Tales from the Vault: James Hunt – Playboy Champion

Tales from the vault

James Hunt was born in 1947 to a London stockbroker and was a keen sports man. As a child hunt was a self-confident, competitive and determined youth he taught himself to play tennis and squash to a high standard.

He first saw a motor race aged 18 and soon took up the sport with a mini to start his career working his way up the ladder. But could of took the champion at an early age as during a Formula Three career he got reputation for being involved in crashes earnt the nickname ‘Hunt the shunt’.

Hunt moved up to Formula One with the Formula Three team in 1973 with the team and the driver being called joyriders and only interested in the glamour. However he showed potential gaining two podiums in its debut year displayed some potential and another three podiums for him in the team’s second season.

Hunt then joined McLaren which began the fight between him and Ferrari driver Nikki Lauda. It was a season were both drivers had their problems, Hunt was disqualified from the British Grand Prix having initially won the race, he found himself 35 points behind Niki Lauda’s Ferrari. At the next race at the Nurburgring, Lauda suffered a life-threatening crash and Hunt went on to win.

The championship wasn’t sealed after Lauda returned to the track after six weeks to win the Japanese and United States Grand Prix’s. After Lauda withdrew from the final race the brit only needed to finish he only need third to seal the championship. He continued racing for McLaren winning three races in 1977 followed by winless 1978 lead to his retirement in Monaco.

Hunt remained in F1 joining the BBC as co-commentator to Murray Walker. Hunt didn’t take the role seriously to start with drinking two bottles of wine during his first broadcast. However he soon sorted himself out earning a reputation as a highly respected and insightful journalist. Hunt maintained his outspoken and honest approach within his commentaries.

After 13 years working with Walker and after two failed marriages, he proposed to his girlfriend Helen on June 15, 1993. Hours later he suffered a massive heart attack and died in his Wimbledon home aged 45.



Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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