For many, the Monaco Grand Prix is the pinnacle of the Formula One calendar. Set in one of the richest Countries in the world (well, Principality) the event itself is filled with suspense, drama and excitement and the driver's skills are tested to their limits. The atmosphere that the event creates has been likened to no other in sporting history and its luxurious setting affords the average man an otherwise unlikely look into the lives and lifestyles of the ridiculously rich and famous. There are many names now that have become synonymous with the event. Mention Schumacher for instance, and your mind is cast to his incredible five Monaco Grand Prix victories. The name of another great, Ayrton Senna, immediately brings to mind his durable record of six wins. No driver however, epitomises the true incredible yet enigmatic nature of the event quite like the race's original winner, William Grover Williams.
William Grover Williams - Monaco Grand Prix's Forgotten Hero
The Monaco Grand Prix has catapulted many Formula One drivers into the limelight: Schumacher and Ayrton Senna alsways spring to mind. but how many people remember the first winner?
The Life of "Williams"
At the Monaco race's inception, Rudolf Caracciola was the heavy favourite for the 100,000 francs cash prize and trophy. In stark contrast, little, if anything was known about the man at this point only known as "Williams". The story itself reads as though it were a heroic tale, with British racing driver William Grover Williams cast as the mysterious hero. Williams was not a proverbial one hit wonder; he is regarded as one of Britain's most successful racing drivers between both world wars. His success was prolific; he won the French Grand Prix in 1928 and 1929, whilst racing to glory in between these successes at the Monaco Grand Prix. Despite his success and increasing profile at the time, he still managed to remain a somewhat illusive figure.
Perhaps, the most interesting thing about Williams was not his achievements in racing, but his extraordinary private life that reads more like a spy thriller than a biography. Williams was fluent in both French and English, and this allowed him to work for the french resistance as a secret agent. He was an accomplished spy and did much to aid the french resistance against the tyranny of Nazism. It was to be short lived however, as he was captured and arrested by the Nazis in 1943. During his time as a prisoner of war he was tortured at length and not once did he divulge any information to which he was privvy. What makes this all the more remarkable is that he would have almost certainly known he was facing imminent death, yet he refused to collaborated with the enemy. He was finally executed at Sachenhausen concentration camp in 1945 just a few weeks before the war came to an end.
William Grover Williams was a truly remarkable man and epitomises the incredible, paradoxical, exciting and unpredictable nature of the course. It is difficult to fathom why this man is not a household name. Like the course, he too was mythical, exciting and unpredictable. Even his demise was steeped in drama and tragedy. There have been many worthy winners of the Monaco Grand Prix but none of them encapsulate the essence of the event quite like Williams, and it is likely that no other driver ever will. His life as a spy can be likened to the track itself; there was no room for error, with any errors likely to be fatal.
Belgium Grand Prix 1939
Williams after winning the Belgium Gr...
This is fascinating footage of the first Monaco Grand Prix, won by William Grover-Williams
Had you ever heard of Williams, the forgotten Grand Prix hero?
No, he is news to me
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