One of Australia’s former F1 drivers, David Walker, is celebrating his 69th birthday today.
How on earth a driver with such a incredible pedigree in the lower formulae could struggle so terribly once he graduated into the top echelon remains a mystery, but Walker’s story is as fascinating as it is tragic.
Born in Sydney, Walker won the 1969 British Formula Ford championship and utterly dominated the 1971 British F3 series, winning an outstanding 25 races out of the 32 race starts, including the premier Grand Prix support races at Monte Carlo and Silverstone.
His performance shot him to prominence and to the attention of one Colin Chapman, who signed Walker up to the team for the 1971 Dutch Grand Prix. Despite qualifying a lowly 22nd, Walker used his turbine-powered four-wheel-drive car to power up to 10th place within 5 laps, only to spin off into retirement.
Despite this, he was awarded a full-time seat with the team for 1972, and partnered none other than Emerson Fittipaldi in the beautiful black Lotus 72D. Apart from a fifth-placed result in the non-championship round at Brazil, the season was an unmitigated disaster for Walker, who holds the ignominious record of being the sole driver to fail to score a single championship point while his team-mate stormed to the championship.
Lotus blamed Walker’s supposedly inadequate driving technique, a lack of fitness and lack of mechanical sympathy to the 72D’s rather delicate disposition; while in turn Walker claimed Lotus gave him inferior equipment and directed more attention to Fittipaldi’s needs than his own.
When the team found out that he had secretly tested a Formula 2 for another team, he was ditched for the Italian and Canadian Grands Prix and made a final appearance at the US Grand Prix.
Without any prospect of an F1 drive, he moved back Formula 2, but unfortunately was injured in two separate road accidents. He retired from motor racing at the end of 1975 and now runs a boat charter business in Queensland.