Emerson Fittipaldi
James Hunt and McLaren team in 1976.

Our hotel was the stop-over for British Airways and AirFrance so a new group of girls came in every day. James would pop over to them at breakfast and say: ‘Hello I’m James Hunt,’ and they’d say: ‘Yeah we know who you are!’

1976 Weather in Japan gives
Hunt advantage

In some appalling weather conditions in Japan, Niki Lauda drops from the race giving Hunt an opening. He wins the championship for McLaren.

After the victory in Watkins Glen, I helped my boss Teddy Mayer to the helicopter He liked to fly off in a helicopter because it made him feel good, to appear important. I helped him with his bags and he said: ‘I know what you’re like but you are not to take that car to Japan.’ I had already organised a truck to come from New York to pick it up and booked a flight on Monday night, which was the only freighter that could take it with doors big enough. So I said: ‘Yeah, yeah, alright Teddy off you go.’ I didn’t stop organising the car to be air lifted and freighted to Japan. I left for Japan with James and two mechanics. This was a very good move because, although the testing wasn’t important, we needed to be fully acclimatized.

We were there for two weeks and in that time James had settled into a pattern. He was going to the gym and playing squash and beating the best that Japan could come up with. Our hotel was the stop-over for British Airways and AirFrance so a new group of girls came in every day. James would pop over to them at breakfast and say: ‘Hello I’m James Hunt,’ and they’d say: ‘Yeah we know who you are!’ So he was very happy.

We didn’t finish first, we finished third in the incredibly trying race that’s part of history. It was an amazing weekend with the awful weather, the organisers were not going to run the race and Bernie Ecclestone was trying to get it held. I was trying to get the race held and my driver was trying to cancel it because he was on the safety committee of the Grand Prix association and the race track was deep with water. Bernie and I persevered and eventually prevailed and they ran the race at 4 o’clock in the afternoon when it was almost dark. Off they went in the gloom. James did very poorly but he finished third, which was what he had to do.

Fortunately for us Niki was too worried by the weather conditions and he and Fittipaldi, who was also a very sensible driver, pulled in the pits after the first lap and said it was too dangerous. This was good for James because he was in the front row and didn’t have to contend with the spray from the cars in front. So we won the world championship in ’76.

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