The cal­cu­lated plan for a Perth teenager to be­come our next For­mula One ace

The Sunday Times - - Front Page - BILLY RULE

A PO­LITE let­ter — and a bit of per­sis­tence — led to one of WA’s rich­est men in­vest­ing in a Perth teenager with a For­mula One dream.

Home-build­ing ti­tan Dale Al­cock is the lead in­vestor in Calan Wil­liams Rac­ing Pty Ltd, a com­pany set up to help fund the ca­reer of Edge­wa­ter rookie driver Calan Wil­liams.

The 17-year-old is cur­rently up against the best young driv­ers in the world in the Euro­for­mula Open, a pres­ti­gious step­ping stone to For­mula One. But the foray into Europe, where Calan drives for Daniel Ric­cia­rdo’s for­mer team, Fortec Mo­tor­sports, will cost the Wil­liams fam­ily close to $1 mil­lion.

So, to make it work, a com­pany was formed where in­vestors buy shares in Calan’s fu­ture. If he suc­ceeds, there could be a healthy re­turn as the top F1 driv­ers earn an es­ti­mated $50 mil­lion. And the ma­jor in­vestor hop­ing an­other Perth driver can re­alise his dream is Al­cock.

“Calan wrote to me late last year,” Al­cock says. “He in­tro­duced him­self, pro­vided in­for­ma­tion on what he’d achieved and what his am­bi­tions were. It was along the lines of search­ing for fi­nan­cial sup­port to as­sist him in achiev­ing his dreams.

“I car­ried the let­ter around for a few days, got back to him and — while I was very com­pli­men­tary of his suc­cess — I said it was some­thing I wouldn’t be in­volved in.

“I run a char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion as­so­ci­ated with our busi­ness in­ter­ests, the Al­cock Foun­da­tion, and we give to a lot of causes and not-for-prof­its. We don’t re­ally pro­vide money for per­sonal and sport­ing pur­suits.”

But Al­cock soon dis­cov­ered he hadn’t put the brakes on Calan’s bid, adding: “A cou­ple of weeks later his fa­ther, Greg, ap­proached me and said, ‘Can I come and see you?’

“I said, ‘Look Greg, I know where that ends, let’s cut to the chase’. I said ‘I’m happy to spend some time with you but the an­swer (for money) is no’. But we agreed to catch up.”

The two men met and Al­cock was won over by a fam­ily with a dream. And a plan. Al­cock was in­te­gral in get­ting the in­vest­ment con­cept mov­ing and is now ex­cited about a boy from the sub­urbs of Perth tak­ing on the world’s best.

“Some­thing like this can be high risk as to whether you’ll ever see a re­turn,” he ad­mits. “But rather than peo­ple just shelling out money . . . why wouldn’t it be bet­ter if you could sup­port him know­ing you ac­tu­ally have an in­vest­ment in his ul­ti­mate suc­cess.”

And he is con­vinced Calan will be suc­cess­ful, say­ing: “The Wil­liams fam­ily is a nor­mal Perth fam­ily with a son who has an ex­tra­or­di­nary tal­ent.”

Af­ter agree­ing to help fi­nance Calan, Al­cock re­ceived a thank-you let­ter from the teen, and one line caught his eye.

“He wrote me a let­ter back telling me how much he re­spected the other F1 driv­ers,” Al­cock says. “And then there was a full stop. He then wrote, ‘Hav­ing the great­est re­spect for them doesn’t mean I fear them or can’t be as good as them, if not bet­ter. And that’s what I’m set­ting out to achieve . . . a child­hood dream that I’ve had since the age of six’.”

A Perth teen with a long-term plan is edg­ing closer to his For­mula One dream. Billy Rule re­ports.

FOUR weeks ago Calan Wil­liams calmly walked along Bel­gium’s fa­mous Spa-Fran­cor­champs race­track un­til he stood at the point of no re­turn. Then he looked down.

In front of him was a drop of 41m, equiv­a­lent to the height of a 12-storey build­ing.

At the bot­tom was a left turn, a right turn, and then an in­cline that shot up to the sky. God knows where the road dis­ap­peared to af­ter that.

He was look­ing at Eau Rouge, the most fa­mous cor­ner in motorsport.

Four-time world cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton puts it on a pedestal.

“Eau Rouge is al­ways the most ex­cit­ing part of the cir­cuit,” he told the F1 web­site. “When you get to the bot­tom your in­sides drop. Then when you get to the top they come back up and it feels like ev­ery­thing will come out of your mouth.”

Fer­nando Alonso, a two-time world cham­pion, is also in awe.

“It’s a mind-blow­ing cor­ner,” he says in an F1 doc­u­men­tary on Eau Rouge. “It’s a roller­coaster. The height change in Eau Rouge is im­pos­si­ble to ap­pre­ci­ate on TV.

“The ques­tion is: Is it the most spe­cial cor­ner of the cham­pi­onship, or the most spe­cial cor­ner in the his­tory of motorsport?”

Such is its dan­ger, there have been count­less crashes and, in 1985, Ger­man F1 driver Ste­fan Bellof lost his life at Eau Rouge as he at­tempted a dar­ing pass. Af­ter a num­ber of near-misses in the 1990s there were calls to re­align the cor­ner into a safer chi­cane, prompt­ing the late, leg­endary Ayr­ton Senna to say: “If you take away Eau Rouge, you take away the rea­son I do this.”

And now Calan Wil­liams, a 17-year-old from Edge­wa­ter in Perth’s north­ern sub­urbs, was stand­ing at the top of that con­tro­ver­sial cor­ner, care­fully con­tem­plat­ing how he could con­quer it.

His eyes darted to the left, to the right, then back to where he’d just walked.

Be­side him his en­gi­neer, Tom Toovey, ad­vised him on the line he needed to keep on race day: “If you look straight up there, it’s al­most straight . . .”

Calan was lis­ten­ing with one ear but his mind was also tick­ing along to its own rhythm. The next day was a prac­tice ses­sion. Then, on the week­end, he would be tak­ing on 16 of the best young driv­ers in the world in Round Three of the 2018 Euro­for­mula Open, an­other rung on the lad­der to­wards his For­mula One dream.

He knew on race day he would scream down the hill and

con­front the Eau Rouge cor­ner at around 240km/h. To put that into per­spec­tive, the speedome­ter in your car prob­a­bly stops at 220km/h.

But one thing kept tick­ing away in Calan Wil­liams’ head as he stood there qui­etly study­ing the cliff-like drop, the left-right turn at the bot­tom, and the in­cline ris­ing steeply up the other side.

“How can I drive through here even faster?”

Go­ing fast has been in­grained in Calan’s mind­set since his fa­ther, Greg, took him to a V8 event at Barba­gallo Race­way when he was six years old.

The speed, the sound, the flash of colours as cars ric­o­cheted around the track spun his in­quis­i­tive mind. He was fas­ci­nated. But then, at the end of the race, he saw driv­ers climb out of their ma­chines. He couldn’t be­lieve that men had been in­side those ve­hi­cles. What? How? Why? Now, he was fix­ated.

“I was ab­so­lutely cap­ti­vated,” he says. “I couldn’t get my head around the fact there were peo­ple in­side the cars.

“I re­mem­ber get­ting this feel­ing that I wanted to know what it was like to be in one of those cars, to be in full con­trol of some­thing go­ing at that speed, rac­ing against other peo­ple.

“From there I just re­ally started to fol­low mo­tor sport.”

And he soon found his fix — For­mula One.

“I worked out there were a few TV chan­nels that broad­cast F1 so I started to watch them,” he says. “It was to­wards the back half of 2006, and in 2007 I be­gan to fol­low Lewis Hamil­ton.

“I re­mem­ber Dad telling me about him. He was my favourite. He was the new driver and that’s what I wanted to be. I wanted to be the next F1 racer.”

It be­came an ob­ses­sion, a boy glued to the TV screen ab­sorb­ing some of the world’s great­est races.

He cheered wildly in 2008 as Hamil­ton won his first world ti­tle when he stole fifth place on the last cor­ner of the Brazil­ian Grand Prix, the fi­nal race of the year.

He watched in awe in 2011 as Jen­son But­ton came from last with just 26 laps to go to win an epic Cana­dian GP.

And he sat there fix­ated as Se­bas­tian Vet­tel be­came the youngest-ever triple world cham­pion when he won the rain-soaked 2012 Brazil­ian Grand Prix.

Of all the races, the Monaco street cir­cuit be­came his favourite. Not for the yachts, or the glam­our, or the op­u­lence. Calan fo­cused on some­thing else. The skill.

“It would have been just be­fore I turned seven when I watched my first Monaco Grand Prix,” he says. “Just the skill that it re­quired to be able to race for one-and-a-half hours around such a tight, twisty street cir­cuit go­ing at the speeds they do and to not make a sin­gle er­ror.

“I was — and I still am — com­pletely fas­ci­nated by that.”

And that fas­ci­na­tion locked in a dream that, for more than a decade, has never been dented.

“My ul­ti­mate goal has not changed since I started fol­low­ing mo­tor sport at six years old,” he states em­phat­i­cally. “And that is to be­come For­mula One world cham­pion. That is my ul­ti­mate goal.”

And for the past 10 years he hasn’t just dreamed of be­ing an F1 driver, he’s done some­thing about it.

“Calan was seven when he first got be­hind the wheel,” his fa­ther, Greg Wil­liams, says. “That was the youngest they could start in a go-kart. It was all to­tally new to us.

“So my wife, Jenny, and I re­searched what was in­volved. We spent that first year work­ing out if it was safe and what the whole scene was about.

“But Calan was the one who found out that F1 driv­ers started in karts. So, of course, he wanted to start in karts.”

For the next few years the rookie racer dom­i­nated events at the Tiger Kart club. In 2015 he stepped up to se­ri­ous rac­ing against ex­pe­ri­enced adult driv­ers when he made his WA For­mula Ford Cham­pi­onship de­but. Not only did he qual­ify on the front row, he won the race.

“That was the real eye-opener,” Greg says. “That was with Brett Lup­ton at Fast­lane Rac­ing. Brett’s worked with (For­mula One ace) Daniel Ric­cia­rdo and the Ley­ton House F1 team so it meant Calan was with some­one who knew what he was do­ing.”

The next step was a na­tional com­pe­ti­tion and last year, as a raw 16-year-old, Calan com­peted in the Aus­tralian For­mula 3 Premier Se­ries.

Amaz­ingly, he was crowned cham­pion, claim­ing pole po­si­tions and vic­to­ries at ev­ery round (11 wins, in­clud­ing 16 podi­ums from 17 races).

But while the suc­cess was en­cour­ag­ing it was also ex­pen­sive. Com­pet­ing in WA For­mula Ford cost the Wil­liams fam­ily about $80,000. Last year the costs crept above six fig­ures.

Fi­nanc­ing his son’s dream meant dip­ping into the fam­ily sav­ings but also find­ing spon­sors.

“All through motorsport — up un­til For­mula One — the driver is fund­ing it,” Greg Wil­liams says. “That mind­set was a big step for us.

“It’s like a web. You have to build this whole net­work of pro­file, en­gage­ments, con­tacts, re­la­tion­ships, etcetera, so that when you’re talk­ing to peo­ple you get more in­ter­ests than knock­backs.

“You've cer­tainly got to be thick-skinned.”

You’ve also got to have a plan. As Calan blazed a trail across the Aus­tralian cir­cuit, Greg and Jenny knew that if their son was to have a shot at real­is­ing his F1 dream they had to go to Europe.

Their co­nun­drum was the same as any as­pir­ing speed­ster. To take the fi­nal steps up the mo­tor-rac­ing lad­der a young driver — if they have the tal­ent — usu­ally com­petes in one of the en­try-level se­ries in Europe be­fore mov­ing up to FIA Euro­pean For­mula Three, For­mula Two and then For­mula

One where just 20 pres­ti­gious driv­ing spots are avail­able.

In 2007 a 17-year-old Daniel Ric­cia­rdo was on a sim­i­lar path and chose the Euro­pean For­mula Re­nault Se­ries as his path­way to F1. From there he went to F3 and was picked up by Red Bull.

The Wil­liams fam­ily de­cided the best en­try-level cir­cuit for Calan would be this year’s Euro­for­mula Open.

Last De­cem­ber Calan went to Barcelona for a test drive and locked in a deal to com­pete in the 2018 Euro­for­mula Open with the Fortec Mo­tor­sports team af­ter he equalled the times of Fortec’s ex­pe­ri­enced Ro­ma­nian driver Petru Florescu.

“We were very pleased with the progress Calan made over two days,” says Fortec Euro­for­mula Open team man­ager Mick Kouros. “He matched our very fast com­pet­i­tive driver (Florescu), which did sur­prise the team.”

But com­pet­ing in the 2018 Euro­for­mula Open — which runs over eight rounds on For­mula One tracks from April to Oc­to­ber — will cost close to $1 mil­lion.

To keep the dream alive, the Wil­liams fam­ily has come up with a unique in­vest­ment strat­egy to help fund Calan’s fu­ture.

“We set up a shares pro­gram where we have in­vestors,” Greg Wil­liams says. “With Calan, we be­lieve he has the tal­ent, but not the fi­nan­cial re­sources that’s re­quired (to com­pete in Europe).

“It was de­signed so Calan can move through the dif­fer­ent rac­ing lev­els if he’s good enough. And if he does suc­ceed, then in­vestors get a per­cent­age of the re­turns.

“To do this we needed to in­cor­po­rate Calan Wil­liams Rac­ing and so there­fore we’ve got a board that man­ages that.”

With the lead­ing F1 driv­ers earn­ing up to $50 mil­lion in prize­money — and some­times more in spon­sor­ships — the po­ten­tial re­turn for in­vestors could be re­ward­ing.

The chair­man of the board is ex­pe­ri­enced com­pany di­rec­tor Bill Munro and one of the direc­tors is hu­man rights lawyer and 2016 Aus­tralian of the Year fi­nal­ist Rabia Sid­dique, who made head­lines around the world when, as a Bri­tish army ma­jor, she was taken hostage dur­ing the Iraq War, where she then ne­go­ti­ated her re­lease.

One of the big­gest in­vestors so far is home-build­ing ti­tan Dale Al­cock who was in­te­gral to the share con­cept go­ing ahead.

“Some­thing like this can be high risk as to whether you’ll ever see a re­turn,” he ad­mits.

“But rather than peo­ple just shelling out money and then, let’s say if Calan’s suc­cess­ful, there is no re­turn for that, well why wouldn’t it be bet­ter if you could sup­port him in that jour­ney know­ing you ac­tu­ally have an in­vest­ment in his ul­ti­mate suc­cess.”

And he is con­vinced Calan will be suc­cess­ful.

“The Wil­liams fam­ily is a nor­mal Perth fam­ily with a son who has an ex­tra­or­di­nary tal­ent, and an ex­tra­or­di­nary fo­cus about what he wants to achieve.” he says.

“And I thought, here’s an or­di­nary fam­ily want­ing to take on what would have to be the most ex­pen­sive sport in the world. So I said, look, I’ll pitch in and pro­vide a level of in­vest­ment into that.”

Greg is en­er­gised by the sup­port his son has re­ceived.

“As with all of Calan’s in­vestors, Dale has been a great sup­porter,” he says. “But what’s im­por­tant is the peo­ple in­volved need to want to be part of the story and part of Calan’s goals.”

Some­one who has pro­vided ad­vice for the fam­ily is Joe Ric­cia­rdo, who speaks with the wis­dom of ex­pe­ri­ence hav­ing al­ready been on the jour­ney with his son Daniel.

“When Greg first came to me I said, ‘Do you want the truth?’ I said, ‘Fol­low your dream, but just be wary of ev­ery­thing around you’,” Joe re­calls. “I wasn’t try­ing to be neg­a­tive, just hon­est.

“Daniel had one year (to have a shot) in Europe. We could only af­ford to have him there for one year and, for­tu­nately, Red Bull tal­ent-scouted him.

“If you haven’t (got long-term fi­nances) you’ve got to make an im­pres­sion that first year. Some­one has to pick you up. Re­mem­ber, you’re up against kids who’ve got 10 times your bud­get and they drive for the best teams, who have the best en­gi­neers be­cause they pay them more . . . it’s a hard game.”

In his re­cent au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Aus­tralia’s 1980 F1 world cham­pion Alan Jones re­vealed how he ex­pe­ri­enced a sim­i­lar dis­par­ity when he first ar­rived in Europe in the early ’70s.

“I was sur­rounded, lit­er­ally, by rich kids who’d driven up in their brand-new Porsches,” he wrote in AJ: How Alan Jones Climbed to the Top of For­mula One. “(They) had spon­sor­ship cheques drip­ping from their back pock­ets and were whip­ping out pho­tos of their lit­tle pad in Sur­rey they’d hired for some ex­or­bi­tant price ‘for the sea­son’.”

Joe Ric­cia­rdo sees sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Daniel and Calan, ad­mit­ting he knew his son had the “X-Fac­tor”.

“Yes, of course I knew (Daniel had tal­ent),” he says. “He had to, oth­er­wise we wouldn’t have gone to Europe. It’s like Greg knows with his son. He knows Calan’s got that drive and he’s giv­ing him a go.

“I agree with that. I tell peo­ple like Greg the re­al­ity of it all, but I also say, ‘Don’t take away that dream’.

“If it doesn't hap­pen and they don’t make F1, at least when they get to 50 they can say, ‘At least I had a go’.”

And hav­ing a go is what Calan is liv­ing at the mo­ment.

In the three Euro­for­mula Open races this year, Calan has caught the eye, qual­i­fy­ing in­side the top 10 from all six op­por­tu­ni­ties, as well as spend­ing pe­ri­ods dur­ing all events in the top five.

For a rookie racer com­pet­ing on for­eign tracks for the first time it’s im­pressed the pow­ers-that-be at Fortec.

The stand­out was last month when he got be­hind the wheel at Bel­gium’s SpaFran­cor­champs track, some­thing he de­scribes — de­spite all his Aus­tralian suc­cesses — as his ca­reer high­light.

“Yes, that was the ul­ti­mate,” he says. “Rock­ing up to Spa-Fran­cor­champs and real­is­ing I was driv­ing at this his­toric cir­cuit that I've grown up watch­ing for 10 years and think­ing, ‘This is my turn to race here now’.”

And race he did. When he got to that fa­mous drop at Eau Rouge he put his foot on the ac­cel­er­a­tor. With the sound of other cars buzzing around him like a swarm of an­gry bees, he plunged down­hill de­ter­mined not to hold back.

Hit­ting the Eau Rouge cor­ner at the bot­tom and spear­ing right, the G-Force — which can reach 4G com­pared to 3.2G of an as­tro­naut tak­ing off — sucked his eyes side­ways as he went to ac­cel­er­ate, and then over­take, up the steep in­cline.

It was dar­ing driv­ing but, ac­cord­ing to Calan, some­thing that just had to be done.

“The first time I went through (Eau Rouge) it was hard to keep my vi­sion straight be­cause even my eyes were be­ing pulled down­wards,” he says. “It shakes up your vi­sion, purely from the com­pres­sion that you feel from the change of in­cline at that speed.

“But, yes, in each race there was some­one I over­took. When you’re go­ing side-by-side you have to be the last one to back down. You have to hope the other per­son is go­ing to back out, oth­er­wise one of you is not go­ing to come out of it very well.”

Af­ter gain­ing more con­fi­dence from his Bel­gium race, where he earned cham­pi­onship points by fin­ish­ing sev­enth, Calan be­lieves his goal of a For­mula One de­but in 2021 is on track.

“It’s cer­tainly am­bi­tious,” he ad­mits. “But the most am­bi­tious goals are al­ways the most sat­is­fy­ing ones to achieve.”

And, I re­mind him, that goal isn’t just about mak­ing it as a For­mula One driver, but to be world cham­pion. I ask him one more time: “Can you do it?”

His re­sponse is calm and de­lib­er­ate.

“I be­lieve with max­i­mum ef­fort and ap­pro­pri­ate back­ing from spon­sors and ev­ery­one, I be­lieve that any­thing is pos­si­ble. Yeah.” Calan Wil­liams raced in Hun­gary in the fourth round of Euro­for­mula overnight. He will be in Perth from July 13-30.

It’s a deal: Dale Al­cock with rac­ing rookie Calan Wil­liams. Below: Part of Calan’s let­ter

MATT DAW­SON JOHN ROBIN­SON DALE AL­COCK TOM TOOVEY CORY GE­ORGE Data tech­ni­cian. Col­lect and pre­pares re­ports fo

Fortec's truck driver who trans­ports the cars from the UK all over Europe. Dur­ing the race he man­ages the many sets of tyres. Me­chanic. Re­spon­si­ble for the prepa­ra­tion and ad­just­ments on Calan’s car lead­ing into, and dur­ing, an event. Calan's race en­gi­neer. Orig­i­nally from Perth, he’s on the ra­dio when Calan’s com­pet­ing. He pre­pares strat­egy and tac­tics with Calan. When Calan’s at Fortec in Eng­land dur­ing the week, he stays with Tom and his fam­ily. Ma­jor in­vestor in Calan Wil­liams Rac­ing Pty Ltd. Home-build­ing ti­tan and phi­lan­thropist worth an es­ti­mated $280m. Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor and owner of ABN Group (con­struc­tion, prop­erty and fi­nance com­pa­nies).


MILLER ts all the data from the car or the race en­gi­neer. GREG WIL­LIAMS RABIA SID­DIQUE BILL MUNRO

PERTHNOW.COM.AU SUN­DAY, JULY 8, 2018 CALAN WIL­LIAMS Calan’s fa­ther and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Calan Wil­liams Rac­ing Pty Ltd. Has been rais­ing spon­sor­ship for Calan since his son started kart­ing at seven. Team work: Calan Wil­liams at the Spa-Fran­cor­champs cir­cuit in Bel­gium. Pic­ture cour­tesy Greg Wil­liams Di­rec­tor of Calan Wil­liams Rac­ing Pty Ltd. Crim­i­nal and hu­man rights lawyer, for­mer war crimes prose­cu­tor. Named one of the 100 most in­flu­en­tial women in Aus­tralia. Chair­man of Calan Wil­liams Rac­ing Pty Ltd. WA chair­man of Aus­tralian Prostate Cancer Foun­da­tion. Grad­u­ate of the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Com­pany Direc­tors. AT EAU ROUGE Some of the peo­ple be­hind Calan Wil­liams’ F1 bid

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