Roger Williamson

Roger Williamson

2/2/1948 - 29/7/1973

Roger Williamson was from Barkby Road, Leicester. At eight, Roger first drove in public a miniature stock car at Leicester Stadium during a speedway meeting. Four year later he had his first kart and gained his experience driving it in field off Narborourgh Road South, Breunstone.

After a successful career in karting, winning the Class 4 Championship in 1966, he switched to Mini racing in 1967 and with friend Chris Randell prepared an 850 saloon. During the season he had 18 races which resulted in 14 wins, he held six track records, icluding both long and short circuits at Malory. 1968 was very much down after his F3 racing car caught fire. He was back at Snetterton with 1300 c.c. Mini which has been loaned to him for rest of the season.

IN 1968 he switched to a Ford Anglia. He also tried a Cooper T72 but crashed and destroyed the car at Cadwell Park. He continued to terrorised the club scene with his Anglia and in 1970 he won the Hepolite Glacier Special Saloon Car Championship.

He moved up to Formula 3 in 1971 with a March 713M and came 2nd in the British Formula 3 Championship. He also partnered Steve Thompson in the British Team to 5th in the F3 European Cup. And had his talent recognised in the Grovewood Awards at the end of the year. In 1972 he won the British Formula 3 Championship.

IN 1973, after a few early season F3 races, he started racing in F2 with a Wheatcroft-backed GRD 273, before changing to a March 732. His mentor, Tom Wheatcroft, decided he deserved a crack at Formula 1, and hired a March 731 car from the March works team. The aim was to get some practice in the 1973 season, with Williamson racing a full season in 1974.

Sadly, it didn't turn out as planned. Williamson's first F1 Grand Prix was at Silverstone, where he was forced to retire after a multiple pile up caused by Jody Scheckter. He then entered the Dutch GP at Zandvoort where he duly qualified 20th on the starting grid. On the 8th lap he and David Purley were running their similar March 731Gs in close company when the left front tyre on Roger's car exploded at the section of the track where Piers Courage had crashed three years earlier.

They had just negotiated the left-right flick called Hondenvlak and were in the first of two fast fifth-gear right-handers when the incident occurred. The March struck the outer guardrail, the supports of which, incredibly, had only been set in the soft sand that is such a feature of the seaside track. It bent back with the weight of the car, before flipping it back on to the track, where it landed upside-down, right on the apex of the second right-hander. The left-hand fuel tank had been damaged, and a small fire started.

Purley immediately stopped his car and abandoned his own race in a selfless act of heroism harrowingly captured on BBC television.

Only yards away stood a fire tender, but no order was given to stop the race and its driver refused, perhaps rightly, to drive against the direction of the traffic. Worse, marshals with fire extinguishers merely watched as Purley fought a lone battle to right the upturned March. He could hear Williamson inside it. Roger pleaded with him to get him out. Time and again Purley tried to lift the car, but each time he failed. For two laps - at least 2m 47s -the fire was minimal, but then it grew dramatically in intensity. David tried to fight it after grabbing an extinguisher from one marshal, but by then the fire had too strong a hold.

As the marshals still remained immobile, appalled spectators began to try and help, unable to believe what they were seeing. Only then were marshals with police dogs galvanized into action, to keep them back. Finally, in the most callous act of cowardice ever seen in motor racing, they moved at last and tried to drag the desolate Purley away. He shrugged them off angrily.

Roger was uninjured in the cockpit, but they left him to die of asphyxiation. When they finally arrived, the fire trucks were far, far too late. Roger Williamson's incident was one of the most disgracefully stupid and negligent events in Formula 1 history.

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