We’ve lost the voice of motorsport. Murray Walker, iconic Formula One commentator, has died at age 97.
For a whole generation of race fans, Walker epitomized F1. He was its heart and soul, the voice that filled you in on the action and always maintained a level head. He was a race fan through and through; listening to him, you felt like you were in conversation with a like-minded soul. I think that was one of the best parts about Walker. You knew he was feeling everything right along with you.
Walker was born on October 10, 1923 to a family that included a works rider for the Norton Motorcycle Company who competed in the Isle of Man TT. After serving in World War II, Walker tried his hand at motorcycle racing himself before moving into work at an advertising agency with the occasional bit of commentating on the side. He began commentating for F1 full time during the 1978 season.
And it was through that commentating that he became beloved. Walker was meticulous in his race preparations, bolstering his near-encyclopedic knowledge of racing with research before and after every event. This was a man who could rattle off facts at a rapid fire pace and still find time to wax poetic. The latter gave birth to the term “Murrayisms,” which were occasional slips of the tongue and goofy phrases that fans still recite to this day. And it only grew better when he was joined in the booth by former World Champion James Hunt in what was the most chaotic and delightful duo to ever grace commentating.
But it was the fact that Walker was, at heart, a fan of racing that made his commentating so special. He knew the history of the sport, so he fully understood the nuance of every on-track maneuver, loading each move with a meaning that layered up the drama and excitement. He grew emotional right alongside the fans at home. Small moments that would have passed the average viewer by became endowed with a deeper purpose. Great moments reached legendary status with the help of a few of Walker’s words.
When Damon Hill followed in his legendary father’s footsteps by becoming the first son of a Champion to win an F1 Championship himself in his final race with Williams, fans knew the gravity of that moment. But it was Walker’s words that perfectly summed it up—and that now sum up how many fans feel in the wake of his loss.
“And I’ve got to stop, because I’ve got a lump in my throat."