Rob Walker Racing Team

  • 08 November 2023
  • 3 min read
  • 5 images
Rob Walker Racing Team image

Photo credit: Wheelsage, The Key

Rob Walker, heir to the Johnnie Walker whisky fortune, was a pre-war racing driver. He even participated in the 1939 Le Mans 24 Hours, where he finished eighth overall. However, the war and his wife’s concerns about the risks associated with racing at the time led him to retire from competition. In 1953, he founded the racing team that would proudly bear his name, along with the name of his Whisky. The Rob Walker Racing Team initially fielded two Formula 2 Connaught cars in national races, driven by Tony Rolt and Eric Thompson, with promising success.

Rob Walker Racing Team - 1 Rob Walker was first a driver, also participating in the 1939 24 Hours of Le Mans, and after retiring he founded his own Scuderia in 1953.

In 1956, Walker, recognizing the great potential of rear-engine single-seaters, made a pivotal decision to switch to Cooper and entrusted them to his renowned chief mechanic, Alf Francis. This choice proved to be an astute one, and the iconic blue cars with a white stripe from Scotland began to attract renowned drivers. Stirling Moss, in particular, raced for the team in the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix, securing the team’s first victory and ushering in a new era of rear-engine Formula 1 cars. The partnership between Moss and Walker marked the beginning of a successful chapter in motorsport history, including Lotus’s first Formula 1 win at the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix. The signature blue and white livery, featuring a transverse white stripe on the front, became synonymous with the Scottish racing team.

Rob Walker Racing Team - 2 Stirling Moss wins the first Formula 1 Grand Prix for Lotus in 1960 at Monaco under the colors of Rob Walker Racing Team.

For Walker, the pursuit of innovation was a constant theme. One notable example was the experiment with four-wheel drive technology developed by Ferguson. The car, fielded in the non-championship F1 race at Oulton Park in 1961, led Moss to an easy victory. It remains the only win by a four-wheel-drive F1 car, as the governing body swiftly banned the technology.

Rob Walker Racing Team - 3 The only victory in Formula 1 by a four-wheel drive car was achieved by the Rob Walker Racing Team in 1961 at Oulton Park with Stirling Moss driving the Ferguson P99.

In 1962, Walker encountered a profound setback. Although he had reached an agreement with Enzo Ferrari to manage a Ferrari 156 Formula 1 car, painted in the team’s distinctive blue and white colours, his star driver’s career was cut short by a serious accident at Goodwood, while he was behind the wheel of a Lotus. This was a double misfortune, as the British management of the Ferrari team and a driver of Moss’s calibre would likely have provided valuable insights to the Maranello-based racing team.

Rob Walker Racing Team - 4 Not only Formula 1 but also Granturismo cars for Rob Walker's team. Here in 1961 at Goodwood with a Ferrari 250 GT SWB.

Rob Walker didn’t give up. After a brief period with Jo Bonnier, the team focused on Swiss driver Jo Siffert, who delivered victory for the Rob Walker Racing Team in the 1968 British Grand Prix, driving a Lotus 49B. The team’s final appearance in Formula 1 was at the 1970 Mexican Grand Prix, with Graham Hill behind the wheel of a Lotus.

Rob Walker Racing Team - 5 The distinctive blue and white livery, featuring a white transverse stripe across the front, became synonymous with the Scottish team. Here with Jo Siffert winning the 1968 British Formula 1 GP in the Lotus 49B.