James Hunt The Legendary F1 Driver


Born to a stockbroker father in Surrey in 1947, one of six, James Hunt was a bumptious and single-minded child, who thrived at prep school and Wellington College. Although not academically rigorous, he was a proficient trumpeter, and excelled in all sports, especially tennis and squash.

The paradigm shift From Medical school to car racing

He connected very well with animals, particularly dogs and birds with little interest in cars. His dream of becoming a medical doctor was exchanged with car racing when he got an invitation to a race meets at the Snetterton circuit in Norfolk the day before his 18th birthday. This invitation got him hooked on racing instantly, an opportunity he can’t let go of.

James’ proposal of using part of his medical school money to get a car for his newfound career was turned down by his father who wasn’t interested in the racing business, yet James was not deterred from pursuing his dream as he began to save money to go club racing.

Setbacks Of A Young And Determined Driver

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His first entry into car racing was at Snetterton in 1969 with a Formula Ford car even without proper racing clothes. The fearless James got the attention of most of the key players in the racing business as he was very quick to take off from the starting line. His speed was amazing a good example was his performance at Silverstone.

He won his first race overtaking Ronnie Peterson, who was in the lead, with two wheels on the grass on the inside. When you’re doing 165mph, that takes some doing. However, James early years in racing were dogged by a lack of funds and some unfortunate accidents
before he was signed to Hesketh Racing.

James had a terrible accident at Oulton Park only safe by not fastening his seatbelt as the car he bought with loan facility got ruined. His sex drive was unparallel as he would have sex before a crucial race and even immediately after his race. Frequently becoming sick was one of his attributes, which he claimed was always propelled by fear of his future on the financial side and on the job-security side. Nothing to do with the danger associated with racing which had claimed many lives.

The Accolades

James earned the nickname “Hunt the Shunt”, coined by Max Mosley. Winning just two Formula One races, and came fourth in the world championship on 33 points, to Lauda’s 64.5. His career took a different turn when he joined McLaren, which was a much better-funded team in 1976.

He won the first two non-championship races of the year and then won six out of 16 Grand Prix races. The infamous German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring where Lauda crashed in the first lap and suffered appalling burns after being trapped in his car was one of James’ success stories. (There were 38 track fatalities in the 25 years between 1953 and 1978.)

Hunt made gains on Lauda’s health condition winning at the Canadian Grand Prix, and the US East GP, the penultimate of the season. Scheckter recalls the tension of that period.

The Life After Racing

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With his Formula One career being over, He bought a villa in Spain and a farm in Buckinghamshire and divided his time between them, as well as a mews house in west London. Not comfortable with the seat at home, James opened a nightclub naming it after his dog, Oscar.

James Hunt – He got married to Sarah Lomax an interior decorator, the marriage was blessed with two sons although they parted ways in 1989. He ventured into broadcasting and excelled exceedingly as a commentator. Not to forget that he later became a writer, he wrote a Formula One column in The Independent during the 1991 season. He was a vocal advocate of improved safety, which did eventually come to the sport.

James died in the early hours of 15 June 1993, from a massive heart attack after proposing to his girlfriend, Helen Dyson. Giving up drinking and smoking to a large extent was Helen’s Influence on him. James Hunts is remembered for living life to the fullest and his contribution to the racing world.

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