White light, white heat

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Thirty years ago, a bright spark — called Ayrton Senna talked his way into a test in this Williams. That first historic run in an F1 car revealed all the traces of genius that would make him a Grand Prix superstar
writer Simon Arron, photographer Matthew Howell

Purity of line is the first thing that strikes you. Every time the Formula 1 rules shift, it takes only a matter of laps to accept a new look as convention. In the modern era, though, normality translates as a cocktail of turning vanes, winglets and other aerodynamic clutter. In contrast the Williams FW08C looks a paragon of neat elegance.

This is the chassis Williams adapted from the ground-effect FW08 that carried Keke Rosberg to the 1982 world championship. Rosberg and Jacques Laffite used Cosworth-powered FW08Cs throughout the ’83 season, while test driver Jonathan Palmer made a one-off appearance in the Grand Prix of Europe at Brands Hatch, the final event before Williams joined the turbocharged exodus and introduced the FW09-Honda. Rosberg took pole in Brazil that year – the DFV’s last in a World Championship F1 race – and won in Monte Carlo, a weekend I recall for the organising Automobile Club de Monaco’s precision. I was there to cover the F3 race, on Saturday afternoon, and when the chequered flag dropped my media credential expired. Consequently, I had to buy a ticket to watch the main event and did so from the rocky escarpment in front of the principality’s palace, a lofty perch that seemed to reduce the circuit to almost Scalextric proportions.

The weather forecast predicts a dry day for the East Midlands, but the reality is very different on the other side of Donington Park’s roll-up garage doors. We’re here to look at FW08C/9, the chassis Rosberg raced in the GP of Europe… and that Ayrton Senna tested at Donington earlier that year – on Tuesday July 19, to be precise. It now forms part of The Donington Collection, following a complex swap deal with a reclusive enthusiast who was previously the car’s co-owner. Following the exchange, it was given a quick tickle by restoration specialist Hall & Hall. “We didn’t have to do much,” says Rob Hall, chauffeur for our photo session. “It was already in very good order.”

Three decades ago, Donington was the stage for 23-year-old Senna’s maiden run in an F1 car, the by-product of his persistent phone calls to the team. He’d first met Frank Williams little more than a year beforehand, when providence placed the pair in adjacent seats during a flight to Holland. Williams was en route to the Dutch Grand Prix, at Zandvoort, where Senna would compete in a supporting round of the EFDA Formula Ford 2000 Championship. He won – a repetitive theme in most of his 29 races that season, including one-offs in a Talbot Sunbeam at Oulton Park and the traditional non-championship F3 finale at Thruxton.

By the time of the test, he was leading Martin Brundle in the British F3 Championship and Palmer – on course to win the European F2 title – was summoned to set a benchmark time.

“I don’t remember much about the day,” Palmer says. “I certainly spoke to Ayrton, but the details are a bit fuzzy. I do recall there was already a bit of an aura about him and that he was immediately very quick. He beat my time, too, which obviously wasn’t ideal from my perspective, but I had to give him credit for jumping straight in and getting on with the job. That was impressive.”

Palmer posted a 61.7sec, Senna a 60.1sec.

Alan Challis was among the Williams mechanics on duty that day. “Frank Williams was due to run the test,” he says, “because Patrick Head was busy at the factory. Frank’s car broke down en route, though, so we just got on with things until he finally got there. Ayrton climbed in and within only a few laps it was obvious he was very fast, hugely committed and knew what he was talking about. I phoned Patrick with the lap times and he told me to stick more fuel in, to slow him down! We’d been running quite light, but certainly hadn’t been in qualifying spec.

“I was lucky enough to have been around during Jackie Stewart’s early days in F1 and came away from this test feeling I’d just seen another star. I definitely thought he was something special. For the next few weeks I kept asking Frank whether he’d signed him…”

Nowadays a driver would doubtless be bombarded with contracts after a performance of that calibre, but Williams had no space the following season – Rosberg and Laffite were already signed – and other front-running teams spurned the Brazilian, too, at least in terms of an immediate race contract.

That left the door open for Toleman – but by the following summer the major players would be aware of their collective myopia.

Donington celebrates Senna
The life of Ayrton Senna will be a central motif at the 2013 Donington Historic Festival, which takes place from May 3-5 at the Leicestershire circuit

The Brazilian’s glittering career will be commemorated with a mixture of on-track demonstrations and paddock displays – and the Williams FW08C pictured here will feature strongly, alongside the Toleman TG184 Senna took to second place in the 1984 Monaco GP and the Lotus 98T with which he won in Detroit two years later.

There are some unusual exhibits, too, including an MG Metro 6R4 and a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth – two of the five rally cars Senna drove in a test for Cars & Car Conversions magazine at the end of 1986. The Sierra is scheduled to take part in a historic rally demonstration on the circuit’s Melbourne Loop.

More than 400 cars are expected to participate in a variety of events catering for a wide range of machinery, including Pre 1940 Grand Prix cars, Group C sports racers, the Jaguar E-type Challenge, Historic Formula 2 and Pre-1966 touring cars up to two litres.

Advance ticket prices start at £12 for the Friday, £20 for Saturday/Sunday and £36 for a three-day pass. On-the-gate prices will be £15 (Friday), £25 (Saturday/Sunday) and £45 (all three). Under 16s are admitted free of charge.

Tickets can be purchased via www.doningtonhistoric.com or a 24-hour hotline: 0844 873 7355.

You may also like

Related products