Rallying Careers

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.

Entered first Lombard RAC Rally - finished 19th overall.
Won Group One category in National British Championship.
Won Coupe des Dames in Monte Carlo Rally driving Alfa Romeo Won National 'Peter Russek' Rally in Ford Escort First woman to win a national rally and awarded Pirelli Diamond for outstanding achievement in motor sport. Selected by RAC to drive for British Junior Rally Team.
Finished 3rd in British National Championship.
Signed by Peugeot to drive in British Open Championship Placed third and won class Won class and Ladies Trophy in Lombard RAC Rally.
Drove Nissan 240RS on British Open Rally Championship. Eventually finished 15th overall on RAC Rally, was last after 7th stage due to an accident!!
Achieved 5 wins from 5 events in British Open Championship to collect maximum points to win class title. Climbed to 7th overall on snowy RAC Rally capturing hearts of TV viewers before fracturing Peugeot's oil filter and retiring before BBC cameras. Voted National Driver of the year by readers of Autosport.
No. 1 driver for Peugeot. Second overall in Cartel International Rally Fifth in British Championship
Signed by GM Vauxhall Team. Won 2 litre class in British Open Championship, also contested full season in British Touring Car Championship with class wins at Silverstone and Thruxton. Won Ladies Cup on Lombard RAC Rally Ladies European Rally Champion.
Signed by GM Eurosport to contest World Rally Championship. Won Coup des Dames on Monte Carlo (11th overall) also Ladies Cup on New Zealand Rally, Rally Australia and Rally of Italy. Survived horrific crash in Portugal when car somersaulted into a deep lake Won Asia Pacific Ladies Rally Championship First ever British Rally Driver to win a world title. Presented with Driver of the Year Award by Guild of Motoring Writers. FIA Ladies World Rally Champion.
Signed by Ford Motor Company to drive a Group A Sapphire Cosworth in British Open Championship and Lombard RAC Rally Finished 10th overall Top British Driver on Lombard RAC Rally and Ladies Award for fourth time Awarded the Jim Clark Trophy for best performance in motor sport by a Scot Also the Seagrave Trophy for highest achievement by a British Subject in any form of transport.
Awarded the MBE in Queen's New Year Honours list. Signed by Ford to drive an 'all green' Group N Ford Sapphire Cosworth.
Retired to have family, son John, James and Gina Margaret.
Various PR work for manufacturers and companies, one project which Louise loves is to drive the opening car on The Jim Clark Memorial Rally which is the mainland's only closed road event jointly organised by Berwick & District Motor Club (Louise is Vice President of the Club and Andrew Cowan is President). In the past Louise has driven one of Andrew's Ralliart Mitsubishi's and latterly as the Rally is in the British Rally Championship and was sponsored by Seat. Louise got to drive a Seat World Rally Car. One of the stages goes right past Langton Mill the farm where Louise was brought up. Louise always comments that it is strange going past your own door at over 110mph but adds it's great fun!
Along with Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, Jim Clark OBE and Bob McIntyre (motor cycle racing) Louise was among the first 50 to be inducted into the new "Scottish Sports Hall of Fame". This shows Scotland's sporting heritage over the last 200 years and covers all sports, there were four inductees from Motorsport. One of the things Louise would like to get more involved with in the future is the tuition of young drivers and at the present time is looking at the best way to try and do this. For Manufacturers and Companies, later in 2003 Louise is doing some corporate driving days and driving tuition for individuals who want to learn the art of car control.

Graham Walker

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)!