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James Hunt

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James Hunt.jpg
James Hunt
Nationality 22px-Flag of the United Kingdom.png British
Years 1973 - 1979
Team(s) Hesketh, McLaren, Wolf
Races 93
Championships 1
Wins 10
Podiums 23
Poles 14
Fastest laps 8
First race 1973 Monaco Grand Prix
First win 1975 Dutch Grand Prix
Last win 1977 Japanese Grand Prix
Last race 1979 Monaco Grand Prix

James Simon Wallis Hunt (29 August 194715 June 1993) was an English racing driver and Formula 1 world champion and subsequently a commentator. His brother David Hunt also later raced in Formula 3, contributed to the development of racing simulation video game REVS, and later owned the Lotus racing brand after the team left Formula One.

The son of a successful stockbroker, James Hunt was born in Belmont and educated at Wellington College in Berkshire, and originally studied to be a doctor. But just before his 18th birthday, he was taken by a friend to see a motor race, and Hunt was instantly hooked.

Starting off by building his own fast but rather ramshackle racing Mini, and then graduating to Formula Ford and Formula Three, Hunt was noticed as a fast and spectacular driver, but one prone to having lots of spectacular accidents, hence his well earned nickname of 'Hunt The Shunt.' Hunt was involved in a controversial incident with Dave Morgan in a 1970 race at Crystal Palace - Hunt took both cars out of the race and then hit Morgan, which earned him severe official disapproval. Hunt's career continued in the works March team, but that disintegrated and he soon fell in with the Hesketh team, where he was seen as a kindred spirit. The team initially entered Hunt in Formula Two with little success but Lord Hesketh decided that they might as well fail in F1 as in F2, as it wasn't significantly more expensive (and it allowed Lord Hesketh to parade his yacht, helicopter, Porsche and Rolls Royce in front of a more appreciative audience). A March 731 chassis was purchased, and developed by Harvey Postlethwaite - the car was much more competitive than the works efforts, scoring several remarkable results, including a second place at the US Grand Prix. A Hesketh car inspired by the March appeared in 1974, but the accompanying V12 engine never materialised.

The Hesketh team captured the public imagination - the car without any sponsor markings, a teddy-bear badge and the atmosphere of devil-may-care fun hid the fact that they were an extremely competent outfit and Hunt started to thrive.

His first win came in 1975, in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. He finished 4th in the championship that year, but Lord Hesketh had run out of funds and could not find a sponsor for his maverick team. With little time left before the 1976 season, Hunt was desperately looking for a drive until Emerson Fittipaldi left McLaren and joined his brother's Copersucar-Fittipaldi outfit. The McLaren management wasted no time and signed Hunt with McLaren for the next season - he was one of the cheapest World Champions ever (Keke Rosberg in 1982 similarly found a drive at the last minute).

1976 was Hunt's best year. He used the McLaren M23 to win six Grands Prix. It was an incredibly turbulent season. He was disqualified and later reinstated as the winner of the Spanish Grand Prix for supposedly driving a McLaren that was 1.8cm too wide. A seventh win at the British Grand Prix was disallowed after a row over an accident at the first corner that Hunt had got involved in. At the Italian Grand Prix, the Texaco fuel that McLaren used was tested and although legal, the Italian scrutineers deemed the fuel to be illegal and Hunt was forced to start at the back of the grid.

Niki Lauda's near-fatal accident in Germany allowed Hunt to close the gap to the Austrian and, as they went to the final round in Japan, Hunt was just 3 points behind. The Japanese Grand Prix was torrentially wet, and Lauda refused to race, saying the conditions were too dangerous. After leading most of the race James suffered a puncture, but managed to splash back to third (4 points), enough for him to win the World Championship by a single point.

Early in their careers, Hunt and Lauda had shared a one bedroomed flat in London together, and were close friends off the track. Lauda in his autobiography To Hell and Back described Hunt as an 'open, honest to God pal.' Whilst living in Spain as a tax exile, James was neighbours with Jody Scheckter, and they came to be very good friends, with Hunt giving Scheckter the nickname Fletcher after the crash prone bird in the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Hunt's lifestyle was as controversial as some of the events on track. He was associated with a succession of beautiful women, he preferred to turn up to formal functions in bare feet and jeans, he was a casual user of marijuana, and he lived an informal life near the beach in Marbella. It was often assumed that he did not take racing seriously enough, yet through 1976 and 1977 the results continued to come. He famously wore a badge on his racing overalls that read Sex - Breakfast of Champions.

The following season started unlucky for Hunt, although he eventually won three GPs and placed well in the Championship. However, in 1978 he hardly scored any points due to a mix of low personal motivation and McLaren having been outclassed by Lotus; for 1979 Hunt moved to the initially very successful Wolf team for what would be his last Formula One season. In 1978, Hunt was the man who heroically rescued Ronnie Peterson, who was one of his closest friends, after the latter had crashed into the barriers of Monza track and his Lotus had burst in flames, but the Swede died one day later because of an embolism.

Hunt's 1979 season with Wolf was perfunctory - the team's ground-effect car was uncompetitive and Hunt had lost his enthusiasm for racing - his private life was becoming increasingly turbulent. Hunt did not complete the season and retired forever from racing after the Monaco Grand Prix.

Soon after retirement, Hunt became an outspoken and entertaining TV commentator for the BBC alongside Murray Walker. Hunt fought depression and overuse of alcohol and despite severe financial setbacks in his business life, approaching his mid 40s it seemed that he had finally overcome many of his demons (particularly alcohol and tobacco) and had finally achieved happiness. Happiness to Hunt included his new partner Helen, his clean health, his bicycle, his casual approach to dress, his two sons and his Austin A35 van. In an unlikely twist Hunt became a champion breeder of budgerigars.

This was however not to last long - Hunt died at the age of 45 of a heart attack at his home in Wimbledon, sadly, only hours after having proposed to Helen.

Hunt was one of the most charismatic drivers, notorious for his unconventional behaviour on and off the track. Having been part of Formula One when the series was consolidating, and when it was conquering the attention of the motor sport press, Hunt became the epitome of unruly, brilliant, playboy drivers and was celebrated for his English eccentricity (which included dining with his dog, Oscar, at expensive mayfair restaurants).Template:Cn Many latter-day drivers will be compared with Hunt for their antics, among them Eddie Irvine.

Complete Formula One results

(Races in bold indicate pole position)

Year Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Team WDC Points
1973 March ARG BRA RSA ESP BEL MON
Ret
SWE FRA
6
GBR
4
DUT
3
DEU AUT
Ret
ITA CAN
7
USA
2
March 8th 14
1974 March/Hesketh ARG
Ret
BRA
9
RSA
Ret
ESP
10
BEL
Ret
MON
Ret
SWE
3
DUT
Ret
FRA
Ret
GBR
Ret
DEU
Ret
AUT
3
ITA
Ret
CAN
4
USA
3
March/Hesketh 8th 15
1975 Hesketh ARG
2
BRA
6
RSA
Ret
ESP
Ret
MON
Ret
BEL
Ret
SWE
Ret
DUT
1
FRA
2
GBR
4
DEU
Ret
AUT
2
ITA
5
USA
4
Hesketh 4th 37
1976 McLaren BRA
Ret
RSA
2
USAW
Ret
ESP
1
BEL
Ret
MON
Ret
SWE
5
FRA
1
GBR
DSQ
DEU
1
AUT
4
DUT
1
ITA
Ret
CAN
1
USA
1
JPN
Ret
McLaren 1st 69
1977 McLaren ARG
Ret
BRA
2
SAF
4
USAW
7
ESP
Ret
MON
Ret
BEL
7
SWE
12
FRA
3
GBR
1
GER
Ret
AUT
Ret
DUT
Ret
ITA
Ret
USA
1
CAN
Ret
JPN
1
McLaren 5th 40
1978 McLaren ARG
4
BRA
Ret
SAF
Ret
USAW
Ret
MON
Ret
BEL
Ret
ESP
6
SWE
8
FRA
3
GBR
Ret
GER
Ret
AUT
Ret
DUT
10
ITA
Ret
USA
7
CAN
Ret
McLaren 13th 8
1979 Wolf ARG
Ret
BRA
Ret
SAF
8
USAW
Ret
ESP
Ret
BEL
Ret
MON
Ret
FRA GBR GER AUT DUT ITA CAN USA Wolf 22th 0

External links


Formula One World Drivers' Champions
(1950Nino FarinaTemplate:·(1951Juan Manuel FangioTemplate:·(195253Alberto AscariTemplate:·(1954,55,56,57Juan Manuel FangioTemplate:·(1958Mike HawthornTemplate:· (195960Jack BrabhamTemplate:· (1961Phil HillTemplate:·

(1962Graham HillTemplate:· (1963Jim ClarkTemplate:· (1964John SurteesTemplate:· (1965Jim ClarkTemplate:· (1966Jack BrabhamTemplate:· (1967Denny HulmeTemplate:· (1968Graham HillTemplate:· (1969Jackie StewartTemplate:· (1970Jochen RindtTemplate:· (1971Jackie StewartTemplate:· (1972Emerson FittipaldiTemplate:· (1973Jackie StewartTemplate:· (1974Emerson FittipaldiTemplate:· (1975Niki LaudaTemplate:· (1976James HuntTemplate:· (1977Niki LaudaTemplate:· (1978Mario AndrettiTemplate:· (1979Jody ScheckterTemplate:· (1980Alan JonesTemplate:· (1981Nelson PiquetTemplate:· (1982Keke RosbergTemplate:· (1983Nelson PiquetTemplate:· (1984Niki LaudaTemplate:· (198586Alain ProstTemplate:· (1987Nelson PiquetTemplate:· (1988Ayrton SennaTemplate:· (1989Alain ProstTemplate:· (199091Ayrton SennaTemplate:· (1992Nigel MansellTemplate:· (1993Alain ProstTemplate:· (199495Michael SchumacherTemplate:· (1996Damon HillTemplate:· (1997Jacques VilleneuveTemplate:· (199899Mika HäkkinenTemplate:· (2000,01,02,03,04Michael SchumacherTemplate:· (200506Fernando Alonso