12 January 2023
James Simon Wallis Hunt, born on 9 August 1947, was a British racing driver who won the Drivers’ Championship in 1976.
His 1976 was an epic year for F1; James beat the Ferrari brilliantly navigated by Niki Lauda by one point.
As a driver, he was ‘a charger’ and carried the nickname ‘Hunt the Shunt.’
His other nickname was ‘Superstar’ as christened by Lord Alexander Hesketh. ‘The Good Lord, ’ as James named him, was a British aristocrat who inherited a fortune, and hedonism became his life’s ambition.
Although The Good Lord knew zero about motor racing, he hired Superstar to drive for the newly formed Hesketh Racing. Despite their relative absence of real racing success, young James achieved notoriety for ‘seeming to consume as much champagne as fuel and for having more beautiful women than mechanics.’
At the 1976 Spanish Grand Prix, when lunching with King Juan Carlos, James decided to get his girlfriend, Jane Birbeck, to parade cheetahs he kept. One cheetah clawed her dress, revealing a string thong; James shouted, ‘glad you’re wearing your knickers today. The King laughed; Queen Sophia was not amused.
Eventually, he fell in love with Helen Dyson; after five blissful years, on 15 June 1993, he proposed to her on the phone. A few hours later, he died of a massive heart attack.