Next up is the tragic tail of English formula one 1976 world champion James Hunt who's 76 season world championship rivalry story has now been turned into a Movie called Rush.
James Simon Wallis Hunt was born 29 August 1947 in the village of in Cheam Surrey England but hunt spent most of his Childhood in the South London borough of Sutton as the second child of Sue and Wallis Hunt his father Wallis was a stockbroker, both James parents had strong Victorian principles regarding both hard work and discipline. Hunt was educated at Westerleigh School in Hastings, East Sussex from 1955 and later Wellington College in Crowthorne, Berkshire before becoming a racing driver he originally professed the intention of becoming a doctor a job more suited to his families aspirations for him. James hunt was always interested in sports and he tried his hand at various other sports like cricket, football and even tennis in fact it was while playing tennis that James Hunt developed his competitive nature when during a tennis match he later lost he refused to accept defeat a trait that stayed with him All his sporting life really.
Trouble was never far away from hunt as a child so much so that Hunts parents believed he started smoking as young as 10 years old although he never really admitted as much to his parents probably through fear more than anything else really, Hunt also had a rebellious personality who also had violent tantrums through his youth and it was only as an adult that he finally acknowledged this.
James Hunts fascination with driving came a week after his 17th birthday when he passed his driving test and according to himself "life really began" although he first tried driving when on a family holiday on a farm in Pembrokeshire Wales he drove a tractor but he really struggled with gear changes mainly due to the strength required to change gears on a tractor but this never dampened his spirits in learning to drive and hunts obsession with racing came when he was taken to see the brother of his doubles tennis partner Chris Ridge racing his Mini in fact it was racing Mini's that James first set out in though he had his troubles at forts as his car was originally prevented from racing due to not being correctly race worthy to which Hunt had to get another job to pay for the work on his Mini to make it race worthy. In 1968 Hunt then graduated to Formula Ford class He drove a Russell-Alexis Mk 14 car Hunt took his first win at Lydden Hill and also set the lap record on the Brands Hatch short circuit.
In 1969 James Hunt made his first steps in the Formula class when he entered formula 3 in Meryln Mk11A car which helped him achieve British Guild of Motoring Writers a Grovewood Award as one of the three drivers to have promising careers. Controversy wasn't far behind Hunt again in 1980 when he clashed with Dave Morgan during a battle for second place in the Daily Express trophy race at Crystal Place when the pair had banged wheels earlier in a very closely fought race, Morgan attempted to pass Hunt on the outside of South Tower Corner on the final lap, but instead the cars collided and crashed out of the race. Hunt's car came to rest in the middle of the track, minus two wheels. Hunt got out, ran over to Morgan and furiously pushed him to the ground and both Morgan and Hunt where summonsed to the RAC although after hearing evidence from both drivers Hunt was cleared but Morgan was given a 12-month suspension of his racing license.
In May 1972 it was announced by the team that he had been dropped from the STP-March Formula 3 team and replaced by Jochen Mass and with the termination of his racing relationship with STP-March, Hunt joined the Hesketh team a team that seen Hunt and Hesketh as the perfect match, The team initially entered Hunt in Formula Two with little success but Lord Hesketh announced that they might as well fail in F1 as in F2, as it wasn't seen as being significantly more expensive.
The 1973 season started ominously for the Hesketh team wasn't taken very seriously in the beginning by the F1 rivals who saw the Hesketh team as party goers enjoying the glamour of Formula One. However, the Hesketh March proved much more competitive than the works March cars, and their best result was second place at the 1973 United States Grand Prix that season Hunt was awarded the awarded with the Campbell Trophy from the RAC marking his performance in Formula One as the best for a British driver.
The 1974 season started in better fashion for the Hesketh Racing team with a car inspired by the March, called the Hesketh 308 and Hunt's first test of the car came at Silverstone and found it more stable than its predecessor, the March 731. The car caught race fans imagination as a car had no sponsors. Hunt's season highlight was a victory at the BRDC International Trophy non-Championship race at Silverstone, against the majority of the regular F1 field.
The 1975 season wasn't eventful either for the Hesketh team & Hunt culminating in him finishing fourth in the Championship that year and Hunt's first win that season came in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort but Lord Hesketh had run out of funds and could not find a sponsor for his team that left James Hunt desperately searching for a team for the 1976 season but when Emerson Fittipaldi left McLaren and joined his brother's Copersucar-Fittipaldi outfit.
So the story leads us to the dramatic 1976 season that saw the Hunt / Lauda rivalry thrown firmly into the public domain although a lot of Hunts piers wondered if he could seriously challenge for the championship in a more established car, Hunt soon dispelled the doubters in the first race in Brazil in a hastily built McLaren M23, he landed pole position in the last minutes of qualifying. although in the first few races of the season Niki Lauda pull into a commanding lead in the championship although Hunts first win did come in the forth race in Spain but he was later disqualified when it emerged his car was 1.8 metres too wide but he later had the disqualification over turned on appeal. In the British Grand Prix Hunt was involved in a first corner incident on the first lap with Lauda which led to the race being stopped and restarted. Hunt initially attempted to take a spare car, however this was disallowed, and during this time the original race car was repaired, eventually winning the restarted race souring relations between himself and Lauda further But Hunt's victory was disallowed on 24 September by a ruling from the FIA after Ferrari complained that Hunt was not legally allowed to restart the race.
Then came a pivotal moment in both Hunts & Lauda's careers when during a race at the Nürburgring Germany when before the race Lauda called a meeting of drivers to discuss the conditions that in his opinion where far too dangerous to race in due to the amount of rain fall plus the conditions showing no sign of improving but Hunt objected and convinced other drivers to race on the grounds that no one else would be able to catch Lauda on the championship if the race isn't run. Lauda crashed in horrendous conditions sustaining near-fatal injuries that kept him out of only two races and Lauda returned in the Italian Grand Prix in which he finished forth and Hunt spun out of. The championship was perfectly balanced going into the final race of the season in Japan with Hunt trailing Lauda by 3 points but Conditions for the race were torrentially wet and Lauda retired early on in the race, unable to blink because of facial burns from his accident in Germany Hunt when on to overcome tyre and put problems to finish the race 3rd and win the championship by one point overall.
Hunt never recaptured the form that seen him win the 1976 championship and on the 8 June 1979 to the press announcing his immediate retirement and walked away from F1 competition Soon after his retirement Hunt was approached by Jonathan Martin, the head of BBC television sport, to become a television commentator alongside Murray Walker on the BBC 2 Formula One racing programme Grand Prix where he worked for 13 years until his death Hunt in 1993 at the age of 45, when he died of a heart attack at his home in Wimbledon.
Off the track Hunt was a colourful character with his addiction to drugs and sex in equal quantities Hunt met his first wife, Suzy Miller, in 1974 in Spain. The couple married on 18 October 1974 at the Brompton Oratory in Knightsbridge. By the end of 1975, Suzy had left Hunt for the actor Richard Burton, who paid Hunt's divorce settlement of $1 million. In 1982 he met his second wife, Sarah Lomax, while she was on a holiday in Spain with friends. Hunt started dating Lomax when she arrived back in England and they dated throughout the winter. Hunt and Lomax were married on 17 December 1983 in Marlborough Wiltshire. The couple separated in October 1988 but remained together for the sake of there two children Tom & Freddie, they divorced in November 1989 on the grounds of adultery committed by Hunt. He met Helen Dyson in the winter of 1989 in a restaurant in Wimbledon, where she worked as a waitress. Dyson was 18 years Hunt's junior and worried about her parents' reactions to him, the day before he died, Hunt proposed to Dyson via telephone.
Hunt was certainly a colourful character who probably never lived up to his ability or reputation and although Rush portrays Lauda and Hunt as two drivers who disliked each other in the early days of their careers, Lauda and Hunt used to go out on the town in London together and on at least one occasion he spent the night in Hunt's flat. In fact at the Rush premiere in Toronto Canada Laura was quoted as saying "I wish James Hunt could have seen Rush because he would have enjoyed it"