Louise’s career began in 1979 when she was entered in Ford’s ‘Find a Lady Rally Driver’ competition, without her knowledge, by her two brothers and was a winner from 2000 entrants.
It spanned fourteen years up to 1993 when she retired to have a family. During those years she was the first woman to win a National Rally outright, survived a horrific crash in Portugal and became the first, ever British driver to win a world title – FIA Ladies World Rally Champion.
Louise Aitken-Walker MBE
Louise’s first competition was in 1979 when she was entered into Ford’s ‘Find A Lady Rally Driver’ contest, without her knowledge by her two brothers and was the winner from 2000 entrants. Two years later she finished 19th in her first rally GB. She contested the 1989 British Touring Car Championship, finishing fourth in points.
The pinnacle of Louise’s 14-year career was becoming the 1990 Ladies’ World Rally Champion. In 1990 she was awarded the prestigious Segrave Trophy, which is presented for a remarkable achievement on land, sea or through air by a British subject. Other recipients include Lewis Hamilton, Stirling Moss, Damon Hill, Amy Johnston and Donald Campbell. She was also inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
Since retiring Louise has divided her time between developing Aitken-Walker Cars with husband Graham, taking part in motor sport events such as The Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally in 2008 and fundraising for a variety of charitable causes. She was recently involved in a remarkably quick Three Peaks Challenge fundraiser with four other local residents in a time of 17 hours that raised over £46,000 for Cancer Research, The Meningitis Trust and The MacMillan Nurses (Louise was the designated driver!). Click here for more information about the three peaks challenge.
Graham has been interested in motor sport from an early age.
He began his motorsport career as a rally motorsport engineer, having developed a particular interest in rally cars. He first started with Malcolm Wilson. After about 4 years with Malcolm Graham worked for several professional teams such as Ford, Porsche, and BMW, maintaining and building high performance rally cars.
His knowledge and experience of both engineering and motorsport provided an invaluable base from which to develop Aitken-Walker Cars. The most important part in Grahams eyes, like he experienced in rallying, was to build a good team around him to work with.
I’ll do my bit first, which you will have gathered by now, is a lot less illustrious than Louise’s career. Never the less, Louise says go ahead and tell them as it is good for a giggle – if there are any school leavers reading this, they will know to take another route!!
It was probably in 1972, aged thirteen, when Roger Clark/Tony Mason became the first British crew to win the RAC rally in their Mk I RS1600 Escort, that I really got the bug. Thereafter, I endured pain every November until I left school – the pain, you see, was getting the cane from the teachers once they found out I had ‘bunked’ off school to watch the RAC rally through West Cumbria!! The fantastic sights and sounds of those Ford Escorts, Blomqvists Saab, The Lancia Stratos and the Datsun 240Z made it all worthwhile.
When the careers advisor came around at Eherside secondary school in Cleator Moor in West Cumbria, they didn’t have a section for motorsport, so I did exactly what you would expect a fifteen-year-old to do and became a joiner!
The first year in joinery was pretty quiet. But, I still managed to get myself over to Duns in 1975 to see Pentti Airikkala beat Russell Brooks by one second in the Jim Clark Memorial Rally. If you were there, watching, you will probably be like me, and never forget the spectacle on the final Charterhall stage.
What happened next was pure luck on my part; a young man by the name of Malcolm Wilson was starting to do very well near where I lived. I went over and, basically, made a nuisance of myself at nights and weekends helping out, which involved checking tyres and being the general gofer. At nineteen I had finished my apprenticeship as a joiner and had now enrolled on a mechanics course at college in Maryport (the modern term for this is called a career change – back then it was called clutching at straws)!! Within six months Malcolm was doing well and got some sponsorship from Total oil’s (remember the MkII Total Escort rolling on the start of Grandstand)? He needed someone full time and an apprentice for his cars, so I embarked on my second apprenticeship with a very experienced engineer – David Nelson from Carlisle.
For the next four years I helped prepare cars for Malcolm before going self-employed and worked for the following teams – Ford, Prodrive BMW, Prodrive Porsche 911, Austin Rover, Peugeot 205 and 205 T16.
Of course, when you’re working on rally cars, there is only one thing to do with your spare time and that is, build your own rally car. With some great sponsorship and help from family and friends and with Malcolm’s Dad (Ken) as navigator, off we went on our first rally. Although I might have been quick enough but sometimes my ability to keep the car on the road was limited. However, I had a great three years trying! Louise used to say, of my own rallying career, that I could have been a winner if the events were 80% shorter (cruel, but probably true)!
At the age of 22 and 25 years after her mum retired, Gina persuaded Mum and Dad to let her have a go, “just one go at rallying”. We should have known better as Gina had competed on horses very competitively all her life. She took to it like a duck to water and the “just one go at rallying” is now at 2 years and counting.
Gina did brilliantly well in her 1st year winning the Citroen C2 Ecosse Challenge Junior title and third overall. Gina was also awarded the RSAC scholarship for 2016 and found this very important as it allowed her to complete the full season.
2017 saw Gina compete in the Citroen C2 Ecosse challenge again and managed to better her first year with 1st in the Citroen C2 Ecosse Challenge, 2nd overall in Ecosse challenge and Scottish Ladies Champion.
2018 is hopefully going to be an action packed motorsport year for Gina and things are coming together.