If one man ever lived the dream of rising from Special Saloon Champion to Formula One it was Leicstershire golden boy Roger Williamson. How tragic it was that Roger was killed before he could show the world how good he really was in that ghastly accident in only his second Grand Prix. Yet he is still fondly remembered by those who raced with him.
Having learned his race craft in Karting Roger began circuit racing , like so many others , in a modified Mini 850 aged just 19 in 1967. Roger winning 4 outright and 6 further class wins ( source Autosport ) setting new class records at his local circuit Mallory Park , long and short versions.
A move into Formula 3 was halted when his Cooper T71 was burnt out in a garage fire but Roger salvaged the 1-litre Holbay engine and put it in a modified Anglia. This proved to be a fast combination and 1969 saw Roger establish himself amongst the faster 1000cc special saloon runners. He was particularly fast at his local Mallory Park Circuit and in June he and rival Bill McGovern both jointly set the Mallory short lap record of 40.6 seconds.
It was the 1970 season that Roger put his stamp on special saloon racing winning the BRSCC Hepolite Glacer title outright in the 1000cc class Anglia-Holbay. In all Roger won 3 times at Oulton Park + Brands Hatch , twice at Mallory + Castle Combe plus 1 wins each at Mondello Park , Crystal Palace + Thruxton.
His car was put up for sale at the end of the year ( see advert right ) and bought by Gerry Taylor who gained `Swish Curtain Track` sponsorship and raced it with success until the end of 1975.
Roger moved into British Formula 3 for 1971 racing a March and won the Lombard Championship anmd runner-up in the Shell Championship. After 14 wins in his rookie single seater season Roger was a well deserved multi award winning driver at the seasons end.
Roger won both the 1972 Forward Trust and Shell F3 titles in the March and later GRD cars. Now racing for the Tom Wheatcroft team and Tom was very much his mentor .Again more honours ,the BRDC naming Roger as best British driver and Tom as most succesful British private entrant.
1973 saw the final step up into the heights of Formula 1 with a Wheatcroft / STP-backed March. His debut was short lived as he was one of several cars eliminated in the Jody Scheckter spin big crash at the start at Silverstone. It was his second Grand Prix , at Zandvoort where Roger lost his life after a tyre deflated and he was trapped after crashing into the guardrail. The accident is well documented as it was such a shocking and high profile one. One of Britains real potential future world champions had been lost and many who knew him were deeply saddened.
Tom Wheatcroft of course owned Donington Park and for many years visitors to his excellent Grand Prix Museum passed the collection of memorabillia of Roger ,almost boardering as a shrine ,in one of the connecting corridors.
Roger Williamson remains the only champion in British Special Saloons to have made it into Formula 1 and he certainly wont be forgotten.
1970 - Dave Brodie , Rob Mason and Roger Williamson with their garlands