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Sunday, 30 September, 2001, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Walker leaves the fast lane
Murray Walker - commentary legend
The BBC's motorsport correspondent, Jonathan Legard, pays tribute to Murray Walker, who has retired from broadcasting at the US Grand Prix.

Murray. No surname needed. Like Stirling or Damon. Fame, recognition and affection all rolled into one.

Murray. The Voice. Instantly familiar to millions around the world.

Murray. Retiring? About as likely as Bernie Ecclestone calling time and clearing his desk.

Or so it seemed.

Boyish sparkle

Murray Walker has been behind a microphone for longer than he probably cares to remember.

Which is why the thought of stopping has taken the whole of this season to sink in.

Half a century has come and gone since he started covering motorsport with his father for BBC Radio, yet his enthusiasm for Formula One retains an enviable boyish sparkle with the bearing of a complete gentleman.

His enjoyment of a Grand Prix weekend, from the Thursday news conferences to Sunday's race, shines through.

His pleasure in keeping the viewer entertained and informed is plain to see

Compare notes with him after the most mundane qualifying session, and the pleasure of keeping the viewer entertained and informed - even if it's an update on the latest Minardi struggle - is plain to see.

And in the heat of a championship battle, like Suzuka last October, there was no need for an earthquake to make the ITV commentary box shake.

You never see Murray on autopilot. His questions to drivers and team owners are always measured and to the point, honed by genuine interest.

An early career in advertising, coining the slogan "A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play", surely explains his way with words.

Popular figure

Like all commentators, those words don't always appear in the order they should.

Whereas the rest of us end up looking silly, Murray's skill is making his mistakes funny and memorable, only adding to the legend of "Muddly Talker".

When he was forced to miss the French Grand Prix last July on doctors orders - it's not every 77-year-old who wants to leap onto a flight days after a hip replacement operation - there was sincere concern in the paddock over his health.

And when he returned at the next race in Austria, he could have spent all weekend shaking the hands of well wishers.

Just as well his doctors weren't with him. They would never have managed the endless climbs to his commentary eyrie hanging from the roof of the grandstand.

Such is Murray's popularity, his absence rated mention on page three of some newspapers, never mind the back page.

And his farewell tour around the world in 2001 has generated the same sort of interest - in and out of Formula One's frenetic world.

Murray Walker
"I want to go out while I'm still ahead"
See also:

11 Dec 00 |  Motorsport
Murray calls it a day
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