On the 15th of June 1993 James Hunt passed away from a massive heart attack. Formula 1 lost one of the greatest, most flamboyant and interesting characters.
James Hunt was a different type of racer. Coming through the ranks in the UK, starting off in Mini racing then to Formula Ford and up to F3 before joining the ranks of Formula 1.
A clue to his fierce nature was seen in F3, after a crash with fellow driver Dave Morgan, he jumped out of his car and ran up to Morgan pushing him to the ground. Morgan was given a 12 month suspension, Hunt was cleared.
James moved up to Formula 1 and raced with Hesketh, showing the F1 world what he could do in a less than perfect car. He raced from 1973 to 1975 with the Hesketh outfit. James would win his first F1 race at the 1975 Dutch GP.
By the end of the 1975 season Lord Hesketh had run out of money and was not able to gain sponsorship. Hunt managed to get a race seat with Mclaren for 1976.
The season was full of excitement, disqualifications, reinstatements and near death accidents. Hunt would fight with Lauda for the championship with Hunt coming out on top at the last race in Japan winning the title by a mere 3 points.
One thing is for sure James Hunt sang to his own tune, attending a Gala Function, where he was awarded the Tarmac trophy, his speech was noted as being suitably gracious and glamourous. He attended the event dressed in Jeans, T-shirt and decrepit wind breaker.
After retiring from racing James went into commentary with Murray Walker. His dry sense of humour and insights garnered a new fan base.
He would often be openly critical of drivers during live broadcasts calling Rene Arnoux’s comments about non turbo cars “bullshit”.
James Hunt was also very aware of current political issues. He did not want any of his commentary to be broadcast in South Africa during the apartheid. When he realised that he could not stop this he gave is fees to groups working to overthrow apartheid.
James was only here for 45 years. Raced in F1 from 1973 to 1979. But he became part of the fabric of Formula 1. His battle with Niki Lauda immortalised on the big screen in the guise of the film rush. His undeniable charisma, dry wit and added talent behind the wheel, is the stuff of legend.
He was taken from us far too soon. But James Hunt is as ingrained in Formula 1 as Ayrton Senna was.
He was the cool, charismatic and still is Mr Formula 1.