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F1 Williams FW07/04 Featured at Sotheby’s Auction

The car which propelled Australia’s own Alan Jones to the World Drivers Championship in 1980 is to be auctioned by Sotheby’s Australia in Melbourne on April 18.

Williams FW07/04 is the most original and authentic FW07 in existence. It was campaigned by Frank Williams and driven by Alan Jones, to a succession of wins in 1979, and then the greatest prize of all – the World Drivers and World Constructors Championships – in 1980.

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. Peter Briggs is only the car’s second owner.

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 has an Australian dominated Formula 1 to the extent that Alan Jones did in 1979/80,” he said.

Mr Briggs said that his car’s dominant racing career included 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.

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.

In November 1985 it was taken by Peter Briggs from York to Adelaide where it was put on display during the lead up to, and during, the first Formula One Grand Prix held in Australia. The Maybach III, the car driven by Alan Jones’ father, Stan Jones, was also in Adelaide, taking part in the historic support events. Alan Jones spoke at length to Peter Briggs about his car.

F1 Williams FW07-04
Williams FW07-04

He knew the history of the FW07/04 and said he was pleased it was in Australia as it was his favourite car. He 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. The front tyre came off the car and headed for him. It bounced off the bodywork, left a black scrape on his helmet then went over the top of the car. Nevertheless, he considered that this FW07/04 was the best race car he had driven. He said that he still has the helmet.

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.

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.

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[Source: Sotheby’s Australia]