For over seven decades, Walker transported fans straight to trackside with his profound commentary of Formula 1. The proud Brummie, born in 1923, was breathing in the fumes of motorsport air from day one. Murray’s father (Graham Walker) was a rider for Norton motorcycle company and by 1935 Graham was the BBC’s first dedicated motorcycling commentator. The exposure to his father’s career threw Murray straight into the action, birthing a motorsport treasure.
Dawning on his 16th birthday, Walker volunteered to join the forces and in 1942 was commissioned to the position of Captain in his regiment ‘Royal Scots Grey’. Upon dismission from military service, Walker took a position in advertising working with companies such as Mars, Weetabix, and Vauxhall. After the death of his father in 1962, Murray stepped into his shoes and became the BBC’s chief motorcycling commentator before going full-time in Formula 1 commentaries for the 1978 season.
Covering more than 350 Grand Prix races, Murray became the heart and soul of the motorsports commentary box along with his right-hand man (and previous British world champion), James Hunt.
Murray emoted the races, you lived his reactions. Often Murray’s mouth would operate before his brain and this led to the infamous ‘murrayisms’. For those who may not know, a ‘Murraryism’ goes a little something like this… “Mansell’s now totally in front of everyone in this race, except the two in front of him.” Many other sports commentators would shy away from a slip of the tongue or miscommunication but for Murray, there were no mistakes, he revelled in his impetuous blunders and so did the fans.
In 1996, Murray Walker was awarded an OBE for services to broadcasting and motorsports. 5 years later in 2001, Walker retired from F1 commentary. Sadly, his eminent presence at a Grand Prix track did not come without cost. Murray suffered hearing loss on both sides which led him to become the ambassador for David Ormerod hearing centres in 2006. He took to the mic one last time in 2007 as a one-off stand-in at the European GP for regular commentator David Croft.
Murray was a motorsports commentator by profession but an overexcited motorsports fan at heart. On race weekends, his elation would punch past the roars of the 200mph cars, and what a delight it was for the world to hear. In the words of Murray himself “it’s a sad ending, albeit a happy one” as we say goodbye to a true legend of Motorsport history: Murray Walker.
"There's nothing wrong with the car except it's on fire"
"With half the race gone there is half the race to go"
"I imagine the conditions in those cars are totally unimaginable"
"Either that car is stationary or it's on the move"