A self-confident and competitive person both in and out of the driver’s seat, James Simon Wallis Hunt enjoyed a relatively short and tumultuous racing career. Hunt was born in 1947 to a London stockbroker and from an early age his parents found him unruly and rebellious. He seemed prone to temper tantrums and was terribly hyperactive. Despite his wild and rebellious ways he grew up to become a tall and handsome youngster who enjoyed considerable success with the ladies. His journey to World Champion began on his eighteenth birthday when Hunt saw his first race at Silverstone. On that day he decided that he would one day become World Champion – a goal which took several challenging years to realise.
Though his family was wealthy, they did not support Hunt’s dreams of becoming a racing champion and Hunt started out by working odd jobs and purchasing a wrecked Mini, which he spent two years preparing for racing. Once he eventually did get started on the racetrack, he never looked back – though many of his early races ended in bad accidents. Eventually he managed to stay on the racetrack long enough to win a few races. It is interesting to note that his bogus behavior on the track did not reflect his fear of racing. Often he would vomit in the garage and shake so violently on the starting grid that his car would vibrate. However, James Hunt was a determined, testosterone-driven racer which made him a formidable opponent.
James Hunt’s career took a huge turn when Lord Alexander Hesketh entered his life. Known by the racers he sponsored as ‘The Good Lord’, Hesketh was an eccentric British aristocrat who chose to squander his sizable inheritance on personal entertainment. To this end, he formed his own racing team and hired Hunt as his driver. Though the Hesketh Racing team was mediocre at best, they were well known for consuming copious amounts of champagne and sporting beautiful women. Before long, Hesketh decided to graduate from Formula Three and Formula Two to Formula One. Their arrival on the scene was welcomed with laughter but Hunt soon wiped the smiles away with his 1975 win over Niki Lauda’s Ferrari at the Dutch Grand Prix. Unfortunately Hesketh decided to leave the game that same year and Hunt was left without a job.
The following year he was called in to fill an unexpected vacancy with McLaren and James’ Formula One career began in earnest. He quickly became known for his bad temper and excessive speed. He became close friends with Niki Lauda with whom he competed for the 1976 driving title. Hunt managed to take the World Champion title later that year – the pinnacle of his success as a driver. After his win, his enthusiasm for racing waned and before long, he decided to retire. He married twice, had two children to whom he was wholly devoted and had just gotten engaged for the third time when he died unexpectedly from a heart attack at the age of 45. However, the charismatic James Hunt has certainly not been forgotten and his memory continues to live on in the sport of Formula One racing.