F1 design legend Sir Patrick set for NI motorsport gala night
Sir Patrick Head, chief designer of the Formula One World championship-winning Williams cars of the 1980s and '90s, will be the special guest at Saturday night's annual Celebration of Motorsport charity dinner in the Culloden Hotel at Cultra.
Now in its 24th year, the event has raised almost £600,000 for children's medical research, a figure that will be further boosted by this weekend's gathering of Ulster's car and motorbike stars and supporters.
They will be joined this time by Sir Patrick, co-founder of the once all-conquering Williams team and the only F1 engineer to be knighted.
Recruited by Frank Williams, now also a knight, Sir Patrick played a major role in transforming a fledgling team into World championship winners.
His innovative designs saw Williams cars carry Alan Jones, Keke Rosberg and Nelson Piquet to the the drivers' title in 1980, '82 and '87.
He later teamed up with a then rising design star, Adrian Newey, to produce winning cars for Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve in the 1990s.
Sir Patrick originally joined forces with Frank Williams to become head of engineering for their new F1 team in 1977 and his first F1 car (the FW06) appeared in 1978, immediately elevating Williams to a competitive entity after Frank's earlier abortive efforts to run a F1 team with customer cars.
Williams became a serious force half way through 1979 when Sir Patrick's next car (FW07) appeared and immediately set new standards.
Clay Regazzoni won the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July after Alan Jones had led the race before retiring. Jones went on to win four races, but too late in the season to win the championship.
But the Australian and the team claimed their first World Championship in 1980, winning six grands prix.
Further drivers' championships followed in 1982 (Rosberg), 1987 (Piquet), 1992 (Mansell), 1993 (Prost), 1996 (Hill) and 1997 (Villeneuve).
Head was responsible for all these cars, although in later stages, between 1990 and 1996, he formed a powerful design partnership with Newey who went on to design championship winning cars for McLaren and Red Bull.
Under Head's guidance Williams won 114 grands prix, nine constructors' championships and were runners-up six times but none since he stood down from the racing side in 2012 to focus on other engineering developments within Williams, specifically hybrid power, until that was sold in 2014.
In 2015 he was knighted for his services to British motorsport, joining his long-time partner Sir Frank Williams on the honours list.
Saturday night's guest list also includes newly crowned British Touring Car champion Colin Turkington, Kris Meeke, Lee Johnston, Jeremy McWilliams and Daniel Harper.
The Celebration of Motorsport dinner and auction is organised by the Northern Ireland committee of the SPARKS sporting charity.