FORMER British Superbike champion James Whitham has rubbished suggestions Chris Walker should hang up his leathers this summer.
As the oldest rider in the MCE Insurance British Superbike paddock, inevitably there has been whisperings – despite being one of just seven riders to win a race this year – that this season could be the 40-year-old Ollerton ace’s last.
However, Whitham is adamant that age is just a number where Walker is concerned and that while he is still competitive at the top level he should go nowhere.
“It’s a strange one in motorsport because sometimes people talk about the new talent coming in and older guys moving on, but Chris has earned his ride and he should only give it up when he no longer deserves to be racing ahead of other guys,” said Whitham.
“At the moment that isn’t the case - he’s still giving people a run for their money, so he should keep riding until he’s no longer doing that.
“Certainly at the moment his pace is fantastic and he is often giving some of the up and comers a real push, so I think it’s a great indication of how good he still is.
“I’m sure he’ll stay in Superbikes for the time being. The series would miss him because he’s a popular rider, and he’s certainly not there to make up the numbers by any stretch of the imagination.”
Walker will bid to prove Whitham right at round 10 at Assen this weekend.
On paper there is very little to play for for the 40-year-old, having missed out on a spot in the end of season Showdown, which sees the top six battle it out for the title.
However Whitham insists the very fact that Walker is still competing at the top level proves there’ll be no such thing as a dead rubber in Holland this weekend.
“I don’t know if he’s made his mind up yet, but Chris is a guy who will only carry on riding if he is enjoying it and I think it’s fair to say he is at the moment,” he added.
“What I love about Chris is that he’s been doing it for so long and he still has that smile on his face.
“He knew coming into the season he wouldn’t be challenging for the title, but he still approached every race in the same way he’s always done.
“For some riders that would have been too much - the motivation would go and they would have thrown in the towel.
“Obviously he got his win earlier this season and that was a popular moment for British Superbike fans because he’s endeared himself to them.”
Last time out, Walker had a frustrating afternoon after two top 10 places at MCE Insurance British Superbike round nine at Donington Park.
At that point he said: “If I can finish the year strongly then hopefully I’ll be back next year as well. I’m already the oldest on the grid so I wouldn’t mind being the oldest swinger in town next season as well.”
Only time will now tell if that is the case as the summer draws to a close.
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