Unfortunately, we tend to get used to losing people who have been on the motor racing scene for many years. Sadly, another great motor racing legend was taken from us when Rob Walker passed away from pneumonia at the age of 84.
Among Walker’s many accomplishments, he was a skilled prewar driver who became the most famous privateer team owner, renowned for the success of his Cooper and Lotus Grand Prix cars – especially with Stirling Moss at the wheel. From 1958-1968, the Rob Walker dark blue colors won nine World Championship Grand Prix races. His partnership with Moss was immensely successful. They won the first race of 1958, the Argentine Grand Prix, which was not only Walker’s and Cooper’s first Grand Prix win, but also the first victory for a rear-engine car.
Moss’ most famous GP victories came in the 1961 Monaco and German Grand Prix, where his Walker-owned car beat the Ferrari Sharknoses and so impressed Enzo Ferrari that Moss would have had a Walker-prepared Sharknose in 1962, if his Goodwood accident hadn’t prematurely ended his career. Rob’s memory on this subject was sparkling – as if it were yesterday.
Rob Walker (who I interviewed on several occasions) was not only a great team owner, but a real enthusiast, who loved going over the stories of the past. He told outrageously funny stories, and on more than one occasion my phone rang late at night with some of these tales. When asked if some stories were for print, Rob would often say, “I insist on it!” Looking back, he spoke with emotion of the tragedy of Ricardo Rodriguez in the Walker Lotus 24 and the enmity which followed this event, and with pride about what Moss accomplished. He was also always proud of what the team achieved with the 1960/61 Ferrari 250SWB.
Until his recent illness, Rob Walker was always accessible, and never once failed to stop for a chat or a story. At Silverstone in 2000, we were talking about the car he had Alf Francis build, the Walker Special, when the very car went by the window outside the BRDC Center. He rushed over to watch it, lamenting how Moss never got to race it.
Rob’s death is the end of another era, and I for one will seriously miss him.