|By Jeremy McMullenToday, it costs millions to develop a driver to be able to race at the highest levels. In the fledgling racing circuits, of the early days of motoracing, it was almost a chivalrous act for those with means to go out and brave death behind the wheel of a modern chariot. Those with the talent, but without perhaps all of the means, it took the right connections to find a competitive ride. Obviously there was wide range of talent; from those who do because they can and those who do because another believes in their ability. Peter Walker was one of those who had the talent to not merely compete, but was a threat to win.|
Walker was born in Leeds, Yorkshire in 1912. During his twenties, Walker really started showing interest and promise in circuit racing and hillclimbing. Peter's needed connection to make his promise come to fruition was found in Peter Whitehead. Throughout the period before the second world war, Walker could be found racing one of Whitehead's ERAs. His aggressive, sliding style made him a crowd favorite and gained him a certain bit of notoriety.
Although competitive before the war, Walker's aggressive style and experience helped him become even more successful in the late forties. In fact, he was one of the few really able to get the ERA E-type to perform and prove successful (see ERA article). 1948 was one of Walker's best years where he was able to put together some impressive performances both in hillclimbing races but also in grand prix racing.
One of those races Peter competed in during 1948 was the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. This was one of the first races at the former bomber base and was considered the first ever British Grand Prix. An almost permanent fixture today, the grand prix at Silverstone, initially, was supposed to be a one-off kind of event. The air ministry only allowed the event to be held at the base for that one year.
During this race, Peter was one of many who came to the race driving an ERA. However, Walker's drama didn't just come out on the track. In fact, Peter's drama was really trying to get to the track. Peter entered the race technically driving an ERA E-type chassis. Unfortunately, ERA was unable to deliver the chassis in time for the race. This meant Walker ended up starting the event in his own B-type ERA.
Peter started the race from the 8th position. This looked good but was really a gift handed to many of the entrants by Maserati's factory team failing to show up in time for qualifying. However, starting 8th was respectable given the fact Peter was driving a car more than a decade old, and that he beat out many other entrants including such names as Salvadori, Comotti and Rosier.
During the race, Walker survived the massive attrition to finish in 11th place, some 12 laps behind the winner Villoresi. Villoresi's young teammate Ascari came in second and Bob Gerard, in an ERA, driving a brilliant race in an outclassed car, finished third.
In Formula One's first season, Peter was there for the very first race at Silverstone. In fact, Peter was one of the first to be entered for the race. Walker entered his own ERA E-type for the race. Peter demonstrated his ability and out-right speed when he was able to qualify his E-type 10th. Peter beat out the likes of Chiron, Gerard, Etancelin, Murray and Claes.
Despite being attended by royalty, the Brit, Walker, would not really enjoy much of the 1950 British Grand Prix however. After only two laps, Peter turned the driving duties over to fellow Brit Tony Rolt. Unfortunately, the pace the car showed during qualifying wasn't matched by endurance. Both Peter Walker's and Tony Rolt's British Grand Prix came to an early end on lap five due to gearbox problems. Peter Walker's inaugural Formula One season came to an end after only an accumulation of five laps, as Walker did not contest another event on the Formula One calendar. So Peter Walker's team ended the first season of Formula One having qualified a personal best 10th, but only having completed five laps, and personally, Walker had only contested a total of two laps in Formula One.
This sad fact was not to be what Walker is remembered for however. Although considered 'erratic' by some, there was no denying Peter's ability. Though appearing as a footnote for Formula One's first season, in sports car racing Peter had the connections to not only compete but to go on to win. Pairing with his old connection Peter Whitehead in 1951, Walker would go on to achieve his greatest fame—winning the 24 hours of Le Mans.Sources:Wikipedia contributors. 'Peter Walker (racing driver).' Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 4 Mar. 2010. Web. 22 Mar. 2010.
'Peter Walker.' Stats.crash.net, Crash.net,
22 March 2010