Chris Walker still stalking titles (Part 2)
On the eve of his sidecar debut, we sat down with one of Britain’s favourite racers to look back over an incredible 20-year career
ew racers of any generation have managed to reinvent themselves as many times as Chris Walker. From schoolboy motocrosser to BSB runner-up, from factory GP racer to WSB race-winner, the 43-year old has been there, done that and got the leathers to prove it.
World Superbike glory 2002-2008
It was in World Superbikes that Walker was able to finally show his true form on the world stage, managing a top 10 in his first year before taking the uncompetitive Foggy Petronas FP1 to a debut podium and finally getting that legendary Assen win.
“I was out on a limb and got picked up by the factory Kawasaki WSB team. I finished ninth after not knowing any of the tracks, I was the first four-cylinder, and it was a great year.
“When they pulled out, I had an amazing year with Colin Wright at GSE. I’m a Kawasaki man, but I do love Ducatis, and it was the bike to be on at the time. I finished sixth, and had a couple of podiums.
“Then I went to Foggy Petronas, and after the first three laps on it Toseland asked me how it was – and I told him, ‘F***ing hell – it’s going to be a long year!’ And then I went and put it on the podium at the first round! When I rode in beside him in parc ferme he had to double-take!
“That all led to the search for the Holy Grail – the one and only win! I got offered a huge sum of money by Foggy to stay on the FP1 for another year, but I just couldn’t face it. I’m a racer and I wanted to win – the money will always come anyway if you’re good and you work hard.
“I turned him down and signed for PSG-1 – and that was a baptism of fire! They were an Italian team, they were always broke, you always had to chase them to get paid – but they were just lovely people! I had great fun and they taught me how to drink an espresso without batting an eyelid.
“That all built to that day at Assen in 2006. It felt like 2000 all over again – like I could walk on water – which is pretty much what I had to do in those weather conditions!
“It was an amazing day, but there was a typically cruel twist of racing fate, too. The team had already decided they were only going to run two bikes in 2007, and I didn’t bring any money to the team, so they told me they were going to let me go just before I went to the start line for race two!”
Back to BSB 2007-2015
With the rug pulled out from under him in WSB, it was back to BSB for Stalker after that (albeit with a brief foray to World Supersport in 2008). Quickly becoming the wise old man of the class, there were still a few surprises to come.
“There weren’t the opportunities in WSB in 2007, so I thought: ‘OK, come back to BSB and have another go. You’re still young enough; you still haven’t won it and you’ve still got the pace.’
“That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing until the end of last year, even though it never quite happened. But to make the Showdown in 2014, well into my forties, was almost like winning the title.
“It’s a shame that I couldn’t have got a second year with GBmoto but, ironically, because I was opening a Kawasaki dealership they thought I’d have priorities elsewhere and wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my racing.
The switch to sidecars 2016
When Walker announced in MCN last month that he was making the switch to the British Sidecar championship for 2016, many people thought April 1 had come early. However, he’s not only serious but enormously fired up for it.
“I think everyone had a smile when they heard I was switching to sidecars, but I think it’s inspired. I’m on a really good outfit, I’ve got a young stallion of a team-mate, Jed Pilmoor-Brady, and I can’t wait to get going.
“Jed is 21, doesn’t drive or ride a motorbike, still lives with his mum, and has something to do with the MoD and bombs! He’s a danger seeker, has two year’s experience in an F1 sidecar, and is the perfect man to have alongside me!
“I’ve got this opportunity to run at the front of a British championship and learn a new trade in my forties, which is a rare chance in any sport.
“I’ve still not yet turned a single wheel in a sidecar, though – I’ve sat in it for the photos, been fitted up for it, but not driven a single metre. There are lots and lots of questions, but it’s all really exciting! I just wouldn’t want to be Jed!”
Stalker in numbers
Born: March 25, 1972 in Nottingham
MotoGP record: 15 starts, best finish of 15th
WSB record: 148 starts, 12 podiums, 1 win
BSB record: 304 starts, 21 wins
1996 31st 500GP, 11th BSB
1997 2nd BSB
1998 2nd BSB
1999 2nd BSB
2000 2nd BSB
2001 20th 500GP
2002 9th WSB
2003 6th WSB
2004 11th WSB
2005 7th WSB
2006 9th WSB
2007 7th BSB
2008 31st WSS
2009 9th BSB
2010 10th BSB
2011 12th BSB
2012 9th BSB
2013 10th BSB
2014 6th BSB
2015 18th BSB
Photos: Double Red/Bauer archive