James Hunt, legend (LAT archive)
Hunt and his McLaren at Monaco in 1976. (LAT archive)
19 years ago today, the epitome of '70s cool for many Formula 1 fans around the world passed away after suffering a heart attack at the age of 45. The comparatively young age is a pointed example of a life burned out quickly, but Hunt certainly enjoyed every moment of it.
James Simon Wallis Hunt is a legend as much for the way he lived his life as how he took the battle to Niki Lauda for the World Championship in 1976. Hunt's often wild driving earned him the nickname "Hunt the Shunt," while his reputation for partying was just as spectacular. Still, after joining McLaren for '76 he quickly emerged as a legitimate ace, winning six times, and dueling all the way to the dramatic finale of the championship. We won't go into too many details about that, since that amazing season will soon be the subject of Ron Howard's feature film Rush, but suffice to say it was epic.
So was Hunt's persona, which helped F1 widely expand its fanbase. After retiring from driving, he became a media commentator and businessman, but still never took himself too seriously – a characteristic that endeared him further to the public when he teamed with Murray Walker for F1 race broadcasts on Britain's BBC.