Making a return to the track after spending last season on the sidelines due to injury, Luke Walker has come back better than ever in the 2017-18 season, having recently achieved his maiden 410 Sprintcar feature-race victory, amongst other encouraging results.
Having been involved in a crash at Moama’s Heartland Raceway in his first meeting of the 2016-17 season, which resulted in fractured T3 and T4 vertebrae, the Timboon, Victoria-based racer underwent a long and gruelling recovery before returning to the track earlier this season, quickly proving that he hadn’t forgotten his race craft.
Travelling to Warrnambool’s Premier Speedway in mid-December to contest the annual Max’s Race, Walker did well to qualify 13th for the feature race amongst some world-class competition, going on to score an impressive top-10 result.
Backing up his strong form at Geelong’s Avalon Raceway on Boxing Night in the Gold Cup, which doubled as the seventh Eureka Garages & Sheds Series round, Walker lined up on the outside of the second row for the 30-lap feature race, by virtue of a victory and fifth in his heat races and placing fourth in the pole shootout.
Dropping back in the early stages of the feature race, Walker quickly recovered, gaining more confidence in his car and progressing into second place at the completion of the 10th lap. Setting his sights on race leader Shaun Dobson, Walker continued to reel his rival in as he ran around the top of the track, eventually managing to pip Dobson for the lead with 12 laps to go and surviving an ensuing restart, before claiming his first career victory.
“The nerves definitely set in when I saw the white flag and those last two laps were the longest of my life, but I was able to hit my marks and go on to take the win, which was an amazing feeling,” admitted the quietly spoken 22-year-old racer, who is still working towards regaining his race fitness, as well as getting himself in the right headspace following last season’s crash.
“I’m both excited and relived to have finally achieved the milestone, after spending a lot of hours in the shed and putting in a lot of hard work to get there and especially coming back from last season’s injuries.
“I have to say a huge thanks to my team. A driver can’t win without a strong team behind them and it really is a team effort, so it was great to be able to reward them with the best possible result.”
Initially joining the competitive racing circuit at the age of 12 in go karts, Walker raced a number of classes throughout the next four years, before trading asphalt for dirt, joining the Wingless Sprints class and making his speedway debut in the 2012-13 season, collecting a number of podium results over the next one and a half seasons.
Walker then received an opportunity to pilot a 410 Sprintcar, proving competitive from the outset, contesting the Eureka Garages & Sheds Series, along with the prestigious Grand Annual Classic, where he performed well in only his second ever visit to Premier Speedway. He was also named the 2013-14 season Rookie of the Year by the Victorian Sprintcar Association.
Purchasing the ex-Colin Bulmer owned ART car, which had been driven by American racer Terry McCarl in the 2013-14 season Grand Annual Classic, the following season, Walker fitted most of the car’s components to a new Cool Chassis, along with a 410ci KRE engine, and continued to improve throughout the next two seasons, scoring three fourth-place finishes in 2015-16.
With his 2016-17 season brought to a crashing halt in his opening race meeting, Walker was forced to spend 10 weeks full-time in a back brace and another two weeks attempting to slowly stop using it, with his fitness level pre-crash thankfully helping his recovery. He also had to undergo the slow process of building his muscle back up, having lost the surrounding muscles while wearing the back brace.
Being unable to race himself, Walker, who last year completed his mechanical engineering university course, took the opportunity to crew for fellow 410 Sprintcar driver Ian Loudoun in the latter stages of last season, gaining some valuable experience.
Heading into the 2017-18 season, Walker’s plan was to take each race meeting as it comes, racing predominantly at Premier Speedway, Avalon Raceway, Mount Gambier’s Borderline Speedway and Simpson Speedway.
For his next appearance, Walker will return to Avalon Raceway on the Wednesday night of January 17, where he’ll hope to come away with another strong result in the Presidents Cup, followed by the Grand Annual Classic at Premier Speedway from January 19-21 and the Australian Title at Borderline Speedway from January 25-27.
Walker would like to thank the following 2017-18 season sponsors: Total Dairy Services, Engineer It, Rob Hamilton Bearings, Coast FM, Illuminator Race Wings, Skiold Disc Mill, NRG3, and Battery World - Warrnambool. Special thanks go to his mum and dad Shirley and Bevan, his uncle Ian, and his girlfriend Mikayla Hein.
To find out more about Walker and his team, LIKE them on Facebook by searching Luke Walker Racing V67, or visit their website at www.67motorsport.com.au.