Peter Walker (racing driver)
|Born||Peter Douglas Conyers Walker
7 October 1912
Huby, Yorkshire, England
|Died||1 March 1984
Newtown, Worcestershire, England
Peter Douglas Conyers Walker (7 October 1912 – 1 March 1984) was an English racing driver. He was born in Huby, Yorkshire and died in Newtown, Worcestershire. He proved a strong driver in most disciplines, but was most adept in sports cars, winning the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans race, and the Goodwood Nine-Hours in 1955. He effectively retired after a crash in 1956 left him with serious injuries.
- 1 Early life & pre-war racing
- 2 Racing career
- 3 Away from the track
- 4 Racing record
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
Early life & pre-war racing
Peter ‘Skid’ Walker was born in Yorkshire in October 1912. He really started his racing career in 1935, after linking up with Peter Whitehead. He enjoyed success in both circuit racing and hillclimbing with an ERA prior to World War II, with victories at Brooklands and Donington Park. Throughout this period, he could be found racing Whitehead’s ERAs. His aggressive, sliding style made him a crowd favourite and gained him a little bit of notoriety. After the hostilities finished, he returned to the sport.
Although competitive before the war, Walker’s aggressive style and experience helped him become even more successful. In fact, he was one of handful of driver who could get the ERA E-type to perform. In 1948, he was able to put together some impressive performances both in hillclimbing, but in Grand Prix Racing. One of those races was the inaugural British Grand Prix, at RAF Silverstone. However, the race did not go to plan. He entered the race driving an ERA E-type, but the manufacturer was unable to deliver the chassis in time, so Walker used his older B-type. During the race, he survived the massive attrition to finish in 11th place, 12 laps adrift of the winner, Luigi Villoresi.
Grand Prix racer
In the inaugural World Championship of Drivers, Walker was present at the very first race, the RAC British Grand Prix at Silverstone. In fact, he was one of the first to enter the event, in his own ERA E-type. After qualifying tenth, he shared the race driving duties with Tony Rolt, pitting after just two laps to hand the car over. Unfortunately, the pace show in qualifying wasn’t matched by its endurance, was Rolt retiring the car on the fifth lap due to gearbox problems. Walker’s inaugural Formula One season ended there, as he did not contest another Grand Prix that season.
A month later his victory at Circuit de la Sarthe, he finished seventh in the RAC British Grand Prix in a supercharged 1.5-litre V16 BRM Type 15, with his team-mate Reg Parnell in fifth. Both drivers legs were so badly burnt by heat from the engines and exhaust systems that even walking was painful. Gregor Grant reported: ”Parnell and Walker saved the day for British motor racing. Their heroism in sticking to their task whilst suffering from agonising burns will enable the BRM designers to go ahead and modify the cars to make them completely raceworthy.” . Sadly Walker did race the BRM again.
After four years away, he returned to Formula One, racing twice. The first was aboard Stirling Moss’s Maserati 250F, where he retired from the Grote Prijs van Nederland, with mechanical issues. For the next race of the season, RAC British Grand Prix, at Aintree, he shared a works Connaught Type B with Rolt. In what turned to be his last Grand Prix, the car was retired with a failed throttle after just 19 of the 90 laps.
Sports Car Ace
Walker performances of the hills brought him to the attention of Lofty England, the manager of Jaguar’s sports car racing team, rewarded him with a drive in a Jaguar XK120 in this newly-launched car’s first race at Silverstone in 1949. Walker finished second, but won at same event 12 months later, in an alloy-bodied works-prepared XK120.
After the success of XK120, they developed an endurance racing version, the XK120C, or C-Type and need a driver. Walker was approached and with it, Jaguar embarked on their first racing program aimed at winning the 24 Heures du Mans outright. On its first attempt, just six weeks after completion, Walker achieved the victory for which he is best remembered, when he and co-driver, Whitehead won the 1951 race. Of the three entered, they filled the top three positions after four hours. However, after just 50 laps, only Walker’s remained in the race. The victory providing the Coventry marque with much publicity and acclaim.
Still nursing his burns from the British Grand Prix, Walker dismissed them as little more than ”a bit of a nuisance” , he arrived at Dundrod to race a C-Type in the RAC Tourist Trophy. Jaguar cleaned up, taking all three places in the podium. As for Walker, he finished in a dutiful second behind Moss.
In the 1953 race, he shared his works C-Type with Stirling Moss, and the pair led in the early stages until the engine problems intervened. Moss pitted on lap 20, and the mechanics set to work. The problem was only solved after a second stop, when the mechanics changed a blocked fuel filter. Moss and Walker would finish second, four laps down on their winning team-mates, Rolt and Duncan Hamilton. This would be the closest Walker would ever get to a second victory at Le Mans.
Walker was paired again with Moss for the Goodwood Nine-Hour and they led comfortably for the first eight hours, until the car retired. Next up was the RAC Tourist Trophy, where Walker would break the lap record, but again hit mechanic troubles and Moss managed to bring the car home in third.
Although he remained with Jaguar for 1954, the season wasn’t as successful, despite teaming with Moss for Le Mans in a Jaguar D-Type, when they retired in the 12th hour with brake problems. At the end of the season, England asked Walker to make himself available for pre-season testing, ahead of the 1955 season. Walker failed to respond and joined Aston Martin. This proved not to be a good move, as Jaguar’s great hat-trick of Le Mans victories was about to begin. Some consolation to Walker, was his fine victory in the Goodwood Nine-hour, a race in which shared an Aston Martin DB3S with Dennis Poore.
He largely retired from racing after crashing a DB3S at Le Mans in 1956. He made a mistake in the 16th hour of the race, whilst running strongly. He suffered what would basically turn into a career-ending accident. The car skidded on the wet track near the Dunlop Bridge and hit the wall – ultimately sliding upside down on the track.
Walker did test and race again in 1957. In the spring, he tested for Rob Walker Racing Team, in their Connaught Type B at Goodwood, and subsequently drove the car in a one-off race, the Gran Premio di Siracusa the following season. He was classified in eighth place despite spinning and stalling the car late on.
Away from the track
After he retired from the sport, Walker took up rabbit and chinchilla farming with Lady Ripley for a while, and even designed an ingenious type of cattle grid, but both ventures came to nothing.
Walker, gentleman farmer, talented racing driver and one of the sport’s most misunderstood geniuses, tragically died 1 March 1984, after suffering from dementia and pneumonia. But he is still rememembed today by his peers – people like Moss, who describes him as one of life’s ’great guys’.
|1936||Nuffield Trophy ||2nd||Peter Whitehead||ERA B-Type|
|Donington Grand Prix ||3rd||Peter Whitehead||ERA B-Type|
|1949||Silverstone International ||2nd||Peter Walker||Jaguar XK120|
|Goodwood Trophy ||2nd||ERA E-Type|
|1950||Silverstone International [+2.0] ||1st||Peter Walker||Jaguar XK120|
|1951||Les 24 Heures du Mans ||1st||Peter Walker||Jaguar C-Type|
|RAC Tourist Trophy ||2nd||Jaguar Cars||Jaguar C-Type|
|1952||Hastings Trophy ||2nd||Cooper-ERA|
|1953||Les 24 Heures du Mans ||2nd||Jaguar Cars Ltd.||Jaguar C-Type|
|BMCLCC Trophy ||2nd||Cooper-ERA|
|RAC Tourist Trophy ||3rd||Jaguar Cars Ltd.||Jaguar C-Type|
|1954||Silverstone International ||3rd||Ecurie Ecosse||Jaguar C-Type|
|1955||Snetterton International ||1st||Connaught Engineering||Connaught B Type|
|Goodwood Nine-Hours ||1st||Aston Martin||Aston Martin DB3S|
Complete Formula One World Championship results
|1950||Peter Walker||ERA E-Type||ERA Straight-6||GBR
|1951||BRM Ltd.||BRM P15||BRM V16||SUI||500||BEL||FRA||GBR
|1955||Stirling Moss||Maserati 250F||Maserati Straight-6||ARG||MON||500||BEL||NED
|Connaught Engineering||Connaught Type B||Alta Straight-4||GBR
- * Indicates shared drive with Tony Rolt.
Complete 24 Hours of Le Mans results
|1951||Peter Walker||Peter Whitehead||Jaguar C-Type||S5.0||267||1st||1st|
|1952||Peter Walker||Stirling Moss||Jaguar C-Type||S5.0||DNF
|1953||Jaguar Cars Ltd.||Stirling Moss||Jaguar C-Type||S5.0||300||2nd||2nd|
|1954||Jaguar Cars Ltd.||Stirling Moss||Jaguar D-Type||S5.0||92||DNF
|1955||Aston Martin Ltd.||Roy Salvadori||Aston Martin DB3S||S3.0||105||DNF
|1956||David Brown||Roy Salvadori||Aston Martin DB3S||S3.0||175||DNF
Complete 12 Hours of Reims results
|1954||Jaguar Cars Ltd.||Stirling Moss||Jaguar C-Type||DNF
- http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/march-1996/52/peter -walker
- "The Grand Prix Who's Who", Steve Small, 1995
|Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans