Barrie 'Whizzo' Williams 1938 - 2018
Barrie 'Whizzo' Williams died on Saturday morning after a short illness and fall. His death has robbed classic British motorsport of its most enduring character. We look back on his career
‘Whether it's a Maserati 250F, a Ferrari 250GTO, or a Morris Minor, if it's got wheels I'll drive it. The cars are there to be appreciated’.
Those were the words Barrie 'Whizzo' Williams when speaking to The Telegraph in 2002. During the same interview, Barrie also reflected on his first car - the 'Sin-Tin'.
'It was mostly a Singer Le Mans, with an Austin engine from an A40 Devon. It attacked a milk float once and had a magnetic attraction to hedges’.
Such quotes were typical of 'Whizzo', a gentleman whose blend of wit, charisma, skill and verve over a 50-year motorsport career are unlikely ever to be equalled. He was born in Herefordshire in 1938 and his father Tony was a former motorbike racer who competed in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. Barrie was destined for automotive greatness right from the start.
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Aged only 19, Barrie used his Singer for his first event in 1957, reflecting in later years: ‘Dad and I took it to Prescott… I broke a half shaft on the line – I was in tears.'
Over the next few years, Williams served as the works driver for the paternal Fastakart go kart firm and hill-climbed in an Austin A40 Devon; fitted with a tractor exhaust for extra grunt. In 1960 he completed his first car event in a Downton-tuned Morris Minor. Apparently, the Minor was sideways on a regular basis.
During the early 1960s, Barrie club rallied with his friend John Griffiths in a Mini Cooper which was succeeded by an Austin 1071S, registration 120 MNP. Barrie owned the Austin for the rest of his life.
It was in this car that the duo entered the 1964 Welsh International and achieved the first international rally win for the Mini Cooper. Williams earned his famous nick-name due to an Autosport report on that event by Andy Marriott that posed the question ‘Who is this Welsh whizz-kid?’.
Barrie went on to compete in the Swedish Winter Rally, partnered with John Davenport – ‘we were the first Brits to finish a Scandinavian rally’ and in 1966 made his debut in F3 racing at Silverstone, when he won the Wills International Trophy.
In the late 1960s Williams competed against Derek Bell and Frank Williams, but the death of his team-mate Chris Lambert in a Formal 2 race in Zandvoort caused his decision to cease racing single-seaters. Another car that Whizzo became associated with during the course of the decade was Rob Beck’s famed Jaguar-Egal, which was fitted with a seven-litre Ford Galaxy V8 engine.
In 2006 he reflected ‘ It was horrendous to drive with way too much power and no grip. It always ran out of brakes too. The thing is, it was so quick to the first corner that I won a lot of races in it’.
In 1971 Barrie became a member of the BRDC, and during the 1970s and 1980s he demonstrated his remarkable versatility time and time again, be it in a Production Saloon event, a DTV Vauxhall, a Mitsubishi Colt in the British Touring Car Championship or becoming Driver of The Day at the 1975 British GP.
In that same year, Williams drove a Mazda RX3 in the Tour of Britain and in 1985 he deputised for Jan Lammers in the support race for the European Grand Prix, driving a Renault Alpine GTA to victory.
And these are just a few aspects of an incredible competition career, which further encompassed stardom in historic racing, especially at Goodwood, Presidency of the British Motorsport Marshals Club and instructing novice drivers at Silverstone.
Barrie retired in 2017 and, on the morning of the September 8, he died at the age of 79 following a fall. He will be remembered for his wit, determination, approachability, incredible talent and sheer charisma. The passing of 'Whizzo' Williams leaves a vacuum in the worlds of motorsport and classic cars for he was truly inimitable.
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images
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