Legendary Formula One commentator Murray Walker has died aged 97, the British Racing Drivers’ Club has announced.
“It’s with great sadness we share the news of the passing of BRDC Associate Member Murray Walker OBE,” it said.
“A friend, a true motorsport legend, the nation’s favourite commentator and a contagious smile.
“We thank Murray for all he has done for our community. RIP our friend.”
Walker’s broadcasting career spanned more than 50 years, working for the BBC and ITV, before retiring from commentating in 2001.
His voice provided the backing track to some of F1’s most iconic moments, from James Hunt’s 1976 championship win over Niki Lauda, to Nigel Mansell’s 1992 title triumph.
When the British driver Damon Hill won the Japanese Grand Prix to become world champion in October 1996, an emotional Walker cried: “I have got to stop because I have got a lump in my throat.”
Hill tweeted: “God’s Speed Murray and thanks for so much. The Legend will never die.”
Martin Brundle, who commentated alongside Walker in the final years of his career, wrote: “Rest In Peace, Murray Walker. Wonderful man in every respect. National treasure, communication genius, Formula One legend.”
Three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, 81, said there will “never be another Murray Walker” and he is “one of those people that will be remembered forever”.
He was born in Birmingham on 10 October 1923. His father, Graham, had a 15-year career in motorcycling which culminated in him winning the Isle of Man TT race.
Walker described his dad as a “great man”, adding: “I was very fond of him, and I wanted to be like him.”
At the age of 18, Walker was conscripted into the Army. After graduating from the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, he went on to command a Sherman tank in the Battle of the Reichswald during World War Two.
Although a good motorcyclist, he was not in the same league as his father and went into advertising, keeping up his passion for motor racing by commentating at weekends.
Things changed after Hunt’s 1976 triumph. “Britain suddenly became aware of Formula One because of the glamorous, playboy image that James had,” he explained.
“The BBC decided they were going to do every race and they asked me to do it.
“I carried on doing both advertising and commentary jobs for four years until in 1982, when I was 60 – and then my broadcasting career started.”
He became known for some memorable lines, including: “There’s nothing wrong with his car except that it is on fire.”
Another quote – “unless I am very much mistaken – I am very much mistaken” became the title of his autobiography.
After retiring at the age of 77, he said he was “not going to be a pathetic old hanger-on in the paddock”.
F1 tweeted: “We are immensely sad to hear that Murray Walker has passed away.
“His passion and love of the sport inspired millions of fans around the world. He will forever be a part of our history, and will be dearly missed.”