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James Hunt The Great British F1 Maverick

James “Hunt The Shunt” can only be described as the ultimate playboy of Formula One. His rebellious spirit and eccentric personality shone both on and off the track. He won the hearts of fans worldwide during the 1970’s. His journey to World Champion was a bumpy road and ultimately driven by a furious rivalry.

Born to Race

Hunt was born in Sutton, London during 1947. As a child he immediately proved to be handful. But once he had witnessed a race event at 18 he became completely captivated. His heart was set in stone to become a racing driver.

Without the support from his family he relied on his own determination and hard work to save up his money. Eventually he was able to afford his first racecar, a wrecked mini cooper. After two years spent rebuilding it, it was disqualified from its first race. This only served to harden Hunt’s resolve to get out on the track.

Tearing Up the Formula Tracks

By 1969, Hunt had been regularly hitting the circuit and began to demonstrate driving skill. The only problem being he was a tail happy hot head. The numerous wrecks he was in earned him the nickname “Hunt the Shunt”. Life off the track was somewhat reflective, as a partygoer and lad by all accounts.

He eventually crossed paths and hit it off with the young aristocrat Lord Hesketh. With a grand fortune and a fancy to indulge in the sport, Hesketh Racing was born. Hunt was out on the Formula Two and Three circuits, racing hard and partying harder. His famous pre-race tactical chunder routine was only partially for nerves. It was during this time he had his first encounters with the highly skilled driver Niki Lauda.

Formula One Championship

In 1974 team Hesketh entered Formula One, bringing with them their outlandish reputation. During the Dutch Grand Prix of 1975 Hunt managed to get one over Niki Lauda, a spark that locked them into their famous rivalry.

Soon after, the Hesketh Racing team fell apart. Through part luck and part sheer determination, Hunt scored a position on the McLaren team. Once he cooled his temper and calmed the emotion-fuelled driving, he performed better than ever. He quickly became a fan favourite as the good-looking bad-boy of Formula One. Hunt became engaged in a gripping season long battle with Lauda for the championship. Ultimately triumphant, he won himself the 1976 championship.

Hunt Leaves the Drivers Seat

After reaching World Champion status, Hunt’s enthusiasm to racing had dulled. Whilst continuing to race for McLaren it was clear his heart was no longer in it. He retired midseason in 1979, took a year away from the sport and returned as a BBC broadcaster. Whilst highly opinionated and outspoken he was well received by the sport’s fans.

Sadly Hunt’s flame was extinguished early. By 1993 he suffered a heart attack and died at only 45. His amusing antics and unique character are forever engraved in Formula One history. Fortunately the excitement of his rivalry with Niki Lauda has been captured perfectly with the 2013 film “Rush”.


published: 10/11/2015 09:07:09

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