Daily: 4th August 2011

4 August, 2011 at 00:00 (GMT+01:00)

By Colin McBain

Another day, another fortnightly post.  We're now in the first week of the summer break as far as the F1 season is concerned but the Sidepodcast community continues unabated. We all watched the Hungarian Grand Prix last Sunday, a track that doesn't normally produce exciting racing and is probably my least favourite track of them all, but was spiced up by the weather and produced some great overtakes and yet another wet-race win by Jenson Button.  It seems that once again this year he can produce the goods in the rain where Vettel can't.

You may remember my last post two weeks ago about the World Matchplay Championship darts in Blackpool, which was played to its conclusion the Sunday before last.  In the end, Phil Taylor showed he's back to his best after defeating James Wade 18 legs to 8.  We didn't wait long for the next televised PDC event, the European Championships in Dusseldorf, Germany held just four days later.  Once again, Taylor was the victor in the final but in a much tighter match, eventually beating Adrian Lewis 11-8.  The other major highlight of the tournament was a nine-darter made by the eventual runner-up in his semi-final match against Raymond Van Barneveld.  So it seems that Phil Taylor is not on the way down as some people had speculated.  He'll turn 51 next Saturday, yet there's no sign of his dominance in the sport weaning.

And now to the future.  By the time this daily is published, the first night of the 2011 Edinburgh Festival will have been and gone.  In the last couple of years I've started seeing some stand-up comedians strut their stuff on the stage and Wednesday night was no exception.  I've lived in Edinburgh my whole life so it's about time I started taking advantage of the wealth of arts available to be enjoyed.  The first two days are mostly previews before the Festival proper kicks off on Friday but that hasn't deterred me - it's where the cheapest tickets are available.  So if you're interested in attending an arts and crafts event, a stand-up comedian, a theatre play, a contemporary dance routine, a classical/modern music gig or if you just want to browse the many free acts performing around the city centre, you have until the 29th of August to come to Edinburgh and get yourself cultured.

And now to continue the theme of memorable moments I've been establishing over the last couple of months, this week is, again, a little different.  There's no Grand Prix for the next three weekends so this time I've decided to focus on the professional career of Britain's original motor racing playboy - James Hunt.

  • Englishman James Hunt made his British Grand Prix debut in 1973 at Silverstone, where he qualified on the 5th row of the grid in a Hesketh-owned March Ford.  Commentator Raymond Baxter described his qualifying lap later on in the clip as, 'a very creditable effort indeed by this young driver, who's really making a mark for himself.'  He went on to finish 4th in the race.
  • No-one could accuse James of being a dispassionate man, as this clip from the Monaco GP from 1975 shows.  Clearly frustrated at being punted into the barrier by a Tyrrell, he resorted to take his anger out first on a marshall and then the car that booted him out of the race.
  • No doubt his proudest moment was in 1976, the year he won the World Championship.  The Japanese Grand Prix was a wet and misty race - so much so there was a chance the event would be cancelled - but it went ahead and Hunt, despite a puncture and a delayed pit stop, went on to finish 3rd, which was enough to seal the title.  God knows whose idea it was to hire the commentator, 'Is Hunt still in the Championship hunt?'.  I mean. come on!
  • As reigning World Champion, James was high in demand for advertising campaigns and the like, such as this ad from 1977 co-starring comedy double-act Morecambe & Wise.
  • Success doesn't last forever, unfortunately.  James continued in F1 for three more years, leaving McLaren and joining the Wolf team in 1979, but he was never competitive.  His last Grand Prix was at Monaco where he crashed out.  He announced his official retirement from racing shortly afterwards.
  • After he retired from competitive racing he got a job as co-commentator for the BBC with Murray Walker in 1980, a partnership that would last for thirteen years.  The opening race in Argentina gave us a taster of the collaboration and attitudes that was to follow between them.
  • James, amongst other things, was not one to be sympathetic with drivers whom he thought didn't try hard enough on-track.  Such as the '89 Monaco GP where he made a very pointed comment about Rene Arnoux.  Murray Walker in the meantime tries to carry on with gravitas.  Be warned, there's a bit of strong language in this clip.
  • Not only that, but he was also highly critical of back-markers, especially those who he felt were impeding drivers who were trying to lap them.  A prime example is when he calls Andrea De Cesaris an 'idiot' for blocking and almost taking out Nigel Mansell at Imola in 1990.  Although, looking at the footage, he kind of deserved the jibe.

James had been a hard drinker and drug-taker throughout his life, such was the playboy lifestyle that he enjoyed throughout his heyday.  Perhaps this was the main precipitant for his sudden death in 1993 at the age of just 45.  But with such a young loss of life, the impact he's made to the world of professional motor racing is apparent, even drawing parallels with the F1 career of Kimi Raikkonen, of all people.  Is this meant to be a good thing?  Depends on who you speak to, I suppose.  See you in two weeks.


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