James Hunt
James Hunt.

When a man from The Mirror or a man from The Sun gets hold of you then…well. They’re good at asking those impossible questions like: ‘Are you still beating your wife?’ Yes, no, or no comment – either way you’re
stuffed.

1975 Hunt gets paid little

James Hunt joins McLaren. He quickly shows what an excellent driver he is despite media pressure concerning his personal life.

James Hunt’s wife Suzie ran off with Richard Burton, a famous Welsh film star who had been married a number of times to, among many others, Elizabeth Taylor. This was huge publicity; it made all the daily newspapers – The Sun, The Mirror, The Telegraph. Every daily newspaper in the world wanted to talk to us and him. It was really scary, the pressure was quite amazing. Reporters from daily newspapers are very, very good. When a man from The Mirror or a man from The Sun gets hold of you then…well. They’re good at asking those impossible questions like: ‘Are you still beating your wife?’ Yes, No, or No Comment – either way you’re stuffed.

We paid James very little because we didn’t have to pay him anything. Salary was based on points and because we had the best car in Grand Prix racing so we could get him for next to nothing because he needed the drive. This always enraged him and became one of my techniques for getting him to move quickly in races. We’d stand with him before the race on the grid with the headphones on and I would always bring up the subject of money. I would ask: ‘Did you fly first class to Japan James?’ or ‘Are you allowed to bring your girlfriend?’ He would explode because he was always flying cattle class and his girlfriend was never allowed along; I’d walk off laughing to myself and watch as his anger made him drive faster and faster.

James became our driver in ’75 and we took him to Silverstone and – being England – it snowed. We realised he was so long in the legs that we couldn’t fit him in the car. We used to call him Quasimodo because he was like a hunchback with very long legs. We had to cut the front of the car out and move the pedals forward. He also had to cut off the ends of his shoes to make his feet as short as possible.

Anyway, the rest is history. We went to Brazil to this race in Interlagos and he put the car on Pole: he was the fastest. In the race he was leading comfortably until the car broke. We knew we had a good deal.

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