Murray Walker's co-commentators remember the motorsport hero

Murray Walker’s co-commentators remember the motorsport hero

Such bewilderment would have been no surprise to Mark Wilkin, who for many years was the producer of BBC Television’s F1 coverage. “Murray never seemed to realise his place in everyone’s hearts and minds,” said Wilkin. “Traditionally, on the night before we left the UK for a race, Murray would stay in a hotel at Heathrow overnight. It worked well because I would be driving past the hotel in the morning on my way to the airport, so I would always stop and pick him up.

“As he got in the car, I would ask: ‘How are you? Did you have a good night?’ ‘Oh, it was marvellous,’ he would reply. ‘I got in and I went to dinner as usual. And, do you know, I was sitting on my own and this lovely couple at the next table, John and Wendy, said: ‘Oh Murray, are you eating on your own? Please do come and join us.’ There was a sort of incredulous tone to the way he said it, as if had it been me sitting there on my own, John and Wendy would have invited me over as well, because they were charming people being nice. People would have paid £1000 to have dinner with Murray Walker! He never really understood that. He never, in his lovely way, fully grasped the effect that he had on people.”

Despite his vast experience and global reputation, Murray remained self-effacing and relentlessly professional. As a summariser on F1 for BBC Radio 5 Live in 2007, I was to discover this first hand, when Murray was persuaded to make a brief comeback as a stand-in as our lead commentator, David Croft, was forced to miss the European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring.

There were no airs and graces, no prepared excuses for being rusty or out of touch after six years away from the microphone. Murray arrived early and insisted on being a part of our team at every turn, both business and social. He never came close to playing the ‘Well, in my experience’ or ‘I think we should do it this way’ cards that you might have expected of somebody with his vast experience. If anything, he was mildly apprehensive. But it didn’t take long for the adrenaline to kick in. In fact, he couldn’t wait to get going at the start of qualifying.