JAMES “HUNT THE SHUNT” | THE 1970′s HIGH-FLYIN’ LOTHARIO RUSH OF FORMULA 1

May 11, 1975– James Hunt, driver for Hesketh-Ford (and Suzy Miller, who was his wife for a short time), at the Monaco Grand Prix. –Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis.  Love the patch– “Sex is a high performance thing.”  While many athletes abstain from sex before competing, Hunt was physically insatiable– often having, eh-hem, relations just minutes before hopping behind the wheel to race.

The tales of James Hunt are the stuff of legends– on and off the track.  “Hunt the Shunt” was widely known for his wild indulgence in sex, drugs, booze, women– which redlined in Tokyo the two weeks leading up to his famous battle with Niki Lauda for the 1976 Formula One championship.  Hunt’s favorite hedonistic haunt in those days was the Tokyo Hilton, where he and buddy Barry Sheene (world motorcycle champion that year), settled in to party.  Like clockwork, every morning British Airways stewardesses were delivered to the hotel’s door for a 24-hour stopover.  Hunt would charm them as they checked in, and invited them up to his suite for a party — they always said yes.  Allegedly, James Hunt went on quite a run during this two week binge (33 BA stewardesses).  But, as Stirling Moss, who used to carouse with Hunt in Monte Carlo before he was married, said: “If you looked like James Hunt, what would you have done?”  via

1975, Nurburg, Germany– Hesketh-Ford Formula One racecar driver James Hunt flies during the European Grand Prix. –Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis.  Many of Hunt’s early races ended in disaster. Once his Formula Ford crashed and sank in the middle of a lake. He would have drowned– had he been able to afford seat belts.  His skills improved, but he never conquered his fears. In the garage before a race, it often caused him to vomit– and on the grid he’d shake so violently that his car vibrated. This potent cocktail of adrenaline and testosterone made him a fierce competitor on the track. via

1973– The handsome and eccentric James Hunt, driver for March-Ford, at the Austrian Grand Prix in Zeltweg. –Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis.  His dashing looks & personality made him racing’s Golden Boy, the fans loved him. He had a commanding presence and spoke impressively in a deep voice with a cultivated accent, saying exactly what he thought. He hated dressing up– wearing old blue jeans and often walking around in his bare feet, even on formal occasions. He drank heavily, smoked two packs a day, experimented with drugs, partied hard, and enoyed the ladies. He married one of them, Suzy Miller, a fashion model who eventually left him for the actor Richard Burton. Burton was so enthralled with her, he even offered to pay Hunt’s divorce settlement to Suzy: $1 million. Burton couldn’t believe that Hunt was so casual about letting his beautiful wife go. Hunt simply said: “Relax, Richard. You’ve done me a wonderful turn by taking on the most alarming expense account in the country.” via

Formula 1′s legendary lothario and international playboy– James Hunt, 1974 (Lt.) 1975 (Rt.) While he became a media darling for the tabloid press, his behavior was less appreciated by Formula One journalists, who found him a frustrating mixture of boisterous charm and overbearing conceit. Twice he was voted the least liked driver and despairing members of the Formula One establishment accused him of bringing the sport into disrepute. via

1974–  James Hunt & wife Suzy Miller at the British Grand Prix. –photo credit: Allsport UK/ALLSPORT Suzy simply wanted a settled family life, but by 1975 admitted to friends, “I literally felt like a spare part. I was just there for the show.”  Within a few months, Suzy realised the marriage was not going to work. Still, she was prepared to give it time in the unlikely event that she was wrong. Hunt’s mother was on her daughter-in-law’s side, saying– “Suzy is gorgeous, but I can see that for James to be married is impossible. I love him, but I’d hate to have him for a husband.” via

miller james hunt rush

1975, Argentina– Suzy Hunt (Suzy Miller), wife of racing driver James Hunt, at the Argentine Grand Prix. Mrs. Hunt would later marry actor Richard Burton. –Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS. (Rt.) 1978– James Hunt, British Grand Prix (Marlboro McLaren M26). –Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS. For a time, Hunt enjoyed home life and was in love with Suzy, or so he thought, and undeniably proud of having landed her. As his friend, the journalist Gerald Donaldson, astutely observed– “The emotional component of a relationship for James was still virgin territory.” via 

James Hunt’s buddy and infamous carousing partner– the motorcycling great Barry Sheene.

james hunt wedding
(Lt.) Oct,18th 1974– James Hunt and best man Lord Hesketh before the wedding to Suzy Miller. –Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS  (Rt.) James Hunt and his lovely bride.

1977, Monte-Carlo– World champion Formula I driver James Hunt of England receives some qualified advice from Princess Caroline of Monaco prior to setting out on trials May 21st for the Sunday running of the Monaco Grand Prix. Princess Caroline timed the drivers as they circled the downtown Monte Carlo track. –Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

1976, Nuerburgring– James Hunt, racing for McLaren-Ford, leads the pack after the start of the 1976 German Grand Prix. Hunt would hold onto the lead and claim victory. –Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis

James Hunt 1976– Drove for March, Hesketh, Mclaren and Wolf from 1973 to 1979.  Hunt was the 1976 F1 World Champion. Having achieved his championship goal his enthusiasm for racing began to wane. Hunt admitted he never really enjoyed driving and finally, after two more seasons with McLaren, then a few races with Wolf, he retired mid-way through 1979: “for reasons of self-preservation.” via 

1976 Formula 1 Champion, James Hunt for Mclaren enjoys the spoils of victory– a smoky treat, cold beer, hot girl, and garland. Hunt found it difficult to adjust to civilian life after retiring in ’79, and suffered deep depressions that even wilder carousing failed to dispel. In 1980 he began working (with Murray Walker) on BBC television’s Formula One coverage. At first, James did not take it seriously (he drank two bottles of wine during his first broadcast) but soon became a highly respected, articulate and opinionated commentator. In his private life he became a reformed man. via

james hunt

(Lt.) 1980, Long Beach, CA– Retired Formula One driver James Hunt, 1976 Champion, at the USA-West Grand Prix wearing a leg cast following a skiing accident. –Image by © Schlegelmilch/Corbis. 1970s– (Rt.) McLaren driver James Hunt. –Image by © Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/TempSport/Corbis. Hunt married for a second time, to Sarah Lomax, which also ended in divorce but produced two sons to whom James became deeply devoted. He later fell in love again, a beautiful blonde half his age named Helen. On June 15, 1993, she accepted his marriage proposal. Tragically, a few hours later James Hunt had a massive heart attack and died at the age of 45. via

James Hunt’s racing legacy lives on– Freddie Hunt the son of the late Formula 1 world champion James Hunt prepares to drive his dads Hesketh -Cosworth 308B at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on July 12, 2008 in Chichester England.  Freddie is his son from his five-year marriage to Sarah Lomax. Says Freddy, “Dadda teaches me and guides me wherever I go, when he’s not helping my brother and my mother. It’s very comforting to know he’s with me.” 

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Check out Tom Rubython’s biography, Shunt: The Story of James Hunt

18 thoughts on “JAMES “HUNT THE SHUNT” | THE 1970′s HIGH-FLYIN’ LOTHARIO RUSH OF FORMULA 1

  1. Nice…
    These were the days when F1 champions were REAL men and not the self important whining primadonna pussies they are these days…

  2. I was 21 the year James became World Champion, and he was my complete hero. Despite all the flaws, he remains as much to me now. I think anyone in England who watched him compete, win, stumble, and then pick himself up magnificently to form the greatest ever F1 commentary team – alongside Murray Walker – will have their hearts warmed to see these shots again.

    Great work, JP, thank you from Gloucestershire.

  3. he hunt/sheene/hailwood show were a fine fun machine-james was into his f1 during the real days-when v8 cosworths with massive turbo,s were king-a far cry from the tedious techno wank that today,s dull f1 has become.hail king james

  4. The story of Hunt and Hesketh racing is my favourite of all F1 related stories. So strange, I had actually been waiting for you to write something about Hunt! There are some great videos on youtube of his post race interviews (stood on a car, smoking a cigarette) and his commentary with Murray Walker for the BBC (“Rene says the reason he is going so slow is because he’s used to turbo cars, and these exasperated engine cars are a different kettle of fish to drive.” to which James replies “All I can say to that is Bullshit.”)

    Thanks for the pictures. Love your blog!

  5. JP does it again. Nice one. And great pics as ALWAYS.

    JH is/was that particular breed of UK complete ‘nutter’ (aka his own man) that’s kept me here in ol’ blighty.

    A million reasons to love him / watch him ‘compete, win, stumble, and then pick himself up magnificently’ – THE man in the arena.

    Without him I couldn’t have suffered TV-F1 (Murray W’s squeak-speak just too high-pitched and silly for my ears).

    Did he really win the championship against Lauda by half a point?
    For me, his only low point…

  6. “Can I grab that cigarette off you? Thanks.”

    In the middle of an interview — awesome. Those are words that we will never hear spoken again in this era of PC interviews and sanitized drivers.

    Valentino Rossi seems to be one of the last true individual pilots, albeit nowhere near as wild as Hunt (at least as far as we can tell). If he is, he’s a lot better at covering his tracks.

  7. Yes, but he did end up a pathetic alcoholic, none of his many women stuck around long and his ‘glamorous’ lifestyle killed him

    JYS was, and is, a better race car driver and a better man.

  8. Kimi Raikkonen uses James Hunt’s name as a nom de plume when he checks in to hotels for weekends spent skiing in gorilla suits and racing boats. I’d say he’s still a wild one.

  9. Travels gone good but unfortunately over for the time being! Spent 2 hours scanning photos today so more blog updates can happen, finally : )

  10. Pingback: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN | BRITISH RACING LEGEND BARRY SHEENE « The Selvedge Yard

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