One-time Grand Prix racer Jonathan Williams has passed away in Spain at the age of 71.
Born in Cairo, Williams’ father was a British Royal Air Force Squadron Leader stationed in North Africa during the second World War. The family returned to the UK and the young Williams earned his education at the exclusive Cheltenham College public school, and later at London’s Chelsea College.
His interest in motorsport was evident when he started illegally racing in a Mini on disused airfields with a select group of mates who included no less than Piers Courage and Sheridan Thynne. They would later be joined by the likes of Charlie Crichton-Stuart and Frank Williams (no relation).
He switched to officially sanctioned racing in the 1960s and enjoyed considerable success in saloon racing before jumping into open-wheelers.
He raced for the Merlyn Formula Junior team in 1963 and then co-founded Anglo-Swiss Racing with Courage; the pair would contest the highest-paying Formula 3 events across continental Europe, although they didn’t enjoy a great deal of success.
In 1965 he joined Charles Lucas’ eponymous team and his results were good enough to see him land a paying drive with the Italian De Sanctis team.
That translated in some high-profile F3 success, which included victories at Enna and the Monza Lottery race.
It was enough to attract the eye of Enzo Ferrari, who offered him a Formula 2 in 1967. Tragically, the Italian team suffered a number of fatalities in its ranks – most notably Lorenzo Bandini and Günter Klass – and he was offered the chance to make his Grand Prix debut in Mexico, driving in place of the injured Mike Parkes. He finished eighth (pictured above), but the performance wasn’t enough to convince Mr Ferrari to keep Williams on for anything more than this sole outing.
Williams switched to sports car racing, and in 1970 he drove the Porsche 908/02 which carried in-car cameras for Steve McQueen’s Le Mans movie. He retired from racing in 1971 and became an accomplished pilot, and later a writer and photographer.
Images via Motorsports Marketing Resources