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Obituary

Obituary: Commentator and broadcasting giant Neville Hay dies aged 85

The voice of Neville Hay, who has died aged 85, was for seven decade sone of the most recognisable in motorsport commentary alongside those of Murray Walker and Raymond Baxter.

Neville Hay

Photo by: Jeff Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Born into a timber merchant’s family in Worcestershire, home to the hallowed Shelsley Walsh hillclimb, Hay’s mellifluous honeyed tones graced public address systems at speed events, circuit racing and rallying from the late 1950s.

From the mid 1970s, Neville pioneered an unprecedented breadth of motorsport TV broadcasts, which blossomed in a golden age of manufacturer investment, sowing the seeds of today’s superb network coverage.

A well-travelled lifelong petrolhead, Hay was the aficionado on the career of Roy Salvadori, Aston Martin’s 1959 Le Mans winner with Carroll Shelby, and genially imparted this knowledge to new generations of fans when Goodwood’s modern era dawned triumphantly in 1993.

Underpinned by a photographic memory and superb delivery, Neville was a raconteur par excellence, with a wickedly irreverent sense of humour. Hay was equally at home working at club race meetings throughout Britain, including at Thruxton. Invariably engulfed in a fug of cigarette smoke, fallen ashes and a pile of notes, he had famously set its old shed – swaying precariously above the chicane and accessed by long ladders – afire on one occasion.

Founding Hayfisher Productions with Jo Fisher in 1975 opened a new world of outside broadcast capability, bringing professional opportunities for camera operators, techies and producers. This tradition and the evolution of livestreaming was continued by son Richard (twice a Le Mans 24 Hours competitor) and has grown beyond motorsport.

Through Hayfisher, Neville forged strong links with Australia’s Channel 7, commentating live on the Bathurst 1000 races after the turn of the century. Indeed, until the 2010s he was a fixture at Goodwood, providing poignant colour pieces based on first-hand knowledge and experiences at Festivals of Speed and Revival Meetings.

Neville's son Richard Hay raced at Le Mans and carried prominent Hayfisher logos on his Caterham in 2007

Neville's son Richard Hay raced at Le Mans and carried prominent Hayfisher logos on his Caterham in 2007

Photo by: Jeff Bloxham / LAT

Accorded BRDC associate membership in 1993, Neville made regular pilgrimages to Silverstone – his old stamping ground, where he had worked with fellow luminaries Peter Scott Russell, Keith Douglas and Ian Titchmarsh down the years – even when living in the Isle of Man.

The motorsport fraternity owes Hay an enormous debt of gratitude for friendship, advice and a career dedicated to entertainment and making motorsport more accessible.

To his wife Dorothy, sons Richard and John, daughter Stephanie and their families, his legacy and back catalogue of material ensures that he will not be forgotten.

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