Driving the ‘voice of F1’ in an Aston Martin Faaan-tastic!
“So do you have to do anything for Aston Martin to pay them back for lending you the car?” asked Murray Walker as we threaded our way through the London traffic. I told him that no, I didn’t, and that they were just being very generous.
“Well, you can tell them that it is gigantically impressive.” I couldn’t help but smile. Murray is a true motor sport enthusiast, and at 87 years old it wouldn’t have been right to pick him up for a Motor Sport audio podcast in the office Lotus Elise. My first call was to Aston, and apparently while they were considering my request someone in the PR office said, “If he’s giving Murray Walker a lift we have to lend him a car. Murray’s a national treasure!” That he is.
The podcast was a great success (you can listen to it at www.motorsportmagazine. com), but what I’ll remember most from the day is the four-hour journey to and from the ex-BBC commentator’s home in the New Forest.
Thankfully Murray didn’t get into the back of the four-seat Rapide or he could have settled down to a DVD with the Bluetooth headphone set (oh yes, they’re in special ‘Rapide’ bags in the rear armrest). Instead we chatted non-stop all the way to London, during the podcast, at lunch afterwards and then on the way back home. I was knackered.
“Now, be careful of the speed limit here,” says Murray as we leave his home and cruise through the New Forest at 40mph. “”I actually ‘opened’ the speed limit and it wouldn’t look very good if I was in a car that hit an animal.” Trying to hold back another smile I stick to the limit and soon conversation turns to the commitment that Formula 1 drivers must have to the sport nowadays. “I have sympathy for Lewis (Hamilton), who has said that when McLaren come to do his next contract they’re going to be surprised at how difficult he’ll be about all the PR work he has to do,” says Murray as we cruise silently down the M3.”The drivers are there to drive the cars and win races.
“It’s bloody tiring and I’ve had a hatful of it over the years, albeit in a very minor way nothing like an F1 driver has to deal with. Even if you are sympathetic towards it and have the right personality for it, it still gets you down in the end. What it must be like if you’re not very communicative like Kimi Raikkanen, I can’t imagine.
“I do understand that it’s part of their job, though. I had a well-known F1 driver who’d better remain nameless complaining to me once about the number of autographs he had to sign. I said, ‘whoa sunshine, you get paid an enormous amount of money compared with most people and you get paid that for two reasons. One is that you’ve got a supreme skill at what you do. The other is that you’ve got a lot of sponsors who are paying money, which goes into your pocket in order to benefit their sales. It’s their public and your public that want your signature and it really doesn’t take that much time.’
“You’ve got people like Barry Sheene and Nigel Mansell who were absolutely superb and would sit for hours signing autographs and talking to the fans, but it’s a bloody bore if you don’t want to do it.”
I must say, a day spent talking to Murray Walker and driving the Rapide is without doubt one of the best days a motor sport fan could ever have. Thank you Aston, and thank you Murray.