Louise Aitken-Walker world rally champion 1990
Louise Aitken-Walker became one of the most famous names in motor sport when she lifted the Ladies World Championship rally crown in 1990.
Born in Duns, Berwickshire in November 1960, her career began in 1979 when, unbeknown to her, she was entered into the “Find A Lady Driver” competition, sponsored by Ford, by her two brothers. Although she herself was born into a farming family, the town had a strong link with motor-sports, being the home of both former Formula 1 driver Jim Clark and the very successful long distance rally driver, Andrew Cowan.
Taught to drive on the farm from a young age, Louise showed a natural aptitude throughout that competition meant that she was an obvious winner. It was at this stage that she first showed signs of the talent that would see her compete at the highest level for fourteen years, including winning the ultimate accolade - the world title.
After less that two years involvement in the sport, Aitken-Walker entered her first ever Lombard RAC Rally, finishing in a creditable 19th position overall. From then on her career took a steady upward path that saw her win the Group One category in the National British Championship in 1982 and the Coupe des Dames in the Monte Carlo Rally the following year. 1983 also saw her selected to drive for the British Junior Rally team, as well as becoming the first woman to win a national championship round outright in Britain.
After finishing third in the British National Championship in 1984, she signed to drive for Peugeot in 1984 and gained more success being placed third in the British Open Championship and winning the Ladies trophy in the Lombard RAC.
In 1987 she won five races out of five to gain maximum points in the British Open and looked well placed for a high finish in the prestigious RAC Rally, before being forced to retire. Nevertheless, she was voted “Autosport” magazine's “Driver of the Year”.
By now, Aitken-Walker was firmly established amongst the higher echelons of rally drivers; in 1989 she finished first in her class at both Silverstone and Thruxton whilst competing in saloon car racing, won the Ladies Cup at the Lombard RAC and also the became the Ladies European Rally Champion. This was the first time that this award had been won by a Briton since Pat Moss a quarter of a century before.
Until this point in her career, Ellen Walker had been Louise's co-driver, however at the end of the season, she agreed to team up with Sweden's Tina Thorner.
In 1990 the pair were offered the opportunity to drive for the GM Eurosport team for a full season in the World Rally Championship. It was an opportunity not to be missed and Louise won the Monte Carlo “Coupe des Dames” for the second time and the Ladies Cup in the rallies of New Zealand, Australia and Italy. She was fortunate to escape with her life after a terrible crash in Portugal, which saw her car somersault into a lake, but soon recovered to win the Asia-Pacific Ladies title.
Not surprisingly, given her successes throughout the season, she won the FIA Ladies World Championship, and her achievement was recognised by the Guild of Motor Writers, who named her “Driver of the Year”, and by the BBC who awarded her a unique “Good Sport” prize at their annual Sports Personality of the Year ceremony.
In 1992 Louise finished 10th overall in the Lombard RAC Rally, not only winning the Ladies Award for a fourth time, but also finishing as top British driver. Scottish motor-sport recognised her success by awarding her the “Jim Clark Memorial Trophy” for best performance in motor-sport by a Scot and she was also the recipient of the “Seagrave Trophy” awarded for the most notable achievement by a Briton in any form of transport .
She was also awarded the MBE in the New Years Honours list 1992 before retiring in 1993 to have a family and concentrate on her business affairs.
Nine years after her retirement, she was named as one of the 50 inaugural members of the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.