.
After a disappointing start to the season with a retirement in the Argentine Grand Prix, Jones would just miss out on a top ten result in Brazil. However, in only the third race for the FW06 Jones would manage to come home in 4th place in the South African Grand Prix, and this despite starting the race in 18th place on the grid. After a 5th place at the French Grand Prix that would net the team 2 more championship points, Jones and the team would suffer a string of retirements. However, the end of the season would end rather strongly for the team when Jones finished 2nd at Watkins Glen. This would give him 6 points and would give the team a total of 11 for the year end tally. As a result, Williams would end the season 9th in the Constructors' Championship while Jones would finish 11th in the Drivers' Championship.
While on paper the results would seem to suggest the FW06 was not all that amazing, taking into account the ground-effects chassis were already racing to great effect during the season. One put into proper context, the achievements of the FW06 would certainly reflect highly of the chassis and Head's work, and therefore, would validate the claim the car is considered one of the best pre-ground effect Formula One cars of the period.
And while the success of the FW06 could be debatable, the lineage it fostered, including the FW08, FW11B, FW14B and the FW18, could not be denied. And in many ways, because of the success of the FW06, Williams would be able to go on to score more than a hundred grand prix victories, 130 pole positions, 9 Constructors' Championships and 7 Drivers' titles.
Offered at RM Auctions' event in Monaco in 2012 would be chassis number FW06/04. This particular chassis would be one of two FW06 chassis that would be built for the beginning of the 1979 season while the team finished preparations of the new FW07.
Alan Jones would happen to drive this particular chassis all the way up to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. And while the ground-effects cars were absolutely dominant Head's talent in designing the FW06 would help Jones go on to score a fabulous 3rd place result at Long Beach. He would also just miss out on another podium finish at the French Grand Prix just prior to the British Grand Prix.
After serving its time on the race track, FW06/04 would be sold to Count Zanon. It is believed the car was then even raced by Count Zanon with Giacomo Agustini and Leyla Lombardi having time behind the wheel of the car.
Some time later, FW06/04 would be sold and would head to the United States to be part of a collection. In the early 1990s, John Flemming would gain interest in the car and would actually purchase it. Mr. Flemming and Mike Littlewood would actually make it a rolling museum piece by taking it to the track and competing with it in historic races. This would attract the interest of noted vintage-racer Tony Smith.
Tony Smith would come to own the car in 1998 and would campaign the car extensively. He would take part in such races as the Thoroughbred Grand Prix and the Historic Formula One Series all the way up to 2009.
After the conclusion of the 2009 season, the car would undergo thorough examination, which would include crack-testing and rebuilding the gearbox, which would be performed by BPA Engineering. At about the same time, a crisp short-stroke engine would be fitted to the chassis along with a new clutch. The engine's camshafts and inlet trumpets would all be conforming to the mandated rev limit of Historic Formula One.
A whole list of other components would be either restored or replaced bringing the car up to race-ready status. Some of the work would include new bearings, selector forks, crown wheel and pinion, gun-drilled drive shafts and resealed brake calipers with brand new pads. Even the front-suspension is new with new uprights being fitted to the chassis. And, of course, the latest fire management system has also been fitted to the car as well.
Coming to auction with am extensive package of spare components it is clear FW06/04 is still meant to take to the track in an effort to uphold the honor of Sir Frank Williams and Patrick Head. A true example of the first collaboration between Sir Frank and Patrick Head, chassis FW06/04 is certainly a Formula One time-piece and was estimated to draw between 480,000 and 580,000 EUR at auction. However, the car would not be sold as the highest bid of 440,000 EUR would not enable the car to be sold.Sources:
'Lot No. 363: 1978 Williams FW06 Formula One Racing Car', (http://www.rmauctions.com/CarDetails.cfm?SaleCode=MC12&CarID=r355&Currency=EUR). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/CarDetails.cfm?SaleCode=MC12&CarID=r355&Currency=EUR. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
'People: Sir Frank Williams', (http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/cref-wilfra.html). GrandPrix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/cref-wilfra.html. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
'Who We Are', (http://www.williamsf1.com/team). Williams F1 Team. http://www.williamsf1.com/team. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Williams F1', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 May 2012, 02:41 UTC, accessed 16 May 2012
'Williams FW06 Cosworth', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/1447/Williams-FW06-Cosworth.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/1447/Williams-FW06-Cosworth.html. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
'Constructors/1978/Williams-Ford Cosworth', (http://www.manipef1.com/constructors/1978/williamsfordcosworth/). ManipeF1. http://www.manipef1.com/constructors/1978/williamsfordcosworth/. Retrieved 16 May 2012.
By Jeremy McMullen