Obituary: Barrie Williams
Barrie ‘Whizzo’ Williams, one of
Britain’s best-loved racing drivers of the past half-century, died at the weekend after a short illness and a fall. He was two months away from his 80th birthday.
Tributes have poured in from across the sport for Williams, who was renowned for his extrovert style in just about any type of machinery and for his unfailing sense of humour and outgoing personality out of the car.
‘Whizzo’ was known to thousands of people and had time for everyone, no matter where they stood in the motorsport fraternity. His warm approachability made him a firm favourite with the fans.
Williams was born in Herefordshire to Frank and Kay Williams, and the remarkable Kay survives her son.
He was soon introduced to karting by his father and had his first car race on Easter Saturday 1960 at Rufforth in Yorkshire in his road-going Morris Minor. His racing career progressed through Minis, but he was able to master just about any car and soon began to carve a career in Production Saloons and touring cars.
He was also an accomplished rally driver and famously won the 1964 Welsh Rally in his Mini Cooper S road car.
The nickname of ‘Whizzo’ came when journalist Andrew Marriott referred to him as the ‘whizz kid from Wales’, although he was not from Wales.
Through the 1980s he raced for the works Colt team in the BTCC and became a one-make racing ace, taking titles in Ford Fiestas and Renault 5
Turbos. In 1985, he famously won the Brands Hatch round of the Europa Cup Renault Elf Turbo Championship against the cream of European one-make racers.
He made a living from racing for many years as well as his own business moving race and road cars around Europe. As the years rolled by, he increasingly moved to historic racing, where his flamboyant driving style and ability to race anything made him a star and regular winner.
Several victories at Goodwood showed his class and he raced a glorious variety of cars, from a humble Morris Minor to former Indy Roadsters, AC Cobras and the tricky Ferguson P99 fourwheel-drive Formula 1 car.
Into his seventies, Williams was still racing competitively and winning. He never wanted to retire from racing, but finally at the end of 2017 he accepted that failing health meant it was time to hang up his familiar crash helmet. He had held a competition licence for 60 years and raced every season for well over 50 years.
He always wanted to give back to the sport that had given him so much and he served as president of the British Motorsport Marshals’ Club. He once summed up his racing life: “I don’t know what I’d do without racing. It’s my way of life. I’ll drive anything with four wheels. I race to win, but if I don’t it’s not the end of the world. With a bit of luck, there’s always another race.”
Sadly, last Saturday ‘Whizzo’ slipped away and there won’t be another race, but he made such a lasting impression on so many people that his memory will live on. We extend our sympathies to his partner Cathy, mother Kay and his countless friends across the sport.
‘Whizzo’ was a regular at Goodwood Revival in later years
Leading the pack: Williams drove many different cars
Williams (r) with Jochen Mass (c) and Jackie Stewart (l)
Competition licence holder for 60 years