Graeme Murray Walker OBE is much more than simply a commentary legend, he is a national institution. Murray Walker had been active in radio and TV Formula 1 commentary for over 50 years, up until his official retirement in 2001. Walker is perhaps most famous and held in fond regard by the public for his world famous “Walkerisms” or, “Murrayisms”: patently ridiculous phrases that the commentator used to come out with, in the heat of the moment during a race, "With half the race gone, there is half the race still to go" being a classic example of such a verbal blunder by the commentary great.
We will explore a little more about Murray Walker’s career in the following section, before exposing some of the truly great “Murrayisms” of all time.
Murray Walker was born in Hall Green, Birmingham, on the 10th October 1923 and in 1949 he made his debut as F1 commentator, alongside Max Robertson. He didn’t really begin to achieve any level of fame as a commentator however, until well into the 1970’s, when F1 racing began to be regularly televised by the BBC.
For many years (1980-1993) he worked with retired racing pilot James Hunt in a surprisingly successful commentary double act. Murray provided the entertainment with his off-the-cuff, nonsensical comments and enthusiastic commentary voice that revved like the car engines, while Hunt provided more of an expert analysis of the race, owing to his racing experience.
Unfortunately, the partnership ended abruptly when Hunt suffered a heart attack in 1993. Walker, however, continued commentating with the BBC on F1 until 1997 when the rights to televise the races were lost to the ITV. Walker was immediately signed to ITV and switched channels to continue commentating on F1.
Murray Walker officially retired from F1 TV commentary in 2001, his final commentary being the United States Grand Prix, held in Indianapolis. At the end of the race, and upon retirement, Walker was presented with an original brick from “The Brickyard”, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, by track president Tony George. Very few people are bestowed such a prestigious award in motor racing, except those racers who win a major race at the venue.
By October 2005, however, it was announced that Murray Walker would return to the microphone at the BBC as the voice of the Grand Prix Masters series. After commentating on the inaugural race in South Africa, he was instated as regular commentator on the BBC Radio Five Live team for all subsequent races. His time commentating on the radio, however, was relatively brief. Over the years Walker had suffered considerable hearing loss, partly as a result of years of exposure to loud engine noise, but also due to old age. Consequently, his regular appearance as commentator on BBC Radio Five Live was simply not possible. He has returned to the microphone three times since, in March 2006 and 2007 for the Clipsal 500 V8 Supercar round in Adelaide, and most recently in July 2007 for the European Grand Prix for BBC Radio Five Live. He replaced regular commentator David Croft that day, whose wife was having a baby.
Apart from his commentary, Murray Walker has always been a favourite in and around F1 racing, and in March 2006, the Honda Racing F1 Team, formerly British American Racing, welcomed Walker to the team as ambassador for half of the 2006 season’s 18 Grands Prix. He began with the San Marino Grand Prix in April of that year when he welcomed Honda Racing’s VIP guests and entertained them with his unmistakable brand of F1 comic commentary.
Famous Murray Quotes
Murray Walker was a master of the over-excitable commentary style. Clive James once said, referring to Walker that, “in his quieter moments he sounds like his trousers are on fire”. His commentary was indeed entertainment in itself. He used to mix metaphors, and make forecasts or comments that were then immediately contradicted by the action. He also seemed to possess an uncanny ability to “put the kiss of death” on drivers who were having a successful race. For example, if he said how well a driver’s race was going, they would most likely crash on the next corner.
Murray Walker’s famous quotes are so numerous, that there are whole websites dedicated to them. To browse through some of his career greats, take a look at the Murray Walker Quotes Page on worldmotorsport.com. Broadly speaking, “Murrayisms” can be divided into two genres; ‘’stating the obvious’’ and ‘’contradicting himself’’. Ok, here are some examples of the Murray magic, brace yourselves:
Stating the Obvious
· The gap between the two cars is 0.9 of a second which is less than one second.
· This is an interesting circuit because it has inclines, and not just up but down as well.
· As you can see, visually, with your eyes.
· With half the race gone, there is half the race still to go
· It’s raining and the track is wet
· And Michael Schumacher is actually in a very good position. He is in last place.
· Do my eyes deceive me, or is Senna’s Lotus sounding rough?
· It’s not quite a curve. It’s a straight actually!
· A sad ending, albeit a happy one, here at Montréal for today’s Grand Prix.
A saying that Murray frequently used and was eventually to become his "catchphrase":
"Anything can happen in Formula 1, and it usually does"
These are just a few of the hundreds of seemingly illogical quotes. Murray Walker has in fact written a book about his commentary days, entitled: “Unless I’m very much mistaken” which contains many more of his famous quotes.
Outside of Formula 1 commentary, Walker made a relatively successful career in advertising various products. Owing to his hyper-enthusiastic presenting manner, he was made the celebrity face (and voice) for Mars, Opal Fruits and Pizza Hut in several of their TV advertising campaigns. He did, in fact, only start commentating full time on Grand Prix motor racing after he had passed retirement age.