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James Hunt and Monza 1978


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#1 Formula Once

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Posted 18 April 2010 - 20:22

I was happy to see that in the Riccardo Patrese interview in the latest issue Motorsport what happened at te start of the 1978 Italian Grand Prix was finally put into (his) perspective. Triggered by this interview (as well as the awful article on James Hunt published by the Guardian and discussed elsewhere here), I have a question.

At Monza, Peterson's Lotus was touched by Hunt's McLaren when the field raced towards the first chicane. We now know that Patrese's Arrows was ahead of that collision, rather than having pushed Hunt's McLaren into the Lotus as Riccardo was accused of at the time. We also know that James was terribly affected by the accident that followed (and having dragged Peterson out of the flames together with Depailler and Regazzoni) and that while he found shelter in the Wolf-motorhome (the team he was to drive for the following year) before the restart, he told Peter Warr and Harvey Postletwaite that he wanted to quit there and then. He did race on of course, but not for long, and, as a TV-commentator, would continue to condemn Patrese for the rest of his life, as if, even after all those years since Monza 1978, the Peterson-accident (and its consequences) was still haunting him and he still struggled with the cause, the blame and Patrese. I do remember Colin Chapman once, not long after Monza, said that he was conviced Hunt had caused the accident, but I don't remember his exact words (or whether it was true or not).

While the press (as far as I know) have hardly ever, if at all, referred to Hunt's drugs use at the time, I understand it was quite serious (was it?), especially in the late seventies. His wild life style has led to countless hilarious stories (I believe he even once parked his McLaren alongside the track - while testing at Paul Ricard - and was found there vast asleep in the cockpit...), and although I find most of them funny and typical of the days long gone by, I remember a driver (Hans Stuck?) once was very angry with Hunt after some on track incident and shouted at him that he should do his drugs anywhere else but on the circuit or something along those lines. That combined with James knocking out a marshal in Canada and running across the track and threatening (for quite a while) to throw his helmet at the passing Depailler at Long Beach, I often wondered why, at the time, there never was any discussion in F1 (or was there?) about his habits (I don't know if it ever got as bad as being an addiction).

Anyway, my question is this: how bad was Hunt's drugs use and did it ever become an issue in the F1 paddock and if not, why? Because it wasn't that bad after all or was it something one simply did not get into in those days? Don't get me wrong: I am not in any way suggesting (or thinking) that his drugs use had anything to do with what happened at Monza (or any other race for that matter), I just wonder why his reputation of being a wild one in his private life did not get him into some sort of trouble in his professional life, while Patrese, for example, was instantly banned after Monza by the other drivers.

Your views will be much appreciated.



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#2 Michael Ferner

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Posted 18 April 2010 - 21:26

Hm. I do recall stories about drivers racing with hangovers (e.g. Hailwood, but not Hunt), but I never paid much heed to them because I always believed them to be exaggerations - you don't do well in motor racing when you're drunk or knackered, it just doesn't make sense. As for amphetamines, there was once (1981, I believe) a rumour that motorcycle champion-to-be Marco Lucchinelli used them before races - again, no mention of Hunt, and again no proof. In professional racing, I guess it would be safe to assume that drivers always behaved sensibly, so that there'd be no concern. After all, just one bad performance could already cost your job!

#3 Kiboko

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Posted 18 April 2010 - 21:51

This is the first I've ever heard of Hunt taking drugs. It was well known he had a drink problem. I'd regard it with a degree of scepticism, unless anyone can confirm it first-hand.

#4 Michael Ferner

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Posted 18 April 2010 - 22:02

So what was his drink problem about - milk? :lol:

#5 Dan333SP

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Posted 18 April 2010 - 22:12

Maybe more like this-
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#6 Thundersport

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Posted 18 April 2010 - 22:50

There were/are allegations about James crashing on the 1st lap of the British GP at Brands in 1978 at Graham Hill Bend involving illegal type cigarettes....

Edited by Thundersport, 18 April 2010 - 22:50.


#7 Michael Ferner

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 00:43

Yes, indeed! He was driving a Marlboro McLaren in the John Player British Grand Prix...

#8 Radoye

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 01:19

This is the first I've ever heard of Hunt taking drugs.

It depends how does one define taking drugs.

Hunt was known to enjoy "funny cigarettes", now that certainly isn't anywhere as serious as injecting heroine, snorting coke or abusing prescription painkillers, but from a legal standpoint it does qualify as taking drugs. However, AFAIK, he never ever drove a race car while high.

#9 dbltop

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 06:32

I don't know how much of your post is embellished, but having witnessed the Mosport incident first hand, the marshall was not knocked out. It is true that Hunt punched the flagman ( while he was trying to restrain him from admonishing his teammate, Mass ) but the marshall was still able to pull Hunt away from the edge of the track. I was disappointed he didn't punch back at the time as I thought the whole incident was completely Hunt's fault anyway.

#10 Red Socks

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 06:38

It depends how does one define taking drugs.

Hunt was known to enjoy "funny cigarettes", now that certainly isn't anywhere as serious as injecting heroine, snorting coke or abusing prescription painkillers, but from a legal standpoint it does qualify as taking drugs. However, AFAIK, he never ever drove a race car while high.


He certainly injected some heroines of mine.


#11 MonzaDriver

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 09:24

I was happy to see that in the Riccardo Patrese interview in the latest issue Motorsport what happened at te start of the 1978 Italian Grand Prix was finally put into (his) perspective. Triggered by this interview (as well as the awful article on James Hunt published by the Guardian and discussed elsewhere here), I have a question.

At Monza, Peterson's Lotus was touched by Hunt's McLaren when the field raced towards the first chicane. We now know that Patrese's Arrows was ahead of that collision, rather than having pushed Hunt's McLaren into the Lotus as Riccardo was accused of at the time.


Dear Formula Once,
I am sorry but I completly disagree with your opinions or the opinions pushed forward by those articles on Hunt's use of drugs. Unfortunately I didn't read both the articles you mention, and I really would like it to. But if you look at the footage here below from moment 0:13 onward you will see it was 100% Patrese's fault.




The start, like always in Monza, was made in an awful manner, Patrese was gaining some positions, using the outer part of the track, then the track became narrowed and he just pull over to the left,
because he did not want to loose positions, and he made it in a rascal manner, he really doesn't care about the risks he was toking, and the cars on his left. He just pull over. Then the bad luck made it's course.
I dont like to blame Patrese, because in my opinion he was one of the best driver Italy has ever head, and I am sure he never made this monouvra another time in his career, but on this occasion he made the classical mistake of the young racing driver that would like to show he is the best.

Ciao, MonzaDriver.



#12 f1steveuk

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 11:13

Liked a drink, liked the odd "wacky baccy" smoke, I'll think you'll find he wasn't the only one.

As for Monza '78, isn't that being fairly well covered elsewhere??

#13 Maldwyn

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 11:29

As for Monza '78, isn't that being fairly well covered elsewhere??

http://forums.autosp...?showtopic=9128

#14 Mansell4PM

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 12:06

Surely if there was any evidence of Hunt's supposed drug taking, this would have been part of the character assassination in The Grauniad's recent article (discussed in another thread here)? No stone seems to have been left unturned by the 'journalist' involved. If such claims have been left out of that particular article ..........

#15 Tim Murray

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 12:20

Well, the Donaldson biography talks about Hunt being a 'very heavy pot smoker', and also mentions occasional cocaine use. The rumour that Hunt smoked a joint just before the start of the 1978 British GP is referred to, but Donaldson could find no evidence that this actually occurred.

#16 Formula Once

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 13:35

Surely if there was any evidence of Hunt's supposed drug taking, this would have been part of the character assassination in The Grauniad's recent article (discussed in another thread here)? No stone seems to have been left unturned by the 'journalist' involved. If such claims have been left out of that particular article ..........


Well, not much research went into that piece anyway.

#17 Formula Once

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 13:59

BTW: Christopher Hilton does touch the subject briefly in his book James Hunt, Portrait of a Champion.

By now [1976) James had dabbled with and then regularly sampled drugs. When this began is unclear and whether it subsequently affected his racing is unclear. No portrait of a man can be complete without his weaknesses as well as his strenghts, his transgressions as well as a host of other qualities which compel admiration and perhaps envy. The grass he took may have been a foible; the consequent cocaine was not. The man who could explain why he did this and what it gave him is silent now. It may be that it soothed the adrenalin when it began to pump, something comprehensible in a driver driven by nervous energy and who saw human mortality very clearly. It may have been trendy or just somehting else to do.

#18 MonzaDriver

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 14:43

Liked a drink, liked the odd "wacky baccy" smoke, I'll think you'll find he wasn't the only one.

As for Monza '78, isn't that being fairly well covered elsewhere??


Instead of to be so unkind, reflect on what Formula Once wrote, and he would like to ear our views,
my view is that instead of think about Hunt smoking pots, look at the footage, and you will see,
a disgraceful move of Patrese causing the accident not Hunt's conditions.

I always found your replies somewhat strange dear f1steveuk,
you always reply like the journalists, that know everything, but they cannot tell us, poor enthusiasts,
what they know. Because they are " inside" F1 world. And we are not.
Well this way of thinking lead motor racing to yesterday GP where drivers make the most " brave" move inside the pit lane, and today journalists that cannot even get close to ask a question about the race, to an actual F1 driver.

Ciao, MonzaDriver.


#19 f1steveuk

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 15:23

Instead of to be so unkind, reflect on what Formula Once wrote, and he would like to ear our views,
my view is that instead of think about Hunt smoking pots, look at the footage, and you will see,
a disgraceful move of Patrese causing the accident not Hunt's conditions.

I always found your replies somewhat strange dear f1steveuk,
you always reply like the journalists, that know everything, but they cannot tell us, poor enthusiasts,
what they know. Because they are " inside" F1 world. And we are not.
Well this way of thinking lead motor racing to yesterday GP where drivers make the most " brave" move inside the pit lane, and today journalists that cannot even get close to ask a question about the race, to an actual F1 driver.

Ciao, MonzaDriver.


Not unkind, short and to the point. Hunt was not the only one to dabble with canabis, or like a drink, it is well documented.

My second line was simply an indication that there is already a thread discussing Monza and 1978.

Short. because i was typing my reply on an Iphone, and didn't have time to put any more, not that it was required.

Maybe I sound like a journalist as it's part of my training/education, and and as a researcher (and yes, one that worked "inside" for Mr Ecclestone) I will only write what I know to be true, and not repeat rumour or suggestion, and I feel there is little to be gained from repeating what is also common knowledge.

As for my opinion, it is mine, and if we all agreed, the world would be a dull place, for my part, I do not hold Patrese 100% responsible for Monza 1978, but that is my opinion, and should that opinion be based on any research I have done, for someone else, I believe I owe it to those who have paid me to research it not to expand on it, without their permission, out of manners and common courtesy. I can allude to research I have done, but without permission to, or copies to refer to, it would be foolish on my part to state anything other than what is, as I have said, accurate and common knowledge, and hope that someone else picks the ball up for me.

I apologise if my "weight saving" answers appear as anything else, just being economical with my time!

Edited by f1steveuk, 19 April 2010 - 15:24.


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#20 milestone 11

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 15:35

It depends how does one define taking drugs.

Hunt was known to enjoy "funny cigarettes", now that certainly isn't anywhere as serious as injecting heroine, snorting coke or abusing prescription painkillers, but from a legal standpoint it does qualify as taking drugs. However, AFAIK, he never ever drove a race car while high.


Master James certainly wasn't the only one. This, from a Top Gear article. :smoking:


There was one other thing that helped Moss take that race: Amphetamines.

At the time, amphetamines were entirely legal, and Moss certainly wasn’t the only driver in the 1955 Mille Miglia using a concentration-aid to keep his mind active, so it would be false to say that this compromised the sanctity of the race. In fact, Moss has always been a diehard proponent of good sportsmanship, even when it costs him the race, as it did in 1958, when his rival Mike Hawthorn was threatened with a penalty when he was accused of reversing in the track after a spinout at the Formula 1 World Championship. Hawthorn finished the race exactly one point ahead of Moss, costing Moss his shot at a championship (this was Hawthorn’s only win to Moss’s four that year).

Moss and Jenkinson sped over the finish line with a record time of ten hours and seven minutes, nearly a full half hour ahead of teammate and rival Juan Manuel Fangio, shattering the pattern of Italian winners that had persisted in the eight previous years. Fangio, one of Moss’s greatest rivals, was actually a much more sombre character, preferring to drive alone after the loss of his co-pilot in South America.


If you want to do yourself a real favour, get a copy of Jenks: A Passion for Motor Sports. The book collects many of Jenkinson’s best articles on sports racing including With Moss in the Mille Miglia...


#21 MonzaDriver

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 15:52

Not unkind, short and to the point. Hunt was not the only one to dabble with canabis, or like a drink, it is well documented.

My second line was simply an indication that there is already a thread discussing Monza and 1978.


Well I doubt very much you were indicating there is already a thread because you wrote:

As for Monza '78, isn't that being fairly well covered elsewhere??

With to two question mark at the end, this is not an indication this is purely bad irony.

As for your time, and the fact that you cannot share the result of your research paid by someone else, sorry !!!

But you are not hoping someone pick up the ball for you, because in the case of Peterson's crash, it's the opposite, you did not want the discussion to continue with those questions mark.

It's really a fortune you dont have so much time to share with us.
MonzaDriver.


#22 Formula Once

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 16:13

Just to put things into perspective a little; please note that I do not link Monza 1978 to Hunt doing drugs and I do not think he went racing while being high. I only wondered why not much was made of a driver who was known to be using drugs (which ever drugs) and got involved in such an accident. You can imagine what would happen today, don't you? Also, I am not looking for the answer to the question who was to blame for the Monza-accident, although I do feel that Patrese was too quickly and too severly punished for his role in it. After all, a judge ruled he was not to blame after being shown footage from the circuit cameras (not the live footage only). Finally, I appreciate f1steveuk's input as much as that of MonzaDriver and don't find it unkind at all. Being an "insider" myself I know how the truth can differ crucially from what the press (and thus the public) believe it to be. In fact, I only realised how wild Hunt's life was at that time when I talked to the people who were in F1 at that time and it seems to me that for some reason it was never turned into an issue by anyone. Which is why In started this topic in the first place...

#23 PeterElleray

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 16:27

I only realised how wild Hunt's life was at that time when I talked to the people who were in F1 at that time and it seems to me that for some reason it was never turned into an issue by anyone. Which is why In started this topic in the first place...


to get back on topic then...

as much a sign of changing times and changing attitudes and different (double) standards as anything else?

formula 1 has always looked after its own..

peter

#24 f1steveuk

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 17:10

Well I doubt very much you were indicating there is already a thread because you wrote:

As for Monza '78, isn't that being fairly well covered elsewhere??

With to two question mark at the end, this is not an indication this is purely bad irony.

As for your time, and the fact that you cannot share the result of your research paid by someone else, sorry !!!

But you are not hoping someone pick up the ball for you, because in the case of Peterson's crash, it's the opposite, you did not want the discussion to continue with those questions mark.

It's really a fortune you dont have so much time to share with us.
MonzaDriver.


Not wishing to keep this going, and further off topic,

Maldwyn did pick the ball up for me and posted the link to the thread I refered to, (but couldn't from an Iphone), and I felt that thread my give Formula Once some further reading, without hi-jacking this thread. Sadly two question marks mean nothing to me, but obviously do to you.

Maybe you are correct, but not because I didn't want the discussion to go down the "crash/Peterson/blame" route, as that wasn't the question asked.

I think you can tell I am now on a laptop and have more time and ability to type longer answers, which may, hopefully appear less rude.

I am trying very hard not to be offended by what your suggesting, and hoping it's simply a breakdown in communication, but your last two remarks I feel I have to address.

The contract I signed to work at Formula One Management was very very specific (think who owns the company, and guess how specific it was?), I was not allowed to write about F1, and cannot refer to, directly qoute, use or disperse any information gained whilst working under the instruction of my then employer, for a set period, which has not as yet expired, unless that information is in the public domain. A] it is a legal requirement of the contract I had, b] it is simply good manners, as I would never have had access to the required data had I not been working where I was, and c] much of the accident and race research was not for the public, but for the FIA, FOM and in some cases has a legal implication to ongoing and past investigation, it is therefore simply not my place to be releasing confidential information, wht I have been trying to do is hint at it, as I said, in the hope others may fill in the gaps.

That is my polite answer, I had a much shorter one in mind at first (one word actually) but as I say, I'm hoping it's a simple misunderstanding on your part.

Back on topic, there's no evidence that Hunt was ever caught with even Canabis, let alone anything stronger, nor is there any evidence he was ever under police investigation for the same (some like Mick Jagger and Paul MacCartney were kept tabs on after being caught with various "things"!!), and knowing the way the British press love to dig around to expose "celebrities", I'm sure I can only recall one story where James was a bit drunk on a flight once. He was, as has been said, a man that ran on nervous energy, and regualrly threw up before, and even during races, and claimed never to have really liked the sport until after he finished driving, I wonder if he used whatever he used, simply yo calm himself?

I going for a glass of wine!

#25 Twin Window

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Posted 19 April 2010 - 18:19

Guys, I'm not too comfortable with this thread.

I'm not pointing the finger at anyone because that's not the issue; my feeling is more along the lines of 'this is something to chat about down the pub' rather than discuss in the public domain.

James was, in my opinion, a terrific bloke and I consider myself very fortunate to have got to know him quite well in what turned-out to be his last few years. Flawed? Hell yes; but for me that merely added to the attraction of his personality. So yes, I might be being a little over-protective but I have tried to account for that in my judgement.

I know some 'stuff' about him (plus others of that era) and I'm certain that other TNF 'industry-insiders' do too - but you'll notice that they're not forthcoming either.

So, I feel the right thing to do is to close this thread. As I said, no party is to blame - and hopefully those participating will understand.

:up: