If you had only one opportunity to race a Formula 1 car in a Grand Prix, which marque would you choose? A Ferrari might be the most frequent answer. In 1967, during the Saturday practice session at the Mexican Grand Prix, Jonathan Williams found himself in just such a position.
The first day of practice on Friday passed uneventfully enough, with Chris alternating between the two cars that had been sent, trying to make up his mind which one he preferred. On Saturday, he did a few laps to confirm his choice, after which Franco Lini told me to get changed while the mechanics produced bits of foam rubber and sticky tape to attach to the seat so that I could reach the pedals. So here it was. The big moment.
I have to confess to feeling rather nervous at this point. I was about to mingle with some very excited people, on a track I didn’t know, in a car I had never driven, the very car that the highly knowledgeable Mr. Amon didn’t want. I’d driven one of the previous year’s 312 F1 cars once at the Modena Autodromo, but this was different.
Jonathan Williams was born in Cairo in 1942 where his father James, a non-career officer in the RAF, was stationed. He grew up at Endsleigh School in Colchester which his father owned and ran as headmaster, before being “sentenced” to four years at Cheltenham College, followed by a brief tenure at the Chelsea College of Engineering, an establishment attended briefly by the likes of Mike Hawthorn and Stirling Moss.
Having had his fill of education, Jonathan struck out on his own to become a racing driver, climbing the ranks of the cut-and-thrust world of Formula 3 in the early 60s to employment by the Italian De Sanctis team from Rome, then Ferrari for the 1967 season.
From Ferrari, Jonathan moved to Abarth, Serenissima then de Tomaso, rounding out his racing career driving the Solar Productions Porsche 908 camera car at Le Mans in 1970, then doing a stint as a stunt driver on Steve McQueen’s classic film.
Retiring from racing in 1971, he flew corporate jets for twenty years before trading that life in for one in a VW camper, then a small motorhome, drifting through Europe for two decades, visiting friends and enjoying life. In his own words, Shooting Star On A Prancing Horse tells Jonathan’s story, on and off the track, until his untimely death in 2014.
Produced and distributed exclusively by: Autosports Marketing Associates, Ltd.