The Professionals - Murray Walker

The legend that is Murray Walker was the voice of Motorsport for over 50 years and has been a keen biker all his life...

We’ve just run a feature that claims racers of the last three decades were more heroic than the racers today. Do you agree?

Yes, but only in the last year or two. It has been disappointing in MotoGP but only because of the dominance of Stoner and the Ducati on Bridgestones. But we have certainly had heroes: what about Rossi? I think people look at the past with rose-tinted glasses, they think things were a lot better in the past than they actually were.

True. Do you feel that the boundaries between F1 being a sport and a business enterprise have become more blurred over the years?

Why pick on Formula One? Virtually every sport has become a business enterprise, MotoGP certainly has.

But bikers often say that F1 has become boring. what can be done about this?

I don’t think that very much can be done about it, the reason is the same reason that MotoGP was comparatively boring last year. I think bike racing will always be much more exciting and spectacular to watch because you can see the bloke that’s doing it and because they have the temerity to pass and re-pass each other, which is difficult to do in F1.

Now you spent time in the Army during world war two. tell us about your experiences, and what the Army taught you...

I was in the Royal Scots Greys. I was involved in the fighting from Normandy right through to the Baltic coast, where we linked up with the Russians. When I joined the Army, I shared a barrack room with a member of nobility, Lord somebody or other, and in the bed on the other side of me was a chap called Ted Niclan who was a welder from Walsall. I would never have had the chance to rub shoulders with people above or below my own social scale. It did me a lot of good.

What’s the best motorcycle you’ve ever owned?

I haven’t owned an enormous number of them. I had a string of BMWs, an R90S and then an R100RS, both of which were fabulous. I had a Triumph Tiger 100 which I enjoyed but I was a lot younger then.

Your dad was a TT winner. Were you graced with his riding ability?

No, no, no. I was alright but I certainly wasn’t good and I certainly wasn’t brilliant. I would have needed to practice a lot more to improve, to be honest I just don’t think it was important enough to me at that stage in my life.

And what do you think of the TT today?

I think it’s the greatest Motorsport event in the world, I’ve always said that and I still do. I went over there for the centenary last year and it has lost none of its attraction, the racing was magnificent and the atmosphere superb. It’s one of the last proper tests of man and machine versus the elements, and should it ever be banned it would be a complete tragedy.

Schumacher has proved very handy on a GP bike, Damon Hill used to race successfully and Rossi wasn’t too shabby in an F1 car. is there a cross over between racers at that level?

In rare circumstances there are. Rossi I suspect would have been good in cars, how good I don’t know, and don’t suppose I ever will. I thought what Schumacher did on the bike was incredible, absoloutely amazing considering he had such a small amount of time with the bike.

Whats your favourite James Hunt story that can be printed?

How long have you got? I don’t like to speak ill of the dead. James was a difficult bloke from my point of view, in the same way that I was probably a difficult bloke from his point of view, we were so different. I was old enough to be his father. He lived his life differently to me, smoking and drinking too much, he was on drugs and his morals were not acceptable as far as I was concerned. But that was his concern and not mine.

You must have been to some cracking parties in your time, though...

There’s a place called the Log Cabin at Suzuka, everyone used to go there and get plastered. Michael Schumacher would rip your shirt open and poor a pint of beer all over you. But at the time, it felt like fairly normal stuff!

What is the best thing about being Murray Walker?

That I have been able to follow my passion for the whole of my life. I’ve travelled the world and been associated with amazing people along the way.

Finally Murray, who do you think will win a GP first in 2008? Toseland or Hamilton?

Lewis Hamilton without a shadow of a doubt. I know James well, we sat together at the BBC sports personality of the year where he created a sensation playing the piano, and James is a lovely bloke and a bloody good rider. But lets not fall into the British trap of going wild about somebody before he’s had a chance to settle in. He has a lot of hard work to do in learning the bike the tracks and the procedures of MotoGP. If he gets points this year he will be doing well, if he gets on a podium he will be doing extremely well. I certainly don’t expect him to win a race. That is no reflection of James’ talent, he is going to be in an extrememly diffuicult environment which he has to conquer before he can succeed. I wish him all the luck in the world.

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