Race of my Life: Murray Walker on the 1986 Spanish F1 GP

The voice of Formula 1, the motorsport world has been shocked by Murray Walker's passing at the age of 97 on Saturday. In honour of the late commentary icon, AUTOSPORT is revisiting Walker's recollections of his favourite race - the 1986 Spanish Grand Prix - first published in the 19/26 December 2013 issue...

Race of my Life: Murray Walker on the 1986 Spanish F1 GP

My time behind the F1 microphone was the 1980s and ’90s, plus a couple of years either side of them, and what a fabulous period it was. The swansong of the fabled Ford Cosworth DFV engine, the glorious turbo years with their chattering wastegates and spark-showering skid blocks.

Lotus, Ferrari, Williams and McLaren. Honda, BMW and Renault. Superstars Nelson Piquet, Niki Lauda, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher - and my mate Nigel Mansell for whom, as a fellow Brit in his gutsy roles of ‘Il Leone’ and ‘Our Nige’, I had a very soft spot.

Podium: winner Nigel Mansell, Williams

Podium: winner Nigel Mansell, Williams

Photo by: Motorsport Images

There was always drama when Nigel was around. A physical confrontation with Senna at Spa, a wheel coming off in the pitlane in Portugal, winning first time out with Ferrari, collapsing with heatstroke at Dallas, trying to get past Senna at Monaco and leaving Williams in a huff but, most of all, breathtaking happenings at the wheel.

Like sensationally passing Gerhard Berger at Mexico's Peraltada corner, catching and passing Piquet at Silverstone, wheel to wheel with Senna at Barcelona and passing Ayrton to take victory in Hungary. All manna from heaven for me but none more so than Nigel’s epic battle with Senna at Jerez in 1986.

For me, that was one of the truly great years of Formula 1 with Nigel so nearly winning the championship, racing against his bitter rival and Williams team-“mate” Nelson Piquet, McLaren's Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna in the Lotus Renault. Race two was the Spanish GP at Jerez with Senna starting from pole position.

Ayrton Senna, Lotus 98T

Ayrton Senna, Lotus 98T

Photo by: Sutton Images

It was an event that was going to be dominated by the need to watch tyre and fuel consumption and the leaders, glued to their read-outs, took it relatively easy until lap 40 of 72 when Nigel, happy about his fuel, charged into the lead and pulled away from Senna and Prost.

But then his Williams started handling strangely and into the pits he shot for a fresh set of Goodyears. Out he came with eight laps to go, a daunting nineteen seconds down on Senna, to start a spellbinding charge, gaining by an incredible three seconds a lap. Past Prost to second and with three laps left he was five seconds behind Senna.

Surely impossible to catch, let alone pass the flying Brazilian? But no one told Nigel that. Driving out of his skin he started the last lap 1.5 seconds behind the Lotus and as they exited the last corner together he was closing fast.

What a finish! “I just did it didn’t I?” asked Nigel… but no, he hadn’t. Senna crossed the line a miniscule 0.01 seconds ahead of the Williams for one of the two closest victories ever - matched only by Peter Gethin's defeat of Ronnie Peterson at Monza in 1971 by the same wafer-thin margin.

Ayrton Senna, Lotus Renault crosses the finishing line to win the race by 0.014s ahead of Nigel Mansell, Williams FW11

Ayrton Senna, Lotus Renault crosses the finishing line to win the race by 0.014s ahead of Nigel Mansell, Williams FW11

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

And me? I was nearly through the commentary box roof! As ever Nigel had made my day.

shares
comments
Murray Walker obituary: F1 broadcasting legend dies aged 97

Previous article

Murray Walker obituary: F1 broadcasting legend dies aged 97

Next article

What we learned from F1's first full race simulations

What we learned from F1's first full race simulations
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Author Charles Bradley
What Mercedes must do to keep its F1 title challenge on track Prime

What Mercedes must do to keep its F1 title challenge on track

Mercedes may find itself leading the drivers' and constructors' standings after Lewis Hamilton's victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix, but it is well aware that it came against the odds, with Red Bull clearly ahead. Here's what the Brackley team must do to avoid its crown slipping .

The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate Prime

The double whammy that is defining Vettel’s F1 fate

It's been a tough start to Sebastian Vettel's Aston Martin F1 career, with a lack of pre-season testing mileage followed by an incident-packed Bahrain GP. But two key underlying factors mean a turnaround is no guarantee.

Formula 1
Apr 14, 2021
The themes to watch in F1's Imola return Prime

The themes to watch in F1's Imola return

Three weeks is a long time in Formula 1, but in the reshaped start to the 2021 season the teams head to Imola to pick things up after the frenetic Bahrain opener. Here's what to look out for and the developments to follow at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Formula 1
Apr 13, 2021
The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola Prime

The 'new' F1 drivers who need to improve at Imola

After a pandemic-hit winter of seat-swapping, F1 kicked off its season with several new faces in town, other drivers adapting to new environments, and one making a much-anticipated comeback. Ben Anderson looks at who made the most of their opportunity and who needs to try harder…

Formula 1
Apr 12, 2021
The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture Prime

The delay that quashed Aston Martin’s last F1 venture

Aston Martin’s only previous foray into Formula 1 in the late 1950s was a short-lived and unsuccessful affair. But it could have been so different, says Nigel Roebuck.

Formula 1
Apr 10, 2021
Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace Prime

Verstappen exclusive: Why lack of titles won't hurt Red Bull's ace

Max Verstappen’s star quality in Formula 1 is clear. Now equipped with a Red Bull car that is, right now, the world title favourite and the experience to support his talent, could 2021 be the Dutchman’s year to topple the dominant force of Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes?

Formula 1
Apr 9, 2021
Is Formula 1 as good as it has ever been now? Prime

Is Formula 1 as good as it has ever been now?

For many, many years Formula 1 has strived to do and to be better on all fronts. With close competition, a growing fanbase, a stable political landscape and rules in place to encourage sustainability, 2021 is on course to provide an unexpected peak

Formula 1
Apr 8, 2021
How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend Prime

How Williams’ new structure adheres to a growing F1 trend

Williams held out against the tide for many years but, as MARK GALLAGHER explains, the age of the owner-manager is long gone

Formula 1
Apr 6, 2021