Who was the real James Hunt?
I have to admit that unlike now, I wasn’t really fanatical about Formula One in the 1970s.
I read race reports and sometimes watched the sport on TV so although the name and the face were familiar to me, I didn’t really know much about the extraordinary James Hunt.
Not just for race fans
Although James became the Formula One World Champion, and of course, this book discusses his racing a great deal, it tells us so much more about the man himself. My impression at the time – and the impression of most people who didn’t know him personally – was that he was the ‘rockstar racedriver’. His image was that of an irreverent playboy who enjoyed life to the full and made the most of his fame and celebrity when it came to partying.
Of course, a lot of this was true.
But James was so much more than that. I was surprised to find out that he was fanatical, for example, about budgerigars – that didn’t quite fit in with the playboy rockstar image.
Yes, he was seen as a womanizer and he loved the ladies but throughout his life, he was genuinely looking for the one. It’s true that he wasn’t very accepting of authority – he would turn up at posh official functions wearing jeans and with no shirt or shoes. And as he enjoyed partying, he wasn’t always exactly sober when he was racing and it’s not often he was seen without a cigarette in his hand. (His sponsors were Marlboro, a brand that he hated. He got around this by putting his favourite Rothmans into a Marlboro pack).
Discover the real James Hunt
James had a problem with the car and was forced to retire from the race. He was stranded out on the track – he hadn’t been able to make it back to the pits.
He approached the watching crowd and went over to a man he saw smoking. ‘Excuse me’ he said to the man ‘You wouldn’t have a cigarette for a pissed off racing driver, would you?’
When James’ racing career was over, he began to commentate on races alongside the legend of Formula One, Murray Walker. A true professional, Murray was often horrified by James’ antics and casual ways. In fact, he antagonised many people during his career. Yet everyone, whilst agreeing that he had his own way of doing things, spoke well of him once they got to know him.
In 1993, Hunt decided that he knew what he wanted in life. His girlfriend was on vacation and he called her to propose marriage. She accepted.
The next day, at the age of forty five, he had a fatal heart attack.
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