CONSTRUCTORS: HESKETH RACING
Name: Hesketh Racing
Lord Thomas Alexander Fermor-Hesketh, the third baron of Hesketh, was born in 1950 and succeeded to the title at the age of five. A wild youth, Hesketh ran away from school but at 21 he inherited the family fortune, built on 9000 acres of farmland around Easton Neston, the family seat.
The following year Hesketh and a friend, Anthony "Bubbles" Horsley, decided to set up a racing team. They hired James Hunt, who had been fired that year from the March F3 team and was largely written off having become known as "Hunt the Shunt". Hesketh bought a Surtees TS15 F2 car and an old TS9 car for occasional F1 races, announcing that the team would move to F1 in 1974.
Soon afterwards Hunt broke his arm while clowning around at a party. The team set out to annoy the motor racing fraternity with its gaudy uniforms and excessive spending. The cars were run in red, white and blue colors, Hesketh refusing to run with sponsorship.
Hunt made his F1 debut at the Race of Champions and impressed with a third place finish but the F2 program was not a success. In the end Horsley and Hunt convinced Hesketh that they were wasting their time in F2 and the team became a full-time F1 operation. A new March was acquired. This was a 721G, although it is often called the 731 (which in reality existed only on paper). Hesketh also hired Harvey Postlethwaite from March to be chief engineer. Hunt finished ninth at Monaco and a few weeks later scored his first point with sixth at the French GP. The meteoric rise continued with fourth place at the British GP and third in Holland and the season ended at Watkins Glen with James crossing the line just behind winner Ronnie Peterson in his Lotus. Hunt finished eighth in the World Championship.
Work had begun that autumn on the design of a Hesketh F1 car in converted stables at Easton Neston and Hesketh helped to foster team spirit by converting a farmhouse into apartments so that the team lived nearby. Hesketh even went so far as to announce plans for a Hesketh V12 engine, but this never happened.
Hunt appeared in 13 Grands Prix with the 308, scoring three third places and a fourth but retiring in most events. He finished eighth in the World Championship again. The 308 was raced again in 1975 but already Hesketh was beginning to run short of money. The team ran a second car for a series of pay-drivers, notably Alan Jones, Harald Ertl and Brett Lunger. In the mid-summer Hunt won the Dutch GP and finished second three times. The new 308C did not appear until the Italian GP but Hunt scored in both the end of season races, underlining its potential. He finished fourth in the World Championship.
Hesketh, however, set a deadline for finding sponsorship to keep the team going and when that passed he announced that he was pulling out of F1. The cars were sold to Walter Wolf Racing and became Williams FW05s. Hunt was unemployed until Emerson Fittipaldi took the unusual decision to join his brother's team and an opening appeared at McLaren. Hunt jumped at the chance and went on to win the World Championship.
Horsley kept a Hesketh team going in 1976 with Nigel Stroud coming in as engineer after Postlethwaite went to Wolf-Williams. Sponsorship was found from Penthouse and Rizla for Guy Edwards and Harald Ertl came up with money in Germany. The team failed to score any points with the 308D and it was a similar story in 1978 when Frank Dernie reworked the car into 308E form.
The team appeared at the Spanish GP with Ertl and a British Air Ferries car for Rupert Keegan. They were joined later by Hector Rebaque but once again success was limited. The team struggled on into 1978 when Olympus money was found for Divina Galica but she failed to qualify for the first two races and although Cheever qualified a car in South Africa he failed to finish the race. Derek Daly then took over but after three failures to qualify the team disappeared.
Hesketh Motors remained in business rebuilding engines and doing fabrication work for other teams.
The former rebel Lord Hesketh became in time a member of The Establishment. He was the government Chief Whip in the House of Lords in 1986, a junior minister at the Department of Trade and Industry in 1990 and a Privy Councellor in 1991.
He also became President of the British Racing Drivers Club.