After a brief career as a driver and mechanic, funded by his work as a traveling 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 Alessandro de Tomaso. After the death of Courage at the Dutch Grand Prix that year, Williams' relationship with de Tomaso ended. In 1971 he raced Henri Pescarolo with a chassis he had purchased from March. 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.
Williams, short on cash (he conducted team business from a telephone box at one point after being disconnected for unpaid bills), looked to Marlboro and Iso Rivolta, an Italian car company, for sponsorship. Though they pledged their support, they did not come through in time and in 1976 Williams desperately took on a partner, oil magnate Walter Wolf. Though the team continued functioning, it no longer belonged to Frank Williams, so 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 WilliamsF1. They are currently based just outside the small South Oxfordshire town of Grove, near Wantage. Their first win came in 1979 from Clay Regazzoni, the first title in 1980 with Alan Jones, and a second championship in 1982 with Keke Rosberg.
Following a series of poor seasons, Williams and his daughter Claire sold the team to Dorilton Capital mid-2020, with the team running low on funds and the family ultimately stepping aside from their team roles after the 2020 Italian Grand Prix.
Spinal cord injury
A car accident in March 1986, in France resulted in Williams sustaining a spinal cord injury. While driving a rental car from the Paul Ricard Circuit to the Nice airport, Williams lost control and the car rolled over causing Williams to crash into the roof causing a spinal fracture. Peter Windsor, Williams' passenger, sustained only minor injuries. Since the accident, Williams has been using a wheelchair.
Sir Frank Williams was one of the kindest people I had the pleasure of meeting in this sport. What he achieved is something truly special. Until his last days I know he remained a racer and a fighter at heart. His legacy will live on forever.
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