Thursday, June 15, 2017

"1976 Formula One World Champ" James Hunt Dies - June 15, 1993

August 29, 1947 - June 15, 1993
James Hunt
(Photo: Serbian car fans via photopin cc)
Born in Belmont, Sutton, Surrey, England.
The 1976 Formula One World Champion, Hunt became a media commentator and businessman after retiring from racing in 1979.

Beginning his racing career in touring car racing, Hunt progressed into Formula Three where he attracted the attention of the Hesketh Racing team and was soon taken under their wing. Hunt's often action-packed exploits on track earned him the nickname "Hunt the Shunt". Hunt entered Formula One in 1973, driving a March 731 entered by the Hesketh Racing team. He went on to win for Hesketh, driving their own Hesketh 308 car, in both World Championship and non-Championship races, before joining the McLaren team at the end of 1975. In his first year with McLaren, Hunt won the 1976 World Drivers' Championship, and he remained with the team for a further two years, although with less success, before moving to the Wolf team in early 1979. Following a string of races in which he failed to finish, Hunt retired from driving halfway through the 1979 season.

After retiring from motor racing, he established a career commenting on Grands Prix for the BBC. He was known for his knowledge, insights, dry sense of humour and his criticism of drivers who, he believed, were not trying hard enough, which in the process brought him a whole new fanbase.

June 15, 1993, Hunt died from a heart attack at his home in Wimbledon, London, England, at the age of 45. Two days previously, Hunt cycled from his home to Television Centre, to comment on the 1993 Canadian Grand Prix.

The movie Rush, a 2013 British-German biographical sports drama film, centered on the rivalry between Hunt and Niki Lauda, during the 1976 Formula One motor-racing season. 
(Photo: engyles via photopin cc
In the book, James Hunt: The Biography, Niki Lauda stated that "We were big rivals, especially at the end of the season, but I respected him, because you could drive next to him, 2 centimeters, wheel-by-wheel, for 300 kilometers or more, and nothing would happen. 
He was a real top driver at the time."

Early in their careers Hunt and Lauda shared a one-bedroom flat in London, and were close friends off the track. Lauda, in his autobiography To Hell and Back, described Hunt as an "open, honest to God pal". Lauda admired Hunt's burst of speed while Hunt envied Lauda's capacity for analysis and rigour. In the spring of 1974, Hunt moved to Spain on the advice of the International Management Group. While living there as a tax exile, Hunt was the neighbour of Jody Scheckter, and they also came to be very good friends, with Hunt giving Scheckter the nickname Fletcher after the crash-prone bird in the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Another close friend was Ronnie Peterson. Peterson was a quiet and shy man, while Hunt was exactly the opposite, but their contrasting personalities made them very close off the track. It was Hunt who discovered Gilles Villeneuve, whom he met after being soundly beaten by him in a Formula Atlantic race in 1976. Hunt then arranged for the young Canadian to make his Grand Prix debut with McLaren in 1977.

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 liked to drink, and also used cocaine and marijuana; and he lived an informal life near the beach in Marbella. He was regularly seen attending nightclubs and discos, and was generally the life and soul of the party. Hunt was an expert ball game player, and regularly played squash and tennis. He also played on the Formula One drivers' cricket and football teams and appeared on the BBC's Superstars more than once.

He was inducted into the Motor Sport Hall of Fame on January 29, 2014.

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