The magic moments that made Murray Walker an F1 legend

To many the late Murray Walker, who has died aged 97, will always be the voice of Formula 1, his famed pants-on-fire commentary style cementing him as an icon and a treasured part of the motorsport world.

The magic moments that made Murray Walker an F1 legend

His 23 years as the lead commentator on F1’s UK coverage on BBC and ITV helped define grand prix racing for many, and he was as big a star in the paddock as many drivers and team bosses.

Born on October 10, 1923, Walker grew up surrounded by motorsport, with his father Graham being a motorcycle works racer for Rudge, Sunbeam and Norton prior to embarking on his own radio commentary career.

Murray followed in his father’s footsteps and was eager to pursue a career in the commentary box too.

Walker's first live radio broadcast was at the 1949 British Grand Prix, where he was positioned at Stowe corner and he had a baptism of fire as Autosport co-founder John Bolster crashed right in front of him. Walker feared the worst, but came through the experience with flying colours.

Feature: Murray Walker in his own words

With the commentary bug fully there, Walker went on to cover the Isle of Man TT alongside his father for 14 years, as well as a huge variety of motorsport events including hill climbs, circuit racing on two and four wheels, rallying and Rallycross.

But commentary wasn’t his only job, as he juggled his weekend work with a full-time role in advertising where he worked with such famous clients as Mars, Vauxhall and Weetabix.

In 1978 he began commentating on F1 for the BBC, which was when fans really began to fall in love with his enthusiastic and loud style.

For the subsequent two decades, he was there for many of F1’s biggest moments, and his enthusiasm helped him become a household name as he worked alongside co-commentators including Martin Brundle and James Hunt.

Race of my life: Murray Walker on the 1986 Spanish F1 GP

In 1996, Walker's two worlds of F1 and advertising famously came together when he starred in an advert for Pizza Hut with that year's F1 world champion Damon Hill.

The premise of the advert was that Hill was minding his own business getting his food while Walker follows him, commentating on his every move. It became a fan favourite, and you can see why!

Walker officially retired from commentating in 2001, but made a one-off appearance at the 2007 European Grand Prix to fill in for David Croft on BBC 5 Live.

The toll of fly-away races and working long days under immense pressure began to show and, aged 78, he felt that it was time to take a step back from such a demanding role – although he still appeared occasionally in the paddock.

While his in-depth knowledge of F1, and indeed love of all motorsport, helped make Walker so popular, it was actually his occasional slip-ups that helped elevate him to true legend status.

British TV Presenter Murray Walker and Damon Hill, right, as seen during a Pizza Hut Commercial

British TV Presenter Murray Walker and Damon Hill, right, as seen during a Pizza Hut Commercial

Photo by: Motorsport Images

With what became known as ‘Murrayisms', he would often make the pages of newspapers and even Private Eye. But these were nothing to be critical of him for. They were simply an unavoidable consequence of his bubbling enthusiasm – where mistakes were part of parcel of him throwing his heart into his job.

So as the motor racing world mourns the loss of Walker, here we recall some of those famous comments that will be remembered by fans forever.

Murray Walker's best quotes

"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"

"Do my eyes deceive me or is Senna's car sounding a bit rough?"

"And the first five places are filled with five different cars"

"And this is the third-placed car about to lap the second-placed car"

"The battle is well and truly on if it wasn't on before, and it certainly was"

"Two laps to go, then the action will begin. Unless this is the action, which it is"

"I'm going for first" (Explaining away a British Touring car driver putting up his middle finger)

Murray: "There's a firey glow coming from the back of the Ferrari!" - James Hunt: "No Murray, that's his rear safety light"

"Let's watch this typical Formula Ford start!" (instead they promptly all ran into each other)

"It's a sad ending, albeit a happy one, here at Montreal for today's Grand Prix"

"Andrea de Cesaris, the man who has won more grand prix than anyone else without actually winning one"

"Unless I'm very much mistaken... I am very much mistaken!"

"And now excuse me while I interrupt myself!"

"The young Ralf Schumacher has been upstaged by teenager Jenson Button, who is 20"
"It would have been Senna's third win in a row if he'd won the two before"

"I'm ready to stop my start watch"

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Series Formula 1
Author Anna Duxbury
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