X-mas holidays, december 1973. Mijas (Southern Spain)
A roaring sound of a Porsche 911 Carrera (one with a short straight up back spoiler) catches the attention of my brother JohnPaul and myself as we are playing tennis on Lew Hoadís tennis courts. We can hear the Porsche racing up the curved road from Fuengirola to Mijas, from maybe a mile away. We enjoy the mere sound of that car, which is obviously pushed to the limit by someone knowing his business. JP and I forget the score, and go straight up to the entrance of the club, as we understand the car has stopped in front of the clubhouse. Out comes a good-looking guy and an even better looking tall-legged lady. James and Suzie Hunt (years later to become Mrs. Richard Burton, the lucky bastardÖ) although we donít realize who they are at that particular time.
That afternoon we had the pleasure of playing our first doubles with James, he was an excellent tennis player indeed; and apparently he enjoyed it that much that we repeated this ceremony for many times that year and a couple more years, in Mijas around X-mas.
As we got to talk to James over some drinks, we understood that he was a F1 driver, the kind of person you want to know of course. We were crazy about his car and started talking about the Porsche. Resulted a couple of days later in a ride I will never forget, buckled up as tight as my brother could, myself twisted at the back of the 911, we would experience a ride so dense, I still remember, I constantly had the urge to ask James not to forget to brake before a curve. No James didnít forget to brake. The roller coaster ride of my life. I had to beg my brother not to try to imitate him as we got back in my brotherís SEAT 1800 Sport, later that day, can you imagine the contrast. Although laughing our butts off, we were of course imagining we were still in the Porsche. Day later, James smiled when we told him that we wanted to challenge him from Fuengirola to Mijas and back, on one condition, that we would swap cars. Thank God he never agreed. (Both of us got ourselves 911ís later in our lives, I wonder where that need came from).
James drove a Hesketh-Ford in those days and won his first ever Grand Prix in 1975 in Zandvoort, (yes, in a HeskethÖ). I was proud of my hero, thinking: "the Hesketh might not be the most powerful car in the field, but it sure must have some damn good brakes", remembering our ride in MijasÖ That same year he ended 4th in the championship, just behind the great F1 stars Niki Lauda in the Ferrari and Emmerson Fittipaldi in the McLaren-Ford; proving his abilities, having pushed the Hesketh to the limits and beyond. For the next season he was contracted by the McLaren team to join Jochen Mass.
James also told us that racing is not about using a heavy right foot as much as you can, but all about timing and trying to find the right balance between speed and G-force. Finding the balance between pushing your car to the limit and the need to make it home in order to score points. He did push it too hard from time to time, but how else could he ever have won races if he hadnít ?
At the beginning of his career he was named in some press "Hunt the Shunt", they stopped using that name by the time he was competing for the 1st place of the championship.
James always was very gentle to the people surrounding him, smiling and ready for a joke. Playing tennis he was smiling after making a point, almost apologizing, but sure hitting the ball as hard as he could. Must have been his nature. I remember even after a long singles match, he would go running for 5 or 6 miles just to cool off. We tried to follow him one day, but he was racing even running. Just as well he petted us and bought us a drink getting back to the club, "where were you? I was just warming up", he smiled, "yeah, sure James, next time no more running for us". Meanwhile we had kept an eye on the, must have been 6 ft., long legs of Suzie. Gosh, was she beautiful. Yeah, I know what youíre thinking now, but I was 16 for Godís sake, let me have a peek.
We lost track of James after a few years, although of course I was the proudest man on earth that day in Japan in the rain, James became World Champion of the Formula 1. It was autumn of 1976.
Who hasnít enjoyed the BBC coverage's with Murray Walker, those got even better when James Hunt came to join Murray. Sadly and much too young James left us in June 1993. I still get a strange feeling in my stomach when I think about it. But when I think of James, I see a smiling champion, a great guy and a person I will always respect. He was and always will be one of the all time greats. Thank you James.
Statistics of James Hunt
Year Team Races Wins Poles Fastest
Points 1979 Wolf-Ford 7 0 0 0 0 1978 McLaren-Ford 16 0 0 0 8 1977 McLaren-Ford 17 3 6 3 40 1976 McLaren-Ford 16 6 8 2 69 1975 Hesketh-Ford 14 1 0 1 33 1974 Hesketh March-Ford 15 0 0 0 15 1973 Hesketh March-Ford 7 0 0 2 14