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James Hunt Appreciation Page

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Here is an article on Lord Hesketh, James' team boss from 1973-75. More articales to come as I find them.

Whatever happened to...?
Lord Hesketh

Matthew O'Donnell and Lee Honeyball
Sunday February 3, 2002
The Observer

For a man who once led a maverick Formula One team, Lord Alexander Hesketh's office, with its piles of business documents and signed photograph of Margaret Thatcher, seems the very picture of respectability. 'You have to remember how young I was,' Hesketh, 51, explains. 'I was 22 when I started in F1. By 25 I'd already quit. '

In 1973 the Hesketh Team boarded a luxury yacht and cruised into Monaco harbour for their first F1 race. On board was driver James Hunt, team manager Anthony 'Bubbles' Horsley, and up-and-coming designer Harvey Postlethwaite. They only had one car and no spare chassis but finished ninth.

'We felt as though we'd won the race,' Hesketh recalls.The team made an immediate impression, as much for their parties as for their racing. 'We just wanted a lot of pretty girls to tour with the team,' Hesketh says. Their attitude was exemplified up by the team's 'entertainment division' - the cocktail makers, the posh restaurateur who cooked everyone bacon butties and the pilots and ships' captains who ran the luxury yacht, Rolls-Royce, helicopter and private plane.

This light-hearted approach often overshadowed achievements on the track. 'A lot of people didn't take us seriously,' says Hesketh. During practice for the German Grand Prix, the car broke down twice on the grid. 'We got booed off by a horrible crowd,' he continues. 'They thought we were just messing about. We booed back.' Hunt finished eighth in the team's first season (ahead of either of the Ferrari drivers) and eighth the next year. The following season he finished fourth in the championship, and won the team's only championship race, the Dutch Grand Prix. The post-race celebrations began in Holland and ended some time the following morning in one of the lakes on Hesketh's estate. 'I can't remember much about that one,' says Hesketh.

But the team was never able to capitalise on this success. Hesketh knew he could not keep funding the team for ever, but negotiations to find a sponsor fell through. With Hesketh unable to keep the team running, Hunt signed for McLaren and won the 1976 drivers' world championship in his first season.

'We sort of struggled on for two years,' Hesketh says. 'The trouble is after you've become used to podium finishes, it all becomes a bit depressing.' The operation was eventually sold on to the Walter Wolf team.

Hesketh's most prominent role since has been in politics. 'I was in it seven years. Although some of it was extremely frustrating, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.' From 1986 to 1993 he worked first under Thatcher ('the most outstanding person I ever worked with') at the Department of Trade and Industry and then as chief whip in the Lords under John Major. After the reform of the Lords he decided not to stand for re-election. Hesketh is, however, still in touch with Thatcher, 'I occasionally take her out for lunch.'

He spends most of his time running his 9,000-acre estate alongside his wife (they have three children) and managing his various business interests, which include being chairman of British Mediterranean Airlines.

Hesketh can't hide his affection for Hunt, who died in 1993. 'We drifted apart. It was really only when he became a journalist and stayed here for Silverstone that we drifted together again. I am really pleased that happened before he died.' And with that, he can't suppress a mischievous smile. 'We were,' he says, 'more like a band than a racing team.'