Wolf-Williams FW05 chassis #3, raced by Jacky Ickx and latterly Arturo Merzario at the fateful 1976 German Grand Prix, has come up for sale
The Williams FW05 slices an intersection from three individuals and teams; Frank Williams, Lord Hesketh and Walter Wolf. It’s 1975. Hesketh Racing announce that, without sponsorship, the doors were to close. Coincidentally, Wolf had joined forces with and his Formula 1 team and, only too aware of Hesketh’s departure from F1, Wolf purchased Hesketh Racing’s remaining 308C chassis tubs and the accompanying designs.
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Dubbed ‘FW05’, the first two vehicles were Hesketh builds, with chassis #03 built by Williams. First racing through the second half of a difficult season in 1976, chassis #03 debuted with the French Grand Prix, with veteran F1 pedaller and then-three-time Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx behind the wheel, finishing in 10th place.
The next race was not so kind to Ickx, failing to qualify for the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. It was to be the last time Ickx piloted the vehicle, with Chris Amon later brought in as his replacement at Wolf's behest. Chassis #03 instead passed to his team-mate, Arturo Merzario, for the German Grand Prix.
Merzario's first run in the FW05 on the Nürburgring was ultimately defined by Niki Lauda’s near-fatal accident. Both Harald Ertl and Brett Lunger collided with Lauda’s wreckage before diving to Niki’s rescue, with Merzario not far behind, grinding the FW05 to a halt before aiding the rescue effort. Merzario was credited with helping extract Lauda from the wreckage and saving his life as a result.
Merzario and chassis #03 returned to the track with the Austrian Grand Prix, but results didn’t improve, the car and driver pair never managing to complete a race. Qualifying 19th for the season finale in Japan, Merzario plugged through the torrential downpour before having to retire with gearbox issues after 23 laps. This would be chassis #03’s last Formula 1 grand prix.
Following a rough year, the FW05 was sold to private ownership and was campaigned in the British ShellSport International Championship and its successor, the Aurora AFX Championship. Automotive stories often come full circle, this F05 included. Lord Hesketh bought the racer from Cooper – alongside chassis #02 – after the 1978 season, refinishing them in Hesketh’s white, red and blue livery.
Soon sold to classic car dealer Malcolm Cube, the two vehicles were split up, with chassis #02 dispatched to Germany and #03 bought by historic racer John Fulston. He kept the vehicle for several years before selling the well-used machine to Chris Ball – who raced the Williams (still masquerading as a Hesketh) during the HSCC's September 1985 meeting, finishing 6th overall.
Between 1990 and 2005, FW05 chassis #03 was little used but rebuilt and restored to its former glory thereafter, including the proper Williams livery and identity. It first appeared in concours condition in Monaco during 2008, returning to the track for classic racing events – including a handful of demonstration laps during the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique by Formula 1 race winner Riccardo Patrese.
It's not a championship winner, not a race winner, but with its rebuild appears to be in fine fettle, and can still claim an interesting if short grand prix career. Up for grabs at €625,000 ($711,000, £557,000), if you can stump up the cash, you’ve not just bought yourself an investment, but a fully-fledged racer ready to hit the FIA Masters Historic F1 series and other classic events on the 2019 calendar. Get a closer look at the 1976 Williams FW05 here.