WILLANS owes its original success to the expertise of a retired British Army Major, Major "Dumbo" Willans and the business talent of a former Lotus Formula Junior driver John Fenning.
The eclectic pair first met in 1967. Major Willans was making safety harnesses for the aircraft industry and John Fenning wanted to make motor racing safer. In 1967 they introduced harnesses to the motorsport world and in 1969 equipped their first Formula 1 World Champion. The business grew over the years until Major Willans decided to concentrate on fall protection harnesses and John Fenning continued to concentrate on the motorsport market.
With 19 Formula 1 World Champions and over 250 Grand Prix wins to date, as well as countess victories in other categories around the world, there is no question that the company has a long and succesful history with more success to come in the future in an ever widening range of motor sports.
The business originally operated from Grosvenor Garage in the High Street in Stockbridge which started as a Morris dealership back in 1934. The original photo shows the premises in use as a functioning garage along with the original sewing machine used by Major Willans for the original harnesses.
Today the company uses state of the art computer controlled sewing machines for most of its production although the Formula 1 harnesses are still produced on manual machines due to the fine detail required.
In May 2007 John Fenning announced his plan to retire from the business and Simon Perkins, an entrepreneur and enthusiastic amateur racer, purchased the company. After an extensive handover period, Simon and the other members of staff continue to provide the service and quality customers have come to expect over our 41 years in business.
In 2007 the company launched its Lightweight Single Seater harness, the lightest FIA and SFI approved harness available, which is now in use by several teams in Formula 1 and the IRL. The company also introduced its customers to HANS devices through its association with Stand21 in France.
In 2008 the company certified its first 7 point harness and produced its first Nomex covered harness also for drag racing. The Silverstone EXG™ was introduced specifically for the Lotus Exige which has become the track day car of choice.
In 2009 to allow for continued expansion, the company moved to larger modern industrial premises at Inkpen in Berkshire, close to the M4 and A34 arterial corridors for easy transport links East-West and North-South.
In 2010 the company announced its first brand extension with the launch of the Foamex® range of on-board Fire Suppression systems.
In 2012 the company moved its factory to the Silverstone Circuit at the heart of British Motorsport. This will make it easier for customers to visit our facility and will enable the company to assist competitors who are testing or racing at the circuit.
In May 2015 the company announced its second brand extension with the launch of FIA approved Fuel Bladders. By using W301, a Kevlar based fabric, the company is able to offer products that are light, flexible and strong and which may be used in all forms of motorsport outside of Formula 1.
Major 'Dumbo' Willans
Original sewing machine