Williams FW07/04 holds a special place in the memory of world championship winner Alan Jones, and soon he will see the car again for the first time in many years. On the 30th anniversary of Williams’ first world title, it is the car which signalled the manufacturer as a major force in Formula One and elevated Alan Jones to world champion. It will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in Melbourne, Australia next month.
Williams FW07/04 is the most original and authentic FW07 in existence and is to be auctioned on April 18. Alan Jones will be at the auction to talk about the car and to see it sold to a new owner after having been on museum exhibition in Western Australia for almost its whole life.
After a succession of wins driving the car in late 1979, Williams FW07/04, piloted by Aalan Jones won the first race of the 1980 grand prix season in Argentina. That win set the stage for Williams’ domination of the season and its first World Constructors Championship and first World Drivers Championship.
The car has been part of the world renowned Peter Briggs Family Collection at the York Motor Museum and later the Fremantle Motor Museum in Western Australia since 1981 and Peter Briggs is only the car’s second owner.
Alan Jones said that the car had “unbelievable downforce” and “fantastic turn-in ability” which made it a great race car. “I remember that Frank Williams brought an FW07 down to Longbeach where I was racing an FW06 in April 1979,” he said. We did some testing at a private track in Los Angeles and I couldn’t believe how fast the new car was.”
“The fact that these cars are highly sought after and still winning historic grand prix races today says a lot about how good they were,” said Alan Jones.
Australia’s pre-eminent car collector Mr Briggs said that the Williams was an iconic car from the era of “ground effects” when Williams took a technological leap over its rivals and created a car with incredible cornering ability.
Williams FWO7 race cars are recognised as one of the most successful Grand Prix designs of all time. They were the first Williams “ground effects” car. The box-like pods on either side of the body carry carefully shaped “underwing” panels which cause the airflow beneath them to draw the vehicle down against the road. This aerodynamic effect loads the tyres to increase their cornering grip and traction under power and braking. The spring loaded “skirts” which slide along the road surface are protected by ceramic skids and act as aerodynamic fences to divide the airflow beneath the car from that around it. At around 180 mph (approx 295 kph) the vehicle generated an incredible 1.8 to 2.2 tonnes downforce in addition to its normal static weight of 580 kgs.
“This is a highly-significant race car for Australia and the world. Not since Jack Brabham had an Australian dominated Formula 1 to the extent that Alan Jones did in 1979/80,” said Mr Briggs.
Mr Briggs said that his car was driven by Alan Jones to four Grand Prix wins from July 1979 to January 1980:
July 1979 German Grand Prix – 1st (led throughout)
August 1979 Austrian Grand Prix – 1st
September 1979 Italian Grand Prix – 9th (battery failure)
Canadian Grand Prix – 1st (fastest lap)
October 1979 USA Grand Prix – Retired (lost rear wheel after leading)
January 1980 Argentine Grand Prix – 1st; pole position; (fastest lap)
He said that the car was then made the number one test car for Williams before a crash took it out of service in mid-1980 and it was rebuilt shortly afterwards as a show car, touring the Middle East.
How the car came to be in Australia so soon after its grand prix career had ended is a great story in itself.
Legenday New Zealand motoring journalist Eoin Young explained recently how he secured the car from Frank Williams. He said that he went to the annual Williams “media punch” early in 1981 and the car was sitting in a hallway of the Williams factory, in its Saudi livery. He had been keeping an eye out for important cars to source for Peter Briggs and his museum. He asked Frank Williams why the car was there (it obviously wasn’t on display) and was told that it had just arrived back from Saudi Arabia having been there on exhibition as part of a tour by team sponsors. Frank said it was the car “F1 Alan” had crashed in testing at Donington during the summer of 1980 (the previous year when Alan Jones won the world championship).
It was then sold to Peter Briggs to start a new life in Australia as a museum exhibit at the Western Australian town of York where it was displayed for two decades. In 2002, it was taken to the old port of Fremantle for Mr Briggs’ new motor museum in that city.
Alan Jones vividly remembered the tyre testing crash which resulted in his car being turned into an exhibition car. AJ commented that the crash was the only time he thought he could die when driving a Williams. He was testing Goodyear radials on the car at Donington and the rear left tyre delaminated, sending him off the track and into the Armco. He then headed down an escape road before hitting a post with his front left suspension. He said that the car was not badly damaged but it’s racing career was over.
“I went up to Frank Williams and told him that I thought he should start getting himself some test drivers because I was too valuable to do that again,” he said recently. Nevertheless, he considered that this FW07/04 was the best race car he had driven. He said that he still has the helmet from that crash.
The car will be sold at auction in Melbourne on April 18. Sotheby’s Australia has re-launched its Collectors’ Motor Cars Department and the car will be the feature car at the auction. This department is responsible for Collectors’ cars from the Veteran, Edwardian, Vintage and pre and post war periods through to modern classics, and it also focuses its attention on classic motorbikes and motorboats, number plates and automobilia including automotive art and photography and luxury items from a motoring lifestyle. More information is at www.sothebysaustralia.com.au
Mr Briggs’ has a long standing relationship with Sotheby’s stretching back to 1989 when his York Motor Museum and Sotheby’s conducted a joint auction in the grounds of the University of Western Australia in Perth.