Today marks the 20th anniversary of the death of James Hunt, who won the Formula One world championship back in 1976 and left a great legacy in the sport for his skill on-track and his antics off-track, causing many to dub him a ‘playboy’.
Hunt first competed in Formula One in 1973 for Hesketh Racing, debuting at the Monaco Grand Prix. During his opening season, he scored two podiums and finished 8th in the championship despite missing half of the races, and his evident talent saw him take a further three podiums in 1974.
However, it wasn’t until 1975 that Hunt became a championship contender, winning his first race at the Dutch Grand Prix held at Zandvoort. A string of good results saw him finish P4 in the drivers’ championship, securing him a move to frontrunners McLaren.
With the British team, Hunt thrived, immediately finding his form in the M23 car and he soon became embroiled in a tight championship tussle with Niki Lauda, who was recovering from a horrific accident in Germany which almost claimed his life. At the final race in Japan, Lauda pulled out due to the weather conditions whilst Hunt came home 3rd to win the world championship by one point.
Despite taking three more wins in his career, Hunt could never win a second title, and he eventually retired in 1979 before taking up a commentary role with the BBC. He remained a focal part of British F1 coverage until his death from a heart attack in 1993, and he will always be remembered for being a symbol of F1’s glamor in the 1970s.
Ron Howard’s (pictured) upcoming film, Rush, will profile the 1976 season and the battle between Hunt and Lauda.
Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.
The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.
“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.
Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”
Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.
“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.
Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.