Remembering James Hunt 20 years on

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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.

 

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.