There was only one James Hunt
Younger race fans may know James Hunt was the 1976 F1 World Champion through the film Rush. Their parents will remember him as Murray Walker’s sidekick in the F1 commentary box. But for those a little older, James Hunt is an F1 maverick and an absolute hero.
James started racing in saloon cars before moving over to Formula 3, where his crash-or-win approach earned him the nickname Hunt the Shunt. Still. Hunt earned the acclaimed British Motoring Writers’ Grovewood Award and attracted the attention of Lord Alexander Hesketh, whose required driver profile James fitted perfectly.
Nobody took the party animals with the white March seriously when the crew first arrived at Monaco ‘73, but they paid attention when James scored a point in his second race, three more in his third and then put it on the podium in his fourth GP before ending the season with a sensational second in the US!
Three more podiums followed in Hesketh’s own car in 1974 and then James won the ’75 Dutch Grand Prix. So, McLaren signed James Hunt to replace Emerson Fittipaldi for ’76 and despite a most trying start to the season, James was finally awarded the Spanish Grand Prix win a week before he lost his British GP win.
1976 came good with a win in France and again in Germany when Niki Lauda crashed. Hunt took three more wins to close right up on Lauda who had made a miraculously return. James did not know he was champion in Japan after Lauda had pulled out of the Japanese GP to hand him that ’76 title, but he had sensationally stolen the championship…
James won three more grands prix the following year and eventually retired from racing. He had put his wild antics behind him to become a most respected F1 commentator, when he succumbed a heart attack just hours after proposing to marry his girlfriend on 15 June 1993.
A wild, one-of-a-kind racer who did things his own way, there will only ever be one James Hunt. His memory will certainly live on…