Rallycross was referenced by more people in the world of Formula 1 last weekend than perhaps ever before. It wasn’t directly in relation to the discipline itself however, but a man heavily associated with both F1 and rallycross’ rich history.
Legendary commentator Murray Walker, aged 97, passed away on March 13 while pre-season F1 testing was taking place in Bahrain. Best known for his Formula 1 commentary, spanning 25 years, Walker’s voice is synonymous with the highest level of motor racing.
But, his familiar tone was also revered among lower formula in single-seater racing too, and in other high-profile series, in the British Touring Car Championship, and in rallycross, from the humble beginnings of the discipline at Lydden Hill to the might of the annual Rallycross Grand Prix, held at Brands Hatch.
His rallycross involvement began when the BBC began broadcasting rallycross in late1968 almost two years after the sport had been created [in early 1967]. He ventured into Europe with the discipline for early events in Holland, and continue to commentate on live Saturday-afternoon events until the 1980s, later continuing with the annual Grand Prix until the 1990s.
Recalling his time in the rallycross commentary booth while celebrating the 50th anniversary of the discipline in 2017, Walker said: “My wife [Elizabeth] and I used to go to Lydden weekend after weekend. It’s a great little circuit and there were great names like John Button, the incredible Norwegian driver Martin Schanche, Franz Wurz, Barry Lee, Keith Ripp and John Welch in rallycross. The television was tremendously popular and there was a wonderful spirit of camaraderie and fun. It was made for television and television made it. They were, and still are, short, sharp, noisy, aggressive, tremendously exciting races. The sport generated some fantastic characters and the crowds were enormously enthusiastic and knowledgeable. It was just great. Of all the motorised sports, motocross and rallycross are my favourites. I’m not being disparaging to Formula 1, but rallycross has got competition, drama and spectacle that Formula 1 sadly lacks. I’m delighted that it’s doing so well again.”
Following his retirement from a full-time F1 commentary role in 2001, Walker received a BAFTA Special Award for Contribution to Television in 2002, and his unmistakeable tone returned to a rallycross audience in 2009, as the European Rallycross Championship returned to the UK after hiatus of over a decade, at Lydden Hill. Present as part of his ‘Murray Walker Scrapbook’ book launch, Walker also made an appearance in the commentary box, joining long standing rallycross commentator Arthur Debenham on the mic.
Seldom does a personality in the motor racing world become so big without being first a driver or high-profile team member, but Walker’s genuine, warm personality endeared him to millions and made him a motor sport star.
Rallycross World extends its sympathies to his family and close friends.« Previous Post Next Post »