12/09/2018

An appreciation: Barrie ‘Whizzo’ Williams 1938-2018

The news last weekend that former Renault UK racing Champion and friend to the Clio Cup Barrie Williams had passed away aged 79 shocked and saddened many in motor sport, not just in Britain but around the world. Here’s a reminder why ‘Whizzo’ was held in such high regard among those at Renault Sport...
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Whizzo was one of the earliest winners in Renault competition in the UK when he took six victories en route to finishing runner-up in the 1976 Renault 5 TL championship to Neil McGrath.

Bigger things were to come, though, as a decade later in 1987 Whizzo, driving for Goodliff Racing, went on to become the Renault 5 GT Turbo UK Cup Champion (the category was the forerunner to the inaugural Clio Cup).

But it’s Whizzo’s victory in the Renault Alpine GTA Eurocup round that supported the Formula 1 European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch in 1985 that for many stands out as his most famous win in a Renault.

This was Renault’s premier ‘tin top’ motor racing category in Europe and drew some huge names including ex-F1 drivers. At Brands, Whizzo was a late stand-in for Jan Lammers...

“They only told me on Wednesday I had to use Hans Stuck’s overall,” recalled Barrie a decade or so later in an interview with Motor Sport magazine.

He continued: “Dear old Murray (Walker) hugged me and said he’d lost his voice commentating because of me! And next day my old team mate Nigel Mansell won the GP...”

Thirty years later in 2015 the very same trophy that Whizzo received for his Eurocup win (incidentally he also contested the Alpine GTA race at the 1987 British GP at Silverstone) would make a return at Brands Hatch when he generously donated it to the Clio Cup to pass on to its new Champion.

Whizzo looked just as chuffed that day as title winner Ashley Sutton when he presented it to the youngster (soon to be a BTCC Champion) on the Clio Cup podium... The trophy has been passed on to each champion since (Ant Whorton-Eales in 2016 and Mike Bushell in 2017) and will again be presented to whoever lifts 2018’s crown – to be decided in just over two weeks at Brands.

Whizzo wasn’t just famous for his exploits in Renaults though. Not by a long chalk. In sixty years of competition he raced and rallied – and won in! – all sorts including karts, single-seaters, saloons, GTs, sportscars and historics both at home and abroad. His incredible sideways style and ability to wring results from unfavourable machinery made him a huge hit with trackside fans and media. He was also the last surviving member of the much loved ‘terrible trio’ which had also included fellow legends Gerry Marshall and Tony Lanfranchi.

However his exploits in leaning, squealing 5 TLs and 5 GT Turbos and that magical win in the Alpine at Brands in October ’85 mean he will always be regarded as a Renault Sport great…

All at the Clio Cup and both Renault Sport UK and Renault UK send their sincerest condolences to Barrie’s partner Cathy and countless friends within motor sport.

CLICK HERE for a further look-back at Whizzo’s career.