Formula Three review

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Walker’s month

It is most unusual in the hard-fought category of Formula Three racing for one man to dominate the scene completely, but the 29-year-old Australian Gold Leaf-Team Lotus driver David Walker has, as we go to press, won the last four major races in a row. He has moved within one point of Bev Bond at the top of the Championship for the Motor Sport Trophy, and Colin Chapman has been so pleased with his performances that during June he gave Walker a couple of Formula One drives.

However, Walker is no newcomer to motor racing for it was over ten years ago that he came to Britain on a working holiday and spent some of his savings at Jim Russell’s Racing Drivers’ School. But, iit wasn’t until 1963 that he really got into racing. He had saved up enough money for a new Brabham, and raced it in Australia, scoring six victories. He raced the same car through 1964 and into 1965 when an accident put paid to his racing.

He made a trip to Britain in 1966 and had two F3 drives towards the end of the year, replacing another Australian driver, but then the owner of the car decided to sell up. Walker returned home and then reappeared in Europe in 1967 having bought a Merlyn F3 car. With only the price of a meal in his pocket he set off for a season of racing around the Continent, living only off the starting money. A win at the Yugoslavian circuit of Opatija boosted his morale and reputation, but at the end of the season he was distinctly hard up.

Returning to the Jim Russell school he helped as an instructor in 1968 and also drove a Formula Ford Alexis for the team, scoring 12 victories. He continued with Russell for 1969 and by this time had switched to a Lotus Formula Ford which was being backed by the factory. No less than 14 victories were notched up and soon after mid-season he had the British Championship clinched. He was rewarded with a semi-works Lotus Formula Three drive at the end of the season and finished third in each of the three races.

So for the 1970 season he joined the strength of Gold Leaf-Team Lotus with Bev Bond and immediately became one of the top drivers in the Formula. Of the 23 races he entered he set pole position 12 times and was the victor nine times, although some of his races were punctuated by incidents and he gained the reputation as a very hard driver. There also seemed to be quite a lot of inter-team rivalry which didn’t help at all, and which perhaps lost him at least one of the Championships. At the end of the year he drove the Formula 5000 Lotus a couple of times but it proved unreliable, and also did some testing in the Turbine Formula One car.

After a successful Brazilian series during the winter, in which he finished runner-up to Wilson Fittipaldi who had a distinctly more powerful engine in his Lotus, he returned to Britain hoping Lotus would offer him a Formula Two car to drive. They didn’t, so he swallowed his pride and decided to continue with Formula Three. It seems the decision has paid off and Walker’s career looks like parallelling that of Denny Hulme.

It was undoubtedly Walker’s month on the circuits for following his win at Zandvoort he drove down to Monaco in a Lotus 7, where he completely dominated the F3 race which was not in the Motor Sport series. A surprise performance came from the little known Italian Giancarlo Naddeo in an elderly Tecno, who took second place in the final (and won his heat) ahead of the works Alpine-Renaults of Depailler and Jabouille. In fact this pair were split by Steve Thompson’s private Ensign.

A week later everyone was back on the Motor Sport trail at Oulton Park and again Walker in the works Lotus demoralised everyone by walking away with both the heat and the long 40-lap final. Initial chase was given by Bond’s Ensign but the engine blew up and it was Thompson, in yet another good showing, who finished second ahead of Roger Williamson’s March, while Chris Skeaping went well to take fourth place in his 1970 Chevron.

The Martini Trophy meeting followed and naturally this was in the best Silverstone Grand Prix circuit slip-streaming tradition. The vast group was finally reduced to six cars battling for the lead on the last lap, and again it was Walker who timed everything just right to score his fourth successive win. In his wake came Bev Bond’s Ensign, Barrie Maskell’s Chevron, Swede Torsten Palm’s new Brabham, Allan McCully’s Brabham and Thompson’s Ensign. A week later Walker was driving a Formula One Lotus 72 at Hockenheim.—A. R. M.