- February 02, 1948
- July 29, 1973
- United Kingdom
- Not Active
Roger Williamson (1948-1973) was a British racing driver who lost a life in a horrific accident in his only second Formula 1 Grand Prix start at 1973 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort Circuit.
Before making an F1 debut with March team, Williamson was the British Formula 3 champion in 1971 and 1972.
Karting champion at the start of a career
Born in February 1948 in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, Williamson gained his first racing experience at the age 8, driving a miniature stock car at Leicester Stadium during a speedway meeting. His father Dodge Williamson was a speedway rider.
Four years later he started to drive go-karts, entering first competitions at the age 14, in 1962. In four years he progressed from junior karts to the top class. In 1966, his last season in karting, he was the British Class 4 champion.
Roger's first race car was a Mini
In 1967, he switched to car racing with Mini 850 saloon, preparing it with friend Chris Randell. It was an extremely successful season as he won fourteen times in eighteen races, setting several track records. He won the John Aley 850 Championship.
In 1968, he also tried Formula 3 but left a series after his F3 car caught fire. In saloon car races, he switched to Ford Anglia and scored some good results. He also tried a Cooper T72 but crashed and destroyed the car at Cadwell Park.
Winning races in a Ford Anglia
In 1969, Williamson was successful at the wheel of Ford Anglia, winning at Mallory Park four times and at Thruxton once, plus adding several podiums at other British race tracks.
In 1970, he became the Hepolite Glacier Special Saloon Car Champion with his Anglia, scoring thirteen victories during a season.
1971 Formula 3 champion in his debut season
In 1971, Williamson stepped into Formula 3 with Wheatcroft Racing's March 713M (Ford), participating in all three British F3 championships - the Lombard North Central Championship, the Shell F3 Championship and the Forward Trust F3 Championship.
He scored fourteen wins over the season to become the Lombard Championship winner and finished second in other two championships. He was also representing the Team Britain in the F3 European Cup, finishing in the fifth place together with Steve Thompson.
For all his achievements in 1971, Williamson received the Driver of the Year Award from British Racing and Sports Car Club (BRSCC). He also received the Grovewood Award as the country's most promising young driver.
Double British F3 champion in 1972
The promising young driver became even better in 1972, winning two of three existing F3 championship titles. He won the BARC Forward Trust Championship and the BRSCC Shell Championship, finishing fourth in the Lombard North Central Championship.
He started a year with March before switching to GRD 372 (Ford), collecting thirteen wins over the season. During a year, he also participated in Formula Atlantic race at Brands Hatch and two Formula 2 races. At the end of the year, British Racing Drivers Club awarded him as the best British driver while his team owner Tom Wheatcroft was awarded as the most successful British private entrant.
Last victory in the Formula 2 race at Monza
In 1973, Williamson stayed with Wheatcroft Racing but his main competition was the European Formula 2 Championship. He started a season in the GRD 273 before switching to a March 732.
He was in the points just once, finishing seventh at Pau Grand Prix, before scoring his maiden F2 victory and the last win ever at Monza. It was on June 29. Two weeks after that, he made a debut in Formula One.
Testing F1 cars for BRM, racing with March
In February 1973, Williamson had been included in BRM's testing programme. He impressed everybody with his performance in P180 and P160 F1 cars. After that, BRM offered him a contract but his mentor Tom Wheatcroft was against it, wanting him to drive in a Cosworth-powered team. Another plan was to drive their own McLaren M23 in the 1974 F1 season. Because of that, Williamson didn't sign a contract with March.
However, he made an F1 debut with STP March at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on July 14. Starting 22nd on the grid in the #14 March 731-Cosworth, Williamson had been involved in the first-lap pile-up which caused eleven cars to retire.
David Purley unsuccessfully tried to save Williamson
Two weeks after his F1 debut, Williamson came to Circuit Zandvoort for another attempt in the #14 March. Unfortunately, he lost a life in an accident which occurred on Lap 8. All fatal accidents in races were bad but Williamson's death was one of the most horrific because the entire event had been recorded on video and photos. It also showcases how track marshals and race officials must not to behave in a case of an accident, because marshals at Zandvoort could save Williamson's life.
He was alive when crashed out with a car turned upside down. He called for help and a fellow driver David Purley tried to turn it around a car and tried to extinguish a fire. Unfortunately, his attempts were futile because track marshals didn't help him and the race wasn't stopped. The firefighters came too late and Williamson died from asphyxiation.
Williamson's statue at Donington Park
In 2003, a statue of Roger Williamson has been unveiled at Donington Park to mark the 30th anniversary of his death. Donington owner Tom Wheatcroft, who sponsored Williamson throughout his career, revealed the tribute 30 years to the day after the 25-year-old driver was killed.