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Walker, Murray (1923- )

Sports Commentator

Main image of Walker, Murray (1923- )

Watching Formula 1 on television will never be the same since the retirement of Murray Walker in 2001. His boyish enthusiasm and a commentating voice comparable in pitch and speed to the F1 engines made him virtually synonymous with the sport for countless viewers.

Graeme Murray Walker grew up with both motor sport and commentating. His father, Graham Walker, was a motorcycling world champion who went on to commentate for the BBC. Murray Walker, too, tried his hand at motorcycling, but soon gave it up in favour of the microphone. Meanwhile, he developed a successful parallel career in advertising, working on accounts for Esso, Mars and Trill among others (although, contrary to popular belief, he did not come up with the slogan 'A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play'). He continued commentating at weekends, becoming full-time only on retiring from his advertising 'day job' in 1982.

His first commentating fixture was the 1949 British Grand Prix at Silverstone for BBC Radio. He made his television debut later that year, and for the next 13 years worked alongside his father at the BBC. When Graham Walker died in 1962, his son inherited his job as chief motorcycling commentator, moving on to car racing when Raymond Baxter left for Tomorrow's World (BBC, 1965-2002). From 1978, he was the BBC's voice of Formula 1 - partnered by former F1 champion James Hunt (from 1980 until the latter's death in 1993), whose straight-talking, laconic style was the perfect counterpoint to Walker's excitability. When the sport moved to ITV in 1997, Walker moved with it, forming a partnership with Martin Brundle, another former racing driver with a contrasting commentating style.

Although he officially retired in 2001, Walker still does occasional commentaries, and it was fitting that he was given the opportunity by Radio 5 Live to commentate on the British Grand Prix debut of rising F1 star Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone in 2007.

Like David Coleman, Walker became known for his on-air gaffes, known as 'Murrayisms', examples of which include, 'With half the race gone, there's half the race still to go' and 'here comes Damon Hill in the Williams. This car is absolutely unique - except for the one following it, which is identical'. He even claims to have more 'Colemanballs' in Private Eye's famous column than Coleman himself.

Gosta Johansson

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