James Simon Wallis Hunt or “Hunt the Shunt”, as his fans called him (shunt being a slang for a crash), was one of the most reckless Formula One drivers, both on and off the track, in the history of the competition. His exploits during the races and after them have become legendary and many remember him fondly, despite his antics.
His friendship and rivalry with Niki Lauda, another Formula One legend, has been a source of inspiration for many young drivers. Hollywood even made a movie about it, Rush, starring Chris Hemsworth.
Hunt was always seen as an epitome of Formula One drivers and was largely responsible for the way the public sees them even today. Rush, reckless, and fast, he lived his life without any regard what tomorrow can bring unless it was a prospect of a faster car or a more beautiful woman. Here are some amazing facts about his life.
Kimi Räikkönen, 2007 World Champion, is one of the biggest Hunt’s fans. He entered his first rally race under the name James Hunt and was even wearing a replica of Hunt’s iconic helmets in several races. He also uses Hunt’s name for checking in into hotels and for making reservations.
According to some sources, Hunt slept with more than 5,000 women. While those are not Wilt Chamberlain numbers, they are still impressive. The pinnacle of his off-track career was a wild orgy with 35 British Airways stewardesses.
Teams often require their drivers to dress accordingly for formal occasions. In 1976, when Hunt signed for McLaren, they tried to force him to sign a clause that would force him to wear a suit for all team functions. Hunt declined and would often appear barefoot or dressed in jeans and tee shirts.
Whenever possible, Hunt was accompanied by his beloved German Shepherd named Oscar. He regularly took him out to fancy London’s West end restaurants, much to the consternation of other patrons. Since it was James Hunt, nobody dared say a word. He even managed to make him a member of his golf club, so they can be together on the green.
Hunt’s hedonism was in large part fueled by Lord Thomas Alexander Fermor-Hesketh, the owner and founder of Hesketh Racing, Hunt’s first team and the one that made him famous. Both men had a healthy appetite for parties, plus Lord Hesketh had more money than he knew what to do with. Among other things, the team had a leisure division, whose sole job is to keep wine and women nearby. Oh, and transportation, consisting of mandatory Rolls-Royce’s, and jets and helicopters, just in case, and a yacht, for good measure.
During the 1977 Canadian Grand Prix, Hunt collided with Jochen Mass. Mass was able to continue the race, finishing third, but Hunt’s car was destroyed and he was forced quit. Furious, he took a swing at the race marshal that was coming to help him and knocked him out, for which he was fined $2,750.
Hunt’s championship with McLaren in 1976 only brought him $200,000, making him one of the cheapest world champion in the history of Formula One.
Hunt started smoking when he was just 10 and ended up smoking three packs a day. That’s 60 cigarettes daily. Add copious amounts of marijuana and cocaine and you can form a picture of his lifestyle.
When Hunt’s wife requested a divorce in order to marry Richard Burton, a Welch actor, James agreed not to make a fuss if Burton agrees to pay him $1 million, in order to cover divorce expenses. He later told Burton: “Relax, Richard. You’ve done me a wonderful turn by taking on the most alarming expense account in the country.”
Formula One teams sustain themselves through advertisement and one of the premium spots is the drivers’ suit right breast. It costs a small fortune to have a logo of your company sewn onto that place, but Hunt didn’t really care about that.
Instead, he used it to display lewd messages that often got him in trouble with both his team’s management and the Formula One officials.