James Hunt on the winner’s podium (L to R): Patrick Depailler (FRA) Tyrrell, second; race winner James Hunt (GBR) McLaren; John Watson (GBR) Penske, third. French Grand Prix, 1976. — Image © Phipps / Sutton Images / Corbis
I’m stoked to see Rush this weekend– the much anticipated film by Ron Howard on one of Formula One’s most talented and notorious drivers ever, James “The Shunt” Hunt. The seemingly insatiable ladies’ man was estimated to have had 5,000 trysts in his lifetime. History tells of a wicked weekend where buddy and fellow (motorcycle) racing legend Barry Sheene tallied 33 BA stewardesses lined-up at the door of their Tokyo Hilton suite. It’ll be interesting to see if Chris Hemsworth is able to capture his wit and charm, and if he can keep his muscles from overshadowing the memory of Hunt’s lean, lanky frame hard-earned by a physical exercise regiment consisting largely of driving, and shagging. The perfect primer for Rush is the documentary When Playboy’s ruled the World which accurately and colorfully takes you back to the glory days of Hunt & Sheene when driving was dangerous, and sex was safe. More epic photos of James Hunt in action after the video…
“Your arse, if you’re going fast enough.”
–Barry’s famous retort when asked by BBC, “What goes through your mind during a crash?”
In a brilliant racing career in which he amassed back-to-back World Championships (’76 & ’77), 23 Grand Prix victories, and 52 Podium finishes in all– the late, great Barry Sheene is one of the most loved and remembered motorcycle racing legends to this day. The victories alone, as impressive as they were, would not be enough immortalize the man. It was Sheene’s fearless spirit & iron will, a body that was repeatedly broken but not beaten, and his witty charm & handsome looks, that have eternally endeared him to racing fans around the world. It’s that old cliche– every woman wanted him, and every man wanted to be him.
Barry’s career was no doubt impacted by two major crashes that are forever a part of motorcycle racing history. The 1st occurred in 1975– at the Daytona 200, a locked rear wheel at 170 mph jerked him violently and Barry lost control. It’s a wonder he survived at all– amazingly, he didn’t even lose consciousness. In fact, he later recounted the crash in detail as the unforgiving track pummeled his flailing body. He suffered a shattered left leg, smashed thigh, broke six ribs, a wrist, and his collarbone. When Barry awoke at the hospital, he didn’t miss a beat– asking the attending nurse for a fag (cigarette, for you Yanks out there). The 2nd came in 1982– the two-time World Champion crashed (again going 170 mph) at Silverstone during practice for the British Grand Prix. Barry later recalled, “Wasn’t my fault; came over a hill and there was a wreck right in front of me.” They feared he’d never walk again, let alone return to the racetrack. His legs were compared to “crushed eggs,” taking eight hours to piece back together– with the aid of two stainless steel posts, two steel plates and almost 30 steel screws. After Barry was told he might be able to bend his knees in three months time, he did it in two and a half weeks– and returned to racing the following year. Some took to calling him– Bionic Barry. How you like them apples?
October 4th, 1958, Southwark, London– Motorcyclist Frank Sheene here pictured with his young son (the future legend Barry Sheene) at Club Day —Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis. Barry’s old man, Frank Sheene, was no slouch on a bike himself– and could even turn a wrench. The young and fearless Barry was on a bike at the wee age of 5 yrs old– a Ducati 50cc motorbike. He entered his first competitive race at the age of 17 at Brands Hatch. He Crashed, (DNF). Wasting no time, Barry entered again the very next weekend and won the bloody thing. The Barry Sheene racing dye was cast.
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