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Little Classics News: 2 February 2014

Hunt’s F1 Car up for Auction

James Hunt Hesketh 308A car made famous by both racing and film, James Hunt’s Hesketh 308, is to go under the hammer in Monaco this May, courtesy of RM Auctions.

Hesketh Racing was formed in 1972 by the British Peer, Lord Alexander Hesketh. After two seasons of racing in lower formula, Hesketh commissioned well-known racing car engineer Harvey Postlethwaite to design and construct an all-new, bespoke car in which Hesketh’s lead driver, James Hunt, could contest the 1974 Formula One World Championship. And so was born the Hesketh 308.

With its aluminium monocoque body, the new 308 looked the part, with power coming courtesy of Ford’s powerful and reliable Cosworth DFV. The car had all the credentials to be successful. However, with the might of such highly funded, established teams as Ferrari, Lotus, and McLaren to compete against, few people gave the fledgling and unsponsored Hesketh team any real chance of proving to be competitive. This view was to quickly change when Hunt took to the track at the start of the season.

Hesketh 308 F1 in pitsOnly four Hesketh 308 chassis were built, of which the car being offered for sale, chassis no. 308-1, is both the first and, arguably, the most significant. Chassis 308-01 made its debut appearance at the 1974 Brands Hatch Race of Champions, where Hunt staggered the paddock by placing the car on pole position; but the race itself ended up proving less successful, as Hunt spun off and retired on lap four. Two weeks later, 308-01 started its first grand prix in South Africa, where Hunt ran in 5th position for much of the race, until he retired with a mechanical failure.

Hunt again took the chassis to pole position at the International Trophy race at Silverstone, where, after a slow start, Hunt clawed his way up the field until he finally passed the great Ronnie Peterson's Lotus down the inside and into the Woodcote corner; this is now regarded as a landmark, classic moment in racing history, and one that resulted in Hesketh’s first ever Formula One victory.

Hesketh 308 F1Sadly, the 1975 season proved to be less promising than expected for Hesketh Racing and at the end of that year, the financially stretched Lord Hesketh pulled the plug on his Formula One ambitions. Famously, Hunt left the team to join McLaren, where he went on to win one of the hardest fought World Championships of all time – a story recently told around the world in the blockbuster movie Rush.

The car is estimated to fetch €400,000–€650,000 (£328,000 - £533,000) at RM’s 2014 Monaco sale.


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