They were successful, winning the East Midlands Rally Championship but when the 4X4 cars like the Audi were coming in Richard felt they couldn’t compete any more. Richard; “I remember we did the Dukeries through Sherwood Forest, we were quick but there was one stage where when we got virtually every corner right, we were still skating down those tracks at up to 100 mph, nothing like WRC now that’s phenomenal its unbelievable what they are doing, but it was still plenty quick enough. We got to the stage finish thinking we’ve got be fastest, but I was fourth, about four seconds behind the Audis so I thought you can’t win against them.
“I heard at that point that truck racing was coming to Castle Donington. Leyland, who had a works team had been to an early race meeting in France and really got behind it. Donington was just a huge, huge meeting, there so many people trying to get in, it blocked the M1!
“I think it was in Motoring News, they wrote a feature called ‘motor sport biggest shocks,’ that Donington meeting was in there at about number seven. I thought local circuit, truck racing, it ticked so many boxes I thought I’d have a go. Off we went, we were pretty successful at that first race – we had a fairly fast truck and it went from there!”
Richard Walker first raced Leyland then Kenworth then a Volvo White truck sponsored by Lucas, becoming triple European Class Champion. The three classes were based on engine size, Class A up to 12 litres, B to 14 litres then the monstrous Class C for over 14 litre engines!
“Steve Parrish was always in big class, those works Mercs had a V10 with over 14 litres, we were five tons, up to 12 litres. The monsters were OK on a long circuit, but on the shorter tracks we were up there with them, nimble.”
Many onlookers watch the ‘high cab’ trucks believing them unstable, wondering just how it feels to take a racing truck to the edge on a track, Richard responded; “I always had a comfortable and easy feeling up there, you didn’t have any fear of fire, always felt well protected, dare I say with the big roll cage, it was more of a sliding operation. The only time they tipped over was if you went into the gravel too quickly and they dug in and flipped onto their sides. People used to say to me it must be so frightening, but I thought it was the safest motor sport I had ever done.
“Apart from places like Zolder in Belgium where you always used to run out of brakes, it had trees near the circuit too, so it was always a pretty dangerous track, especially when it was a bit damp. Racing the truck was more about control, you had to be smooth, look after the tyres, the fronts would go off very quickly because of the weight on the front axle. It was about keeping your head and nursing the tractor unit. A bit like Peking Paris, maybe? Slowly, slowly, catch a monkey.”
The trucks weren’t slow either, the Volvo White used to go from standing start to 100 mph and stop again in 18 seconds! The 60+ time truck race winner described how that felt; “The acceleration and the brakes on it were amazing once you got it going, it was a fabulous truck. At Brands you could throw it into a controlled broadside all the way round Druids. It was very drivable truck.
“On press days most media passengers used to get out screaming, maybe because of the height up there!”
European Truck Racing was hugely popular both with the fans and the contestants, Richard continued; “In the first years it was basically a load of truckers who helped each other out, but they were the best days of my life. Then Mercedes came in and spoilt it by throwing big money at it. By year three they had the works trucks there. It became very professional, but a lot of the crack went.