UNFORGETTABLE! 10:30 - 29 July 2003

July 29, 1973, is probably remembered by Leicestershire motor-racing fans as the day the county lost its greatest hope of Formula 1 fame in a fatal accident at Zandvoort, in Holland.
But for the friends, colleagues and family of 24-year-old motor-racing virtuoso Roger Williamson, it was the day they lost an irreplaceable friend, son and brother.
Today is the 30th anniversary of his death, which is to be marked at Donington Park with the unveiling of a life-size statue - a lasting tribute to the Ashby-born man who gained the admiration of racing legends such as Jackie Stewart and Ken Tyrrell in his short lifetime.
Already behind the wheel of his father's car at the age of 10, Williamson loved everything connected to cars, earning his living as a motor mechanic at his father's garage in North-gate, Leicester, and getting brides to the church on time as a chauffeur for his father's wedding car-hire service.
His career started at Monarchs Speedway in Leicester's Slater Street, from which he soon progressed to go-karting, a hobby which he shared with his father, 'Dodge'.
By the 1960s, he was firmly in the driving seat of Minis and Anglias at Mallory Park, from which he moved on to Formula 3, when he met the man who was to be his professional mainstay and a second father to him - Tom Wheatcroft, the owner of Donington Park and the Grand Prix Collection.
Under Wheatcroft's guidance, Williamson continued to excel whenever he competed, with a series of accolades including BP Superman of the Year in 1971, winner of three Formula 3 championships in one year and an additional 32 race wins.
But his bid for Formula 1 Grand Prix glory ended in tragedy at Zandvoort in only his second F1 race. The treads of his tyres caused him to veer out of control, causing him to hit the crash barriers, reputedly secured only by posts hammered into the sand.
His March's ruptured fuel tank burst into flames and in spite of the selfless attempts of fellow British driver David Purley, he lay trapped in the upturned vehicle for 20 minutes and died of smoke inhalation.
At the same time, a nation's hopes for an invincible British world champion died with him.Trevor Foster, who was one of Williamson's Formula 2 mechanics who was also at the fateful Dutch Grand Prix, shared his memories of this unforgettable Leicester hero.
Foster, a 50-year-old and the former managing director of Jordan Grand Prix for 15 years, said: "The week before the Dutch Grand Prix, Roger had been involved in a collision at the start of his first Formula 1 race at Silverstone, which wasn't his fault. "Everyone was desperate to repair the car in time to go to Zandvoort.
"There was also the opportunity of a Formula 2 race in Sweden on the same day, so the plan was to stop off at Zandvoort and wait for a call to see if the car was ready. If it was, we did the Dutch Grand Prix. It was like fate and extremely sad looking back that the car was ready.
"There was no doubt at all that he was a future world champion.
"If you compare him to Nigel Mansell, Mansell probably didn't have as much natural ability as Roger, but the same dedication and determination to the job.
"The Formula 2 Monza race shortly before he died was amazing. He got knocked out of the race at the first chicane, so by the time he recovered, he was way behind everyone else.
"By the end, even the Italians were chanting his name and cheering him on. He came right from the back of the field and won it.
"The dedication of the statue was due to take place today at 11.30am, with all welcome.

From: http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=123643&command=displayContent&sourceNode=110201&contentPK=6532598