The Birth of Williams Touring Car Engineering
The birth of Williams Touring Car Engineering was announced in September 1994 after a common path was found for Williams to extend its motorsport activities beyond Formula One and for Renault UK to advance its challenge in the British Touring Car Championship. The company began its activities in November that year and Williams Renault Dealer Racing was formed. Williams Touring Car Engineering employs over 40 people at its Didcot headquarters, and prepares and runs the Nescafe Blend 37 Williams Renault Lagunas for its partner, Renault UK.
The Renault Laguna’s potential for success was confirmed in the team’s debut season when it claimed the 1995 manufacturers’ championship title for Renault UK. With the BTCC characteristically close that year the final championship standings all hung on the closing rounds, where the team produced a spectacular double one-two finish and pipped the opposition to the post in the last race to take the title for Renault. Alain Menu finished second in the 1995 Drivers’ championship and then went on to repeat this achievement in 1996, concluding the season with adominant victory in the prestigious Tourist Trophy at Donington Park. 1997 saw Williams Renault Dealer Racing in its third year in the Auto Trader RAC Touring Car Championship having clocked up 15 victories in the first two seasons. The driver line-up was again headed by Alain Menu who was joined by his new team-mate, Jason Plato, winner of the 1996 Elf Renault Spider UK cup and the only newcomer to the British Touring Car Championship that year.
Leaving his rivals fighting for best of the rest, Alain ran away with the points in the early stages of the 1997 championship. Having been runner-up for the past three seasons the Swiss star was more than ready to stake his claim on the drivers’ crown but few expected him to carryout the task with such unprecedented dominance. By the BTCC season’s end Alain has scored a record 21 podium finishes of which 12 were wins, and clocked up 281 championship points which left him 110 points clear of second placed man, Audi’s Frank Biela.
To seal the year the newly crowned Drivers’ Champion went on to defend the Tourist Trophy which he had won in 1996, reclaiming it in style at Donington Park in October.
Jason made his mark immediately with the first three pole positions of the season and quickly established himself as a crucial force in Renault’s campaign for the tile. He went on to become a familiar front runner in the touring car field and celebrated an impressive debut season with two race victories out of nine podium finishes. Jason finished theyear in third place in the drivers’ ranking, just one point behind Biela who was defending last year’s championship.
The unrivalled achievements mean that in 1997 Williams Renault Dealer Racing celebrated the most successful year for any team in the BTCC.The winning combination of team, manufacturer and drivers return to the track in 1998 as Renault UK continues it’s partnership with Williams Touring Car Engineering for a further two years, and both Alain Menu and Jason Plato have signed with Nescafe Blend 37 Williams Renault for the forthcoming season.