Sport Murray Walker, the voice of Formula One, dies

Murray Walker, the voice of Formula One, dies

Formula 1 legend Murray Walker at Indianapolis in September 2001 before broadcasting his last race, the United States GP. Photo: AP
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Murray Walker, the infectiously excitable television commentator who became the voice of Formula One for generations around the English-speaking world, has died at the age of 97.

The news was announced on Saturday by the Silverstone-based British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), of which Walker was an associate member.

“A friend, a true motorsport legend, the nation’s favourite commentator and a contagious smile. We thank Murray for all he has done for our community,” BRDC said.

Walker’s ‘Murrayisms’ – wide-of-the-mark predictions entertained BBC and ITV viewers in the days before pay TV and a fragmented audience.

Australian writer Clive James, a fan of the sport, once famously described Walker as a man broadcasting as if his trousers were on fire.

Autosport magazine, in a tribute when he announced his retirement in 2000, said Walker had “done possibly more to popularise motor racing in Britain than anyone else. (James) Hunt, (Nigel) Mansell and (Damon) Hill included”.

Those champions also forged close bonds with the commentator.

“Unless I’m very much mistaken… and yes I am very much mistaken,” was classic Walker.

The first part became the title of his 2002 autobiography.

Some of Walker’s utterances are still savoured. They include: “And now excuse me while I interrupt myself”; “The first four cars are both on the same tyres”; “Tambay’s hopes, which were absolutely nil before, are absolutely zero now”; “I imagine that the conditions in those cars today are totally unimaginable” and “With half the race gone, there is half the race still to go”.

Walker, who started out in advertising, was an enthusiast of the sport who could draw on personal memories going back to the birth of the F1 world championship in 1950.

“Everyone inside F1 loves him. And that is because he loves the sport. His enthusiasm is so real,” the late team owner Ken Tyrrell once said of his compatriot.

Walker was immersed in motor racing from his earliest years as the son of motorcycle champion Graham Walker and gave his first commentary at the Shelsley Walsh hill climb in 1948.

“Rest in Peace Murray Walker. Wonderful man in every respect. National treasure, communication genius, Formula One legend,” his former co-commentator Martin Brundle said.

“There will never be another Murray Walker,” three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart told the PA news agency.

“He was the voice of F1 to millions and his love, passion and positivity for our sport were unmatched. You will be truly missed, Murray Walker,” F1 champions Team Mercedes tweeted.