Home » JAMES HUNT AND SUNSET BOARD IN 1979 – SportHistoria


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article by Andrea La Rovere adapted from Formula 1, the stories

It happens, for some pilots, a curious tangle of destinies that almost seems to come out of a film: sometimes it even ends up becoming a screenplay, cas in the case of Hunt and Lauda and the film “Rush.

But this is not the theme of today’s story; however, after giving birth to a rivalry as legendary as it was extemporaneous, Hunt and Lauda find themselves united even when the moment arrives – suddenly – to say enough is enough.

After the lucky title of 1976, a long sunset avenue began almost immediately for Hunt. In ’77 he was still very fast, he was among the best on the lap, he won three races but he often gave the impression of almost latent boredom. In ’78 McLaren lost competitiveness: both the team and the driver struggled to adapt to the ground effect revolution. Hunt is still fast in qualifying, very often, but in the race he collects a paltry eight points.

The blond James is still young and in great demand, according to some sources it even seems that Ferrari wants him. Hunt chooses to go to Wolf, a team that has built a solid reputation with Jody Scheckter. And especially – who offers him a pharaonic salary.

Hunt is only 32 years old and many believe he is in his second sporting youth. The dreams, however, end almost immediately, when Hunt gets behind the wheel of the new Wolf. The single-seater is a modern reinterpretation of the ground-effect Lotus 79, but he struggles to stay on the street and has a not very reassuring demeanor.

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In Argentina Hunt lost his wing in qualifying and the piece ended up on his helmet. On the grid he is just 18th and in the race he retires while he is eleventh. In Brazil he is ninth when he breaks the steering. The danger signs worry Hunt who – at the next race – is unbalanced about the future, announcing that he will retire at the end of the year. In the race he is eighth.

In Long Beach James performs a miracle in qualifying: eighth. Already at the start, however, he breaks the transmission. To the Jarama Hunt hits rock bottom, still in the rear without a flicker. The 1976 world champion is unrecognizable. The final flash came in Zolder: he was fourth and could finish on the podium, when he lost control of the Wolf after about forty laps. An accident from which he emerges unscathed, but which makes him reflect again.

We race in Monte Carlo, where Hunt debuted and where he lives. In qualifying he was tenth and in the race he broke down after four laps. Without warning, like Servoz-Gavin a few years earlier in the Principality, Hunt says enough: he is not interested in continuing, even if only until the end of the season. He states that “now man no longer counts” and it makes you think that he said this in 1979, more than forty years ago. Historical courses and recurrences.

A few races later Lauda also suddenly retires, also after a terrible season. Hunt seems destined for a life of unbridled pleasure, away from racing. And instead only the following year did he begin a long career as a commentator for English TV.

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Evidently being away from the slopes had bored him even more than running.

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