#GroundEffect – The 1981 Williams FW07-C

The Williams FW07-C takes its roots from the 1979 Williams FW07 designed by Patrick Head for the 1979 Formula One season. The FW07 was Williams answer to the Hethel built Lotus 79. It shares many aspect, the main one being the use of the Ground Effect technology mastered by Lotus, it was also developed in the same wind tunnel at the Imperial College in London.

The raw FW07-C
The raw FW07-C

Powered by the Ford Cosworth DFV, the Williams FW07 was probably the design that made Williams a World Championship contender for the first time. Though it proved unreliable at the start, the team would go on to score its first win that year on its home soil during the Silverstone British Grand Prix in the hands of Clay Regazzoni. Team mate Alan Jones would go on and score 4 wins out of the 5 remaining races only to finish second in the standings behind Ferrari that year. They proved and established themselves as the team to watch for the forthcoming season.

1980 saw the introduction of the Williams FW07-B evolution, Alan Jones was retained and Regazzoni replaced by Carlos Reutemann. The evolution B pushed the original concept further, notably the ground effect and sliding skirts and that could easily be seen as the front wing had disappeared. No one could challenge Jones and Williams that year as they took the Formula One Driver’s and Manufacturer’s title after 5 wins and 5 podium finish. There might have been one exception with the Gordon Murray designed Brabham BT49, but that’s another subject…

1981 saw the introduction of the Williams FW07-C evolution which was a reaction of changed regulations as the governing body decided to ban sliding skirts in an attempt to slow the cars through corners.

Williams had started the 1981 season with the Williams FW07-B and immediately scored a win as Reutemann won the opening round at Kyalami, South Africa. The changes to the regulations however required a design change, leading to the introduction of the FW07-C with fixed skirts. This time it was Reutemann who would challenge Nelson Piquet and the BT49-C for the title but with only four wins for the team, they were only able to win the Manufacturer’s title. They had mastered the ground effect but maybe the hard ride was too much for the drivers and Piquet probably proved a better horse..!

Technically the Williams FW07-C was small, light and neatly packaged as described in period. The chassis was made of aluminium as was the trend in Formula One these days, the front and rear suspension consisted of top rocker arms, lower wishbones and inboard springs and dampers. Brakes assembly consisted of ventilated discs and of 2 two-pistons calipers being mounted on each side of the discs to better balance unsprung weight.

Engine was the most common engine of the period, the Ford Cosworth DFV V8 with a bore and stroke of 85.6mm x 64.8mm and a capacity of 2993cc. Figures consisted of 480HP at 11000RPM. With the unit weighing 163 kg and being used as a stress member it was all perfect for the very pure design and use of full width ground effect tunnel on each side of the car.

The car featured here is one of the state of the art maintained cars of CGA Race Engineering and raced in the FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship by a Belgian enthusiast. Thanks for the pictures guys and well, we’ve found your secret of speed !

CGA Race Engineering Secret of Speed.
CGA Race Engineering Secret of Speed.

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