FORMER professional racing driver James Walker is getting back on track this year and is hoping it will lead to more opportunities, including a possible return to Le Mans.
Walker has teamed up with another local driver, Tony Whitney, for the forthcoming Britcar Trophy Championship and will be supporting Whitney during two longer endurance races.
The championship takes place over multiple weekends across the year.
Whitney, who competed in his debut season in the competition last year, will be driving solo for the majority of the races, which each last only 50 minutes. However, Walker will be his co-driver for the two endurance races taking place at Silverstone: one is two hours long and another is six.
‘It’s a great opportunity to get back into it,’ said Walker.
The 39-year-old Islander last raced in 2015. After the obligatory apprenticeship in karting, his professional career started in formula racing in 2001, working up through the various formats before switching to sportscar and endurance racing in 2010.
‘It’s a big change. It’s like the rugby union and rugby league of racing,’ he says.
Walker enjoyed a few seasons racing in the European Le Mans Series, which he won in 2012 racing a Ferrari 458 Italia GTC. The next year, he also competed in the famous and illustrious 24 hrs Le Mans with co-drivers Jonny Cocker and Roger Wills. A season in the FIA World Endurance Championship was followed by another in the European Le Mans before moving back to Jersey with his young family. With the children now a little older, Walker is itching to get back into the action.
He got to know Whitney a few years ago through work and Whitney approached him about his desire to start racing.
That also stoked Walker’s desire to get back into the sport.
‘I’ve known Tony for about three or years now. He said he had been looking to get into racing for a while and he approached me to learn the ropes and learn more about circuit racing,’ said Walker.
‘I mentioned to him a few times that if he needed a co-driver to get in touch. It was a good opportunity to get back in the car and help Tony.’
Whitney enjoyed his rookie year in the Britcar Trophy championship last year, with Walker providing some valuable advice, finishing third in the G40 class with SVG Motorsport.
This year, Whitney has acquired a newly built Porsche Carrera S, built by SE Engineering, who will be running the car with Taf Tyres Ltd.
‘It’s a well established team and Tony has got a good championship behind him. Britcar has some really good teams and drivers and the standard will be high. There will be other pro-drivers like myself coming back to help in the endurance racing,’ he added.
Walker says that each stint behind the car is generally dictated by the amount of fuel there is. Changes may happen at each pit around an hour each time, though drivers might do anything up to quadruple stints at a time.
‘With the six-hour races, you can be a little bit clever with it. It can be very tactical. For example, it might be better for Tony to ride at night when it is a bit cooler,’ adds Walker.
‘It can be good fun with a lot of strategy involved. My experience helps the team and gets Tony up to speed.’
Despite Walker’s inactivity of late, he is still rated as a gold-standard driver within the FIA Drivers’ Categorisation that lists drivers on the basis of their achievements and performances. That means more high-profile racing opportunities can come Walker’s way.
‘I want to do Le Mans again at some stage,’ he admitted.
‘I want to take my children on a journey, see old faces and get the gang back together.’