Walter Wolf Racing Formula 1
Walter Wolf Racing is one of the biggest names in the world of motorsport. The magnificent victory in Monte Carlo 1977, when South African Walter Wolf Racing driver Jody Scheckter won the most prestigious event on the Formula One calendar is just one of many triumphs. Today the Walter Wolf Racing team, despite having faced several adversities, is still alive and well and not only competing but winning in global automotive competitions. Driven for this team have many a motorsport celebrity, from Formula One world champions and Le Mans winners to Indy and local champions. To list a few: James Hunt, Gilles Villeneuve, Jody Scheckter, Keke Rosbers, Jacky Ickx, Arturo Merzario, Bobby Rahal, Masanori Sekiya, Beat Blatter, Mike Thackwell, Teo Fabi, Stefan Johansson, Mat Tom and Ivan Belarossa.
Walter Wolf made a fortune in the North Sea oil business in the early 1970s and started appearing at Grands Prix with Frank Williams in the course of the 1975 season. At the time the team was struggling with debts of 140,000 GBP. Wolf helped the team to survive and at the end of the year proposed to buy 60% of Frank Williams (Racing Cars) Ltd. but agreed to leave Williams as General Manager. The Wolf-Williams team was born.
The team was based in the Williams facility at Bennett Road, Reading but used the equipment and the cars which had belonged to Hesketh Racing, Wolf having bought the assets of the team. The Hesketh 308C became known as the Williams FW05 and, as part of the deal, Dr. Harvey Postlethwaite arrived as chief engineer. Significantly, Williams managed to convince his own recently-hired chief designer Patrick Head to stay on with the team. Jacky Ickx and Frenchman Michel Leclere were hired to drive.
The black and gold cars were not, however, very competitive and failed to qualify on several occasions. Leclere left after the French GP and was replaced by Arturo Merzario while Ickx failed to perform and was dropped after the British GP, to be followed by a string of pay-drivers.
At the end of the year Wolf decided that the team must be restructured. He hired Peter Warr from Team Lotus and pushed Williams into the role of sponsor-hunter.
Postlethwaite’s WR1 was a conventional Cosworth package but with Jody Scheckter hired from Tyrrell the new-look team presented a strong package. No-one, however, expected that the team would win its first race in Argentina. It was in many respects a lucky win with Scheckter starting 10th with six of those ahead of him retiring.
Disillusioned Frank Williams left the team, taking Head and several others to set up Williams Grand Prix Engineering. That season Scheckter went on to win the Monaco and Canadian GPs and six other podium finishes which enabled him to finish second to Niki Lauda in the World Championship and gave Wolf fourth place in the Constructors’ title.
The package remained the same in 1978 with Postlethwaite producing the WR5, a new car for the ground-effects era. This did not appear until the Belgian GP. Scheckter finished fourth in Spain and second in Germany but the WR5 soon made way for the WR6 with which he ended the year with a third in the US Grand Prix and second in Canada. He finished seventh in the World Championship. The team ran older cars for Keke Rosberg in the mid-season and Bobby Rahal in the final two races but neither could do much with the machinery.
In 1977 Wolf ordered by Dallera the Can-Am single seater and Cris Amon was the driver and was replaced by Gilles Villeneuve. In the course of 1978 Wolf also financed the construction of a Dallara Formula 3 chassis – known as WD1 – which Bobby Rahal raced in Wolf colors in European F3 races.
In this time Wolf started with Ronald Thomson, former president of Phillip Moris Europe a line of men’s luxury products with the trademark Walter Wolf Racing which was promoted with formula 1 racing.
Japanese licensee Hiranuma sponsored formula 2 and prototype racing with several victories in dark blue and golden cars.
At the end of the year Scheckter was lured away to Ferrari and Wolf hired James Hunt as his replacement. Postlethwaite designed the WR7 which ran with Olympus sponsorship. The car was not very successful and the WR8 soon followed. In mid-season Hunt decided to retire and Wolf quickly hired Rosberg to replace him. The appearance of the WR9 did little to change the team’s fortunes and at the end of the year Wolf grew tired of his F1 adventure and sold the team to Emerson Fittipaldi.
Present owner of the Walter Wolf Racing trademark Matjaž Tomlje raced himself in the formula 3 series, touring car series and also at the 24 Heures du Mans where he earned himself a bronze medal in 1994 in the GT category, all in dark blue colored cars with the typical red “W” and stylized golden wolf liveries.
Walter Wolf Racing & Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A.
In the 1970’s Walter Wolf, owner of the eponymous Formula 1 team, established close ties with the Lamborghini factory and then technical director Giampaolo Dallara. Their collaboration gave birth to a 1974 prototype Countach 400S with a new 5-litre engine capable of delivering 447 HP at a staggering 7900 rpm and could go on to a top speed of over 315 km/h. As Dallara shod the rear wheels in massive 315 width tyres fender flares were required to cover the bulging P7 Pirellis. The sports car’s aerodynamics were further enhanced with front and rear wings.
The first example was finished in a bright red and black colour, while the second prototype from 1976 wore a royal blue finish. The third and final Wolf special was delivered in 1978 with custom dark blue paint in line with Wolf’s Formula 1 team colours and a large red W logotype. It was this last example that was featured on Lamborghini’s exhibition space at the Geneva International Motor Show, albeit without the large rear wing but still boasting AP’s six piston race-derived brake setup which could be adjusted on the fly straight from the cockpit. Wolf’s prototypes were so successful Lamborghini decided, with a few minor tweaks, to offer it as a series production model in 1980 rebranding it to the now famous LP500.
Walter Wolf Porsche 935
The Walter Wolf Porsche 935 is the only example of a street-legal Porsche 935 race car. Modified by German racing outfit Kremer Racing specifically for Walter Wolf, the car shares 98% of all constituent parts with the 24 Hours of Le Mans winning race car. This one-off retains the Le Mans spec 2,8 L engine producing over 740 HP and propelling the vehicle to a top speed of over 383 km/h. Walter Wolf also worked together with tire producer Goodyear to develop a set of street-legal tyres for the vehicle.