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

The motorsport world has been saddened by Murray Walker's passing at the age of 97 on Saturday. In honour of the Formula 1 commentary icon, Autosport is revisiting Walker's recollections of his favourite race - the 1986 Spanish Grand Prix - that were first published in the 19/26 December 2013 issue of the magazine

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

My time behind the F1 microphone was the 1980s and 1990s, plus a couple of years either side of them, and what a fabulous period it was.

The swansong of the fabled Ford Cosworth DFV engine, the glorious turbo years with their chattering wastegates and spark-showering skid blocks.

Lotus, Ferrari, Williams and McLaren. Honda, BMW and Renault. Superstars Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher - and my mate Nigel Mansell for whom, as a fellow Brit in his gutsy roles of ‘Il Leone’ and ‘Our Nige’, I had a very soft spot.

There was always drama when Nigel was around. A physical confrontation with Senna at Spa, a wheel coming off in the pitlane in Portugal, winning first time out with Ferrari, collapsing with heatstroke at Dallas, trying to get past Senna at Monaco and leaving Williams in a huff but, most of all, breathtaking happenings at the wheel.

Like sensationally passing Gerhard Berger at Mexico's Peraltada corner, catching and passing Piquet at Silverstone, wheel to wheel with Senna at Barcelona and passing Ayrton to take victory in Hungary. All manna from heaven for me, but none more so than Nigel’s epic battle with Senna at Jerez in 1986.

Murray Walker, F1 Portuguese Grand Prix 1986

Murray Walker, F1 Portuguese Grand Prix 1986

Photo by: Motorsport Images

For me, that was one of the truly great years of Formula 1 with Nigel so nearly winning the championship, racing against his bitter rival and Williams team-mate Nelson Piquet, McLaren's Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna in the Lotus Renault. Race two was the Spanish GP at Jerez with Senna starting from pole position.

It was an event that was going to be dominated by the need to watch tyre and fuel consumption and the leaders, glued to their read-outs, took it relatively easy until lap 40 of 72 when Nigel, happy about his fuel, charged into the lead and pulled away from Senna and Prost.

But then his Williams started handling strangely and into the pits he shot for a fresh set of Goodyears. Out he came with eight laps to go, a daunting nineteen seconds down on Senna, to start a spellbinding charge, gaining by an incredible three seconds a lap. Past Prost to second and with three laps left he was five seconds behind Senna.

Surely it was impossible to catch, let alone pass the flying Brazilian? But no one told Nigel that. Driving out of his skin he started the last lap 1.5 seconds behind the Lotus and as they exited the last corner together he was closing fast.

What a finish! “I just did it didn’t I?” asked Nigel… but no, he hadn’t. Senna crossed the line a minuscule 0.01 seconds ahead of the Williams for one of the two closest victories ever - matched only by Peter Gethin's defeat of Ronnie Peterson at Monza in 1971 by the same wafer-thin margin.

And me? I was nearly through the commentary box roof! As ever Nigel had made my day.

Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Formula 1 Spanish GP 1986

Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Formula 1 Spanish GP 1986

Photo by: Motorsport Images

shares
comments
The magic moments that made Murray Walker an F1 legend
Previous article

The magic moments that made Murray Walker an F1 legend

Next article

Murray Walker obituary: F1 broadcasting legend dies aged 97

Murray Walker obituary: F1 broadcasting legend dies aged 97
Connecting two of Ferrari's favourite F1 sons Plus

Connecting two of Ferrari's favourite F1 sons

Gilles Villeneuve's exploits behind the wheel of a Ferrari made him a legend to the tifosi, even 40 years after his death. The team's current Formula 1 star Charles Leclerc enjoys a similar status, and recently got behind the wheel of a very special car from the French-Canadian’s career

Formula 1
Jun 24, 2022
How a 30cm metal wire triggered open warfare in the F1 paddock Plus

How a 30cm metal wire triggered open warfare in the F1 paddock

Porpoising has become the key talking point during the 2022 Formula 1 season, as teams battle to come to terms with it. An FIA technical directive ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix and a second stay appearing on the Mercedes cars only served to create a bigger debate and raise tensions further

Formula 1
Jun 23, 2022
Does Verstappen have any weaknesses left? Plus

Does Verstappen have any weaknesses left?

Having extended his Formula 1 points lead with victory in Canada, Max Verstappen has raised his game further following his 2021 title triumph. Even on the days where Red Bull appears to be second best to Ferrari, Verstappen is getting the most out of the car in each race. So, does he have any weaknesses that his title rivals can exploit?

Formula 1
Jun 22, 2022
How F1's future fuels can shape the automotive sector Plus

How F1's future fuels can shape the automotive sector

In 2026, Formula 1 plans to make the switch to a fully sustainable fuel, as the greater automotive world considers its own alternative propulsion methods. Biogasoline and e-fuels both have merit as 'drop-in' fuels but, equally, both have their shortcomings...

Formula 1
Jun 21, 2022
The breakthrough behind Sainz’s best weekend of F1 2022 so far Plus

The breakthrough behind Sainz’s best weekend of F1 2022 so far

OPINION: Carlos Sainz came close to winning in Monaco but needed that race’s specific circumstances for his shot at a maiden Formula 1 victory to appear. Last weekend in Canada, he led the line for Ferrari in Charles Leclerc’s absence from the front. And there’s a key reason why Sainz has turned his 2022 form around

Formula 1
Jun 21, 2022
Canadian Grand Prix Driver Ratings 2022 Plus

Canadian Grand Prix Driver Ratings 2022

Plenty of high scores but just a single perfect 10 from the first Montreal race in three years, as Max Verstappen fended off late pressure from Carlos Sainz. Here’s Autosport’s assessment on the Formula 1 drivers from the Canadian Grand Prix

Formula 1
Jun 20, 2022
Why “faster” Ferrari couldn’t beat Red Bull in Canadian GP Plus

Why “faster” Ferrari couldn’t beat Red Bull in Canadian GP

On paper the Canadian Grand Prix will go down as Max Verstappen’s latest triumph, fending off late pressure from Carlos Sainz to extend his Formula 1 world championship lead. But as safety car periods, virtual and real, shook up the race Ferrari demonstrated it can take the fight to Red Bull after recent failures

Formula 1
Jun 20, 2022
The in-demand helmet designer creating works of art for F1's best Plus

The in-demand helmet designer creating works of art for F1's best

GP Racing’s OLEG KARPOV pays a visit to designer Jens Munser, to observe the production of Mick Schumacher’s special helmet for the Miami Grand Prix. What follows is some fascinating insight on the mindsets of Mick’s dad Michael, and family friend Sebastian Vettel

Formula 1
Jun 19, 2022