In the hot seat

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The ‘voice of the sport’ speaks out on muddy men on muddy bikes, crazy Norweigans in muddy cars, muddled-up phrases and mislaid tortoise mascots. If we’re not very much mistaken, it’s Murray Walker…

For sheer entertainment value, what is your favourite brand of motorsport? Andy McCafferty, County Down

Motocross. Motorcycles were my first love and I commentated on scrambling for the BBC and ITV. To see motorbikes going flat out across rough ground and flying through the air is extremely spectacular. Plus you can see the rider hard at work. In terms of four wheels, it has to be Formula One; it was a privilege to be so closely involved with it.

If you could combine any driver in history with any car from history, who and what would you choose? Mr. Little, Northampton

I think that Tazio Nuvolari in the 2002 F1 Ferrari would be worth watching. For me, he’s the greatest driver who ever lived. Some people say that you can’t compare drivers from different eras, and I understand their viewpoint. But can you imagine Nuvolari getting in Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari and driving the wheels off it? I can’t.

What is your outstanding memory from the Donington Grands Prix of 1937 and ’38? Mr. Scully, London

I was lucky enough to attend both races. A friend of my father’s, a man called Joe Woodhouse, held the German distributor rights for MG. Whenever the German teams raced in an English-speaking country, Joe came with them to act as interpreter. Ar a result of this, although I was not an official member of the German teams, I was given privileged access to them: I stood next to Nuvolari and Caracciola, my mouth agape The speed of those cars, the professionalism of those teams were light years better than what we were used to seeing. It was like getting a jet of ice-cold water in your face.

I only have one regret from those races Auto Union handed out some little tortoise mascots, just like the one Nuvolari wore and I got one! But I’ve since lost it. I would give my back teeth to find another.

Which was better: Donington In 1937 or ’93? Owen Thomas, West Sussex

Without a shadow of doubt it was 1993 When the Germans teams came they gave a fantastic demonstration of superiority against pedestrian opposition. But when Senna won the European GP, he gave a demonstration the like of which has rarely been seen of how to beat superior cars.

What is your best rallycross memory? Brian Steele, Hampton Wick

Martin Schanche. He was an unbelievably fast driver, a brilliant engineer who built cars that were way better than his rivals’, and a fantastic showman. I knew that wherever Martin was on the track there would be some great action going on.

Who was better: Graham or Damon Hill? Roger Corman, Wolverhampton

It might sound like a cop-out, but I don’t think I could put a fag paper between them. Graham was a great all-rounder — but by the time Damon was racing there was no need, or opportunity, to race lots of different cars. I don’t think either of them were brilliantly gifted in the sense of a Senna or a Rosemeyer, but I do think that they were both extremely capable drivers who maximised the talent they had via graft and determination, and who reaped the rewards they deserved.

You competed on motorbikes — what was your best result? Derek Howard, Peak Forest

I ‘brilliantly’ won a heat at Brands Hatch in 1947 on an AJS. Brands was a grasstrack in those days, and it ran in an anti-clockwise direction. I used to race against John Surtees and Eric Oliver, but I tended to only see their backs as they disappeared into the distance. I was just starting to make my way in the advertising business at that time, and so my win was also my last race.

How many teams do you think will be on the Formula One grid in 10 years’ time? Frank Melia, Normandy

I see no reason why there should be any less or any more than there are presently. The form that the competition takes might have changed by then, but I think the basic appeal of motor racing, which has been around since someone first dropped an engine into a frame with four wheels on it, will be just as strong as it is now.

Did you really get on with Nigel Mansell? Duncan Ball, Montreal

Oh yes. Absolutely. I have always said that Nigel is a thin-skinned, prickly, easy-to-offend sort of bloke — and that I always got on well with him. It’s true that anything I said was unlikely to offend him, but I make no apologies for always talking him up — he thoroughly deserved it He has won more Grands Prix than any other British driver, and he was always exciting to watch; if he wasn’t dicing with Senna on the track, he was grabbing him by the throat in the pits. He was manna from heaven for the BBC.

Your dad was a big man, how come he won a Lightweight TT on the Isle of Man? Tom Wesley, North Shields

‘Lightweight’ is what they call the 250cc race on the Isle of Man? Dad won it on a Rudge in 1931. He weighed over 14 stone and did most of his winning on 500s, but his size didn’t stop him being competitive on the smaller bikes. Rudge designer George Hack used to complain that he had spent weeks making the bike as light as possible — only for Dad to climb aboard. But he kept on winning and everyone was happy.

Should Moto GP and Superbike riders be paid more than Fl drivers? Ken Walmsley, Accrington

In terms of the excitement they provide and the risk to their lives, yes, they should get paid more. But in terms of public interest, how much they are worth to the sponsors — the things that really determine the wage structure — no, they shouldn’t get paid more. The bottom line is that Formula One is more popular around the world.

What’s your favourite Murrayism? Bill Madeley, Hambledon

I have several. “Do my eyes deceive me, or is Senna’s Lotus sounding rough?” “The car in the lead is absolutely unique — except for the one behind it, which is identical.”

Did you ever speak to James Hunt in private about his anti-Patrese tirades? David Mayne, Dukinfield

No.

Have you ever been scared while sitting in the passenger seat alongside a GP driver? Alice Gilbert, Letterkenny

To be honest, I’ve not had many such trips. People seem to think that the drivers and the media live in each other’s pockets — but that’s not the case. In fact, it’s only since I stopped commentating that I have had the opportunity to act as a co-driver. In the past two years I have done two events Down Under, one in Tasmania and one in New Zealand. The car was the same for both — a Toyota Camry — but the driver was different The first of them was with Colin Bond, a Bathurst winner and Australian rally champion; the other was with Chris Amon. I was excited by their skill and the speeds involved rather than scared.

Your voice is instantly recognisable — is it something that you worked on? Oliver Mason, Ealing

Not at all. My voice just gets louder, faster and higher pitched the more excited I get I was just lucky that my chosen sport is a loud, harsh and aggressive one — something that my voice fits exactly. Let’s face it, Murray Walker commentating on snooker would have been a disaster!

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