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  Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Walker's home run ends
Murray Walker
Walker has worked on the British Grand Prix since 1948
By BBC Sport Online's Andrew Benson at Silverstone

Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard might be battling it out in the Formula One world championship at the British Grand Prix, but they will be vying for the limelight with an excitable 75-year-old.

Veteran commentator Murray Walker is facing his last home Formula One race behind the microphone this weekend - and it may turn out to be the most difficult he has yet had to cover.

That has nothing to do with any emotions he might be feeling - and if he is feeling any nostalgia or sentiment, he is hiding it well.

Instead, his problems this weekend will revolve around the physical difficulty he will find doing his job.


This is the British Grand Prix, not the Murray Walker Grand Prix
Murray Walker

Already on Thursday he was being approached at least every five minutes for interviews, and it promises to get worse as the weekend goes on.

Walker is a guest of honour of Silverstone's owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club, at a dinner on Friday night, but beyond that he is trying everything he can not to be the centre of attention.

His chances of succeeding are slim. He is likely to survive unscathed in the F1 paddock, for while he is immensely popular, the people who work there will see him again.

But once outside its confines, he will be struggling - he will inevitably have to run the gauntlet of an adoring public wanting autographs by the hundred.

Walker, who has commentated on every British Grand Prix since 1948, first for the BBC and since 1997 for ITV, wants to view this like any other race.

"There is a lot of attention on me because this is my last one, but I really just want to be able to get on with my work," Walker told BBC Sport Online.

"This is the British Grand Prix, not the Murray Walker Grand Prix."

Be that as it may, Walker does appreciate his popularity.

Infectious enthusiasm

He says: "I secretly love it. If you don't like someone making a fuss of you, there's something wrong with you.

"But it does make life very difficult. I spend most of my time dodging behind trucks trying not to be seen."

His appeal stems from the uninhibited and obvious pleasure he gets from doing his job.

He lives and breathes Formula One, and it is that ardour which has hooked TV viewers in Britain and around the world.

His enthusiasm is infectious, which is part of the reason why he has become a sporting icon. That and his famous propensity for making howling errors while broadcasting to millions.

Walker has no hesitation picking his most embarrassing moment. It was 1993 and Damon Hill's first race at Silverstone with the Williams team.

"For the first time, we had a link-up into the cockpit of Damon's car," Walker recalls.

"Damon had just put up the fastest time, the qualifying session was almost over, and live on air I said: 'Fantastic, Damon, you're on pole position, how do you feel?'

Walker and Hill
Walker was embarrassed by a Damon Hill link-up
"He said all the predictable things, he was very pleased, and so on, but as he was talking about it, I saw the name Alain Prost pop to the top.

"Damon finished talking, and I said: 'That's the good news, Damon. The bad news is you're second...'

"I saw him in the paddock later, and he grinned and said: 'In future, Murray, do you think you could just keep your bloody mouth shut!'"

That prospect is edging ever closer. Walker agreed to do only 12 races this year as he wound his career down.

He has already missed three and, after Silverstone, he will skip Hockenheim in Germany and Hungary before returning for the last four.

He says he does not know how he will feel when he finally finishes broadcasting from Japan in October. But one thing is sure - he will not be bored.

Walker has an autobiography coming out next year, which is sure to be a best-seller, and he will is certain to be in demand with Grand Prix sponsors.

Walker acknowledges, though, that without an F1 race every couple of weeks life will never be the same again.

Millions of TV viewers around the world will doubtless agree.

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