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The drive of your life for F1 boss
FORMULA 1 legend Sir Frank Williams recalled Grand Prix successes built in Didcot as a road in the town was named after him yesterday.
Sir Frank, whose Williams team moved its headquarters from Didcot to Grove in the mid-1990s, visited Great Western Park, where the main road through the estate is being named in his honour.
The road will eventually link the A4130 on the outskirts of town where hundreds of homes have already been built, to the Wantage Road.
Planning permission has been given for 3,500 homes to be built over the next 16 years.
Council leaders and developers gathered to watch Sir Frank, 70, unveil the first road sign on Sir Frank Williams Avenue.
Sir Frank said: “The Williams F1 team started work here in 1977 in an empty carpet warehouse in Station Road and Didcot has never forgotten what we did in the town.
“I want to remind people that we won the majority of our Grand Prix when we were here and enjoyed some great successes.
“I have always enjoyed being around the area and I have never once been nicked for speeding, which is astonishing.”
The street was named after Sir Frank following the suggestion of truck driver Duncan Sabiston, 45, from Ladygrove in Didcot.
The father-of-one said: “I have always been fanatical about F1 and very interested in Sir Frank’s story and how he achieved worldwide success from such a small seed in Didcot.
“His old factory was in Didcot while his new factory is in Grove. As this estate borders both district council areas, I thought Sir Frank would be a great person to have a street named after him.
“I have followed Grand Prix on TV since about 1994 so I am thrilled to meet Sir Frank.”
Taylor Wimpey project manager Laurence Hobden said 170 homes on the estate were now occupied, with another 125 under construction.
He said: “It’s lovely that Sir Frank’s back in Didcot and we are proud to name the road in his honour.
“The road will go right the way through the whole development.”
Mr Hobden added that the speed limit on the road was 30mph.
South Oxfordshire District Council leader Ann Ducker said: “People in Didcot are great followers of Williams racing, and it’s nice that we can name such as important road after Sir Frank.”
Didcot mayor Peter Read added: “Williams was an important part of the town for many years until they needed to move to bigger premises in Grove.”
HUGE HISTORY FROM TINY START
SIR Frank Williams, pictured left in 1986, has been an important figure in southern Oxfordshire since 1977.
With engineer Patrick Head, he started Williams Grand Prix Engineering in an empty industrial unit in Didcot.
The team made its Formula 1 debut in 1978 and in 1979 Clay Regazzoni picked up the team’s first Grand Prix win.
Since their move to the area, Williams F1 has competed in more than 500 Grand Prix, picking up nine Constructors’ Championships, seven Drivers’ Championships, 127 pole positions and 114 wins.
In March 1986 Sir Frank was paralysed in a road accident near Nice.
In 1996, the team moved from their Didcot home, where they started with just 17 members of staff, to Grove – where they now have more than 500 staff.
In May this year, Williams won the Spanish Grand Prix – their first Grand Prix win since 2004.