CONSTRUCTORS: WALTER WOLF RACING
Name: Walter Wolf Racing
Austrian-born Canadian oil equipment supplier Walter Wolf made a fortune in the North Sea oil business in the early 1970s and started appearing at Grands Prix with Frank Williams in the course of the 1975 season. At the time the team was struggling with debts of £140,000. Wolf helped the team to survive and at the end of the year proposed to buy 60% of Frank Williams (Racing Cars) Ltd. but agreed to leave Williams as General Manager. The Wolf-Williams team was born.
The team was based in the Williams facility at Bennett Road, Reading but used the equipment and the cars which had belonged to Hesketh Racing, Wolf having bought the assets of the team. The Hesketh 308C became known as the Williams FW05 and, as part of the deal, Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite arrived as chief engineer. Significantly, Williams managed to convince his own recently-hired chief designer Patrick Head to stay on with the team. Jacky Ickx and Frenchman Michel Leclere were hired to drive.
The black and gold cars were not, however, very competitive and failed to qualify on several occasions. Leclere left after the French GP and was replaced by Arturo Merzario while Ickx failed to perform and was dropped after the British GP, to be followed by a string of pay-drivers.
Postlethwaite's WR1 was a conventional Cosworth package but with Jody Scheckter hired from Tyrrell the new-look team presented a strong package. No-one, however, expected that the team would win its first race in Argentina. It was in many respects a lucky win with Scheckter starting 10th with six of those ahead of him retiring.
Disillusioned Frank Williams left the team, taking Head and several others to set up Williams Grand Prix Engineering. That season Scheckter went on to win the Monaco and Canadian GPs and six other podium finishes which enabled him to finish second to Niki Lauda in the World Championship and gave Wolf fourth place in the Constructors' title.
The package remained the same in 1978 with Postlethwaite producing the WR5, a new car for the ground-effects era. This did not appear until the Belgian GP. Scheckter finished fourth in Spain and second in Germany but the WR5 soon made way for the WR6 with which he ended the year with a third in the US Grand Prix and second in Canada. He finished seventh in the World Championship. The team ran older cars for Keke Rosberg in the mid-season and Bobby Rahal in the final two races but neither could do much with the machinery.
At the end of the year Scheckter was lured away to Ferrari and Wolf hired James Hunt as his replacement. Postlethwaite designed the WR7 which ran with Olympus sponsorship. The car was not very successful and the WR8 soon followed. In mid-season Hunt decided to retire and Wolf quickly hired Rosberg to replace him. The appearance of the WR9 did little to change the team's fortunes and at the end of the year Wolf grew tired of his F1 adventure and sold the team to Emerson Fittipaldi.