Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Martin Brundle's Friends - Ben Edwards

It's perhaps stretching the definition of "Martin Brundle's friends" slightly to include the man who will replace him behind the BBC microphone, but that's what I'm going to do to introduce this potted history of the versatile and experienced Ben Edwards, who becomes the BBC's third voice of F1 in four years.

I've heard it said that Ben Edwards is a poor man's Murray Walker; I would say that that's both unfair and inaccurate. He got his start in motor racing as a mechanic in 1982 in Formula Ford, but then moved behind the wheel himself, enjoying modest success in Formula First and Caterham racing. He also competed in the Euro Vauxhall Lotus series, where he shared grids with David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen. He then took a job as a racing instructor, then began doing track commentary at the circuits he was instructing at, and then managed to get himself a minor commentating job with the BBC.

In the early 90s, Eurosport gained rights to show live Formula One and hired Edwards, where he struck up a long-running and genial relationship with five-time race winner John Watson. They commentated on F1 until 1996. After the expiry of that contract, Edwards began commentating on the American CART series with some success, and with that experience was a strong candidate to replace Murray Walker at ITV before they decided to promote James Allen from within. He's subsequently commentated on almost every other major racing series at some time or another, and had another bite at F1 in 2002 when he was the lead commentator for BernieVision. He and his wife currently run a motorsports company that specialises in running championships, including British GT for a couple of years.

This time last year, it appeared as though Martin Brundle had completed the process of replacing Murray Walker as the voice of Formula One. Now he's back in the analyst's chair (yes, yes, I know he stands up to commentate like Murray did) and on a channel with an exponentially smaller British audience. This is Edwards's chance to prove his ability to a mass audience at last. Is he up to it? Only time will tell.



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