Legendary commentator Murray Walker, who became a household name as the lead commentator on British coverage of Formula 1, has died. He was 97.
Known for his excited, enthusiastic commentary style, Walker served as the lead voice of F1 in the UK for nearly three decades. He also provided memorable commentry for the British Touring Car Championship, rallycross and numerous other motorsport categories.
Walker became one of the world’s most famous commentators due to his infectious style, witty observations – and mixed the odd error made in sheer excitement.
Born in Birmingham in 1923, Walker developed a passion for motorsport through his father Graham, who was a works rider for Norton Motorcycles. Walker joined the Army during World War Two, during which he commanded a tank and eventually rose to the rank of captain. After the war Walker briefly competed in motorcycle races and trials, while also building a successful career in advertising.
Walker’s commentary career began at Shelsley Walsh in 1948, and he was one of the BBC radio commentators for the 1949 British Grand Prix. He also commentated on motorcycle races, including the Isle of Man TT, and worked for the BBC alongside his father. Following his father’s death in 1962 Walker became the BBC’s lead motorcycle commentator, while also working on occasional Formula 1 races.
He became the BBC’s lead F1 commentator from 1976 until ITV secured the TV rights in 1997. He joined the commercial broadcaster, before finally retiring from full-time commentary at the 2001 United States Grand Prix.
Martin Brundle, who commentated alongside Walker for the BBC and ITV, tweeted: “Wonderful man in every respect. National treasure, communication genius, Formula 1 legend.”
Damon Hill, whose 1996 F1 World Championship win was marked by Walker memorably admitting “and I’ve got to stop, because I’ve got a lump in my throat”, said: “God’s Speed Murray and thanks for so much. The Legend will never die.”
Formula 1 issued a statement, saying: “His passion and love of the sport inspired millions of fans around the world. He will forever be a part of our history, and will be dearly missed.”
The British Touring Car Championship said: “We are eternally proud that his infectious commentary was such a big part of the BTCC.”
In a statement, the British Racing Drivers Club said: “It’s with great sadness we share the new of the passing of BRDC Associate Member Murray Walker, OBE.
“A friend, a true motorsport legend, the nation’s favourite commentator and a contagious smile. Murray will be sadly missed, his mark and voice will live on in motorsport and our hearts forever.”
Silverstone boss Stuart Pringle said: “He was to so many of us fans of F1 the voice that epitomised the sport we love.”