Williams Tuning Up For New Venture
The Williams Formula One team is rightly renowned for its exploits on F1 circuits across the world but the company has a number of other strings to its bow. Its latest venture is a move into the business of car tuning.
The Williams Formula One team is rightly renowned for its exploits on F1 circuits across the world but the company has a number of other strings to its bow. Its latest venture is a move into the business of car tuning. The world of the car tuner has a slightly murky reputation but Williams’ new enterprise is about as far from the ‘chipping’ of production cars as you can get. Instead of offering performance kits to individuals, Williams will focus on fettling the prestige sports cars of top manufacturers around the world.
The business will be operated from Williams’ £8 million new facility that the firm has constructed alongside its F1 centre in Oxfordshire. The building was officially opened in early July by David Cameron, who was joined by Williams chief, Sir Frank Williams. Initially, the new business had a difficult start. It came about after an agreement with Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) that Williams would build 250 of JLR’s stunning C-X75 850bhp hybrid supercar. Williams formed the Williams Advanced Engineering division in the March of 2012 to carry out the job but JLR then cancelled the project.
The relationship was complicated by JLR boss, Mike O’Driscoll, moving to Williams to head up the Advanced Engineering division after giving the C-X75 project the green light while at Jaguar. After his switch, the project was shelved. O’Driscoll, though, remains positive about the experience. He says: “I believed that such a halo car would provide a great backdrop to launch the Jaguar F-type but technology prove-out doesn’t necessarily mean market potential. We always knew that it would be a finely balanced decision. We continue to work with Jaguar Land Rover very closely.” The project did allow Williams to prove it could successfully build such a car and the company now uses the prototype of an example of the sort of thing its engineers can achieve. O’Driscoll added: “What we proved is that we can build a car with the performance of a Bugatti Veyron and the fuel economy of a Toyota Prius. The C-X75 has been an enormously positive experience.”
The new Williams Advanced Engineering division will now offer international carmaker clients the benefit of this experience, along with 30 years of expertise in aerodynamics, lightweight body construction and vehicle handling. Its experience in designing the hybrid system now used on Williams F1 cars means that it knows how to use electric battery technology to make cars much faster and at the same time far more frugal.
Clients of Williams Advanced Engineering will have to have deep pockets. The firm’s services start at £50,000 to £100,000 for aerodynamics projects and increase to millions for programmes that use the company’s wind tunnels. An early client was Nissan, who entrusted Williams Advanced Engineering with the development of their GT-R Time Attack sports car. The goal for this car was to take the production car lap time record at the famous Nurburgring, an achievement that is much sought after among manufacturers. Nissan saved some money by going for computer simulation of aerodynamics, rather than wind tunnel testing, but it was a success. Williams created a host of new aerodynamic features to increase the downforce on the car and hence increase grip. The car then achieved a record lap time of seven minutes and eight seconds.
Nissan has said that it decided to entrust the project for its new car to Williams Advanced Engineering because of the reputation the firm has for working quickly. In fact, it took Williams only three months between landing the contract and producing the record lap at the Nurburgring. Williams has now handed over all the technical details of the tweaked car to allow Nissan to make a superfast ‘track-pack’ version of the GT-R.
In many cases Williams Advanced Engineering is bound by commercial confidentiality but one car company is known to have booked out a huge chunk of wind tunnel time. It is likely that this is for a Le Mans car, as preparing cars for this race has become a speciality of Williams Advanced Engineering. The last three Audi winning cars have all used hybrid technology from Williams. With such secrecy, the only indication that you are driving a car that has benefited from Williams Advanced Engineering’s expertise may be a small Williams logo on the paintwork. At least, then, you’ll know you are in for a treat.