Celebrating Landmark Victory for Hesketh Racing

Graham Humphrys, Dave Sims, Lord Hesketh and Nigel Rackett
Graham Humphrys, Dave Sims, Lord Hesketh and Nigel Rackett

Just over a week ago on Saturday 20th April, Silvestone hosted a special event organised by Valentine Lindsay to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hesketh Racing’s first Formula 1 victory. It was fittingly held during the Vintage Sports-Car Club’s Spring Start meeting reuniting members of the legendary team. There was also a demonstration run by the Hesketh 308, the very same car in which James Hunt achieved that historic win.

It was on 7th April 1974 that Hunt started the prestigious International Trophy from pole position, having qualified 1.7 seconds faster than Ronnie Peterson in his Lotus. Having made a poor start and dropping down into the midfield, it got even worse for Hunt when the gear lever broke off in his hand. Undeterred by his string of bad luck, Hunt made a superb comeback drive and took the lead from Peterson with a dramatic move down the inside of the daunting 150mph right-hander at Woodcote, going on to win the race.

The victory was not only the first for Hesketh Racing, but also for Hunt himself in Formula 1, and came less than two years since the team first appeared in Formula 3, and less than 12 months after it made its World Championship Formula 1 debut at the 1973 Monaco Grand Prix.

Bubbles and Lord Hesketh at Silverstone
Bubbles and Lord Hesketh at Silverstone with the Hesketh 308

Back in the 70s Hesketh Racing stood out from the crowd by being privately funded by Lord Hesketh at a time when all the other teams carried some form of commercial sponsorship. The team was based at Hesketh’s Easton Neston estate near Silverstone and his cars raced in an unsullied, patriotic livery of white, red and blue with the team’s iconic ‘teddy bear’ logo, making it a crowd favourite around the world. Although Hesketh withdrew from Formula 1 at the end of 1975, the team still remains as popular as ever today.

To mark the 50th anniversary, many Hesketh Racing alumni gathered at Silverstone to celebrate the team’s success, including Lord Hesketh himself who was also joined by Hesketh Racing team manager Bubbles Horsley, mechanic Dave Sims, draughtsman Graham Humphrys, fabricator Nigel Rackett, engineer Nigel Stroud and designer Frank Dernie.

Lord Hesketh was also able to share the occasion with his children and grandchildren, as well as with the family of the late Jon Fisher, Hesketh Racing’s stores manager.

Callum Grant in the Hesketh 308
Callum Grant in the International Trophy-winning Hesketh 308/1

Christopher Tate introduced Lord Hesketh, who recalled that in the days before big screens and radios, the first he knew about Hunt overtaking Peterson was when he saw the crowd in the grandstand opposite all waving their programmes.

During the lunch break in the VSCC’s Saturday programme, experienced historic racer Callum Grant took to the wheel of the Hesketh 308/1 for some spirited and evocative demonstration laps around Silverstone circuit. This was in fact the very car in which Hunt had won the International Trophy, and which has been beautifully restored to 1974 specification by owner James Hagan.

Valentine Lindsay said:

“It was a very special day and we’re incredibly grateful not only to James Hagan, but also to Tania Brown at the VSCC and everyone at the British Racing Drivers’ Club. Seeing everyone together, and watching Callum out on track, was a memorable moment, and now we’re all really looking forward to next year, when we can celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hesketh’s victory in the Dutch Grand Prix.”

Author Bio:

Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.

Photographs by Gary Harman

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