Freddie Hunt Sounds Spot On Like His Late Dad, James

Last week I got to talk to James Hunt's son, Freddie, and his plans in the Le Mans 24 Hours. I was slightly starstruck to say the least. Sort of.

I am a keen listener of Radio Le Mans, so I had already known about Freddie's venture into sportscar racing and I sort of knew what he was doing.

It was a spur of a moment, quite honestly, he had something to write on Twitter, so I popped him the interview question:

...to which he replied:

That raised an eyebrow for sure. I give him my e-mail address and comes back:

Hi Gabor,

How would you like to do the interview? Email or Skype?

Cheers

To which I replied Skype would be actually awesome and I could already feel my pulse accelerating. I asked him if he was available later in the afternoon.

Im supposed to have an interview now on the telephone so after that would be good. I will add you now and call you after the interview.

Holy Cow! Now I was in trouble. He caught me totally unprepared, so I started opening tabs frantically, to catch up with everything I missed out on.

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Soon after he did call me, and quite frankly, I was searching for words: It was James Hunt's voice coming out of my headphone, addressing me.

Not an easy task to conduct an interview when

  • the language you're using is not your native tongue
  • you are unprepared
  • you meet something that awesome

Freddie was cool and collected, toatally professional, gave round and well-put answers to my dodgy inquiries, but listening back I was asking rather interesting questions.

So, here is what we talked about.

(note: don't forget to catch Freddie at the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend, he's down there and I'm sure there are plenty people putting microphones under his nose)

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(note 2: what you can learn from such encounters is that many times you just have to ask)

The Hunt for Le Mans

Ickx, Fittipaldi, Prost, Brundle, Senna, Andretti, Villeneuve and Mansell. A great list of names that will soon be expanded with Hunt. All because of Le Mans. Interview

A rephrase of the list above would sound like Vanina, Christian, Nico, Alex, Bruno, Marco, Jacques and Greg & Leo respectively. Great racers by their own right - champions even - and they all tackled the Le Mans 24 Hours in recent years.

You may want to have a closer look, though, because you might see Freddie popping up on the list. Freddie Hunt, that is. And this is what he had to say to me.

'Rush' has raised a lot of interest in the Hunt name, so that's been good.

Whether it has been a bless or a curse, the young man was very much positive about it.

Very helpful indeed, of course, because it's increasing the profile. Therefore it makes me more bankable for various investors.

Obviously, one does not become a racer only by having the appropriate last name by birth right - the bug has to come from somewhere.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 2006. I went out as a spectator with a friend and his girlfriend, Jodie Kidd, who was driving a Maserati and I was asked if I wanted to jump in for a drive. Obviously, it was illegal because I had no racing licence, but also I didn't reveal my identity, so it was a bit naughty. I put her suit and her helmet on - pretending to be her - and that was it. I sold my horses and went racing.

From there it was straight into single-seaters or was it?

[Trying single-seater racing] was the goal. I mean, initially I thought Formula One would be where I wanted to go. Now, obviously, I changed my mind.

By changing his mind he means he is now teamed up with legendary, revived racing team, Tiga, driving their CN12b car in the Dutch Supercar Challenge this year and their LMP2 car later in 2015 - making a comeback from a hiatus after racing in the ADAC Formula Masters series. But where did the heading off happen?

I had three years of no driving and I thought I didn't want to go to Formula One - that's not really what I'm interested in - so what was the next best thing in terms of car performance? That's got to be prototypes. I dream of eventually driving an LMP1 prototype racing car.

Surely, the step from open-wheel single-seaters to sportscars isn't too easy even for drivers with enormous experience, Freddie gave a brief description of the difference he met.

I haven't got too much description of [the LMP2 car] because I haven't driven it yet. I've driven the Tiga 12b for one lap and we had a few mechanical problems so we couldn't get out. By the time we did get out, though, there was only time for one lap, so I can't recount too much. But as far as I'm aware, the performance, the characteristics of the cars are pretty similar. I think - I might be wrong - to me it seems very much like a single-seater, but with more 'shed' on it and - obviously - a little bit less aerodynamics, but the car has still got a lot of downforce and is very quick - it has a big flat bottom, which the sinlge-seaters don't have, so that can create quite a lot of downforce.

Family ties still get him closer to open-wheelers than sportscars - apart from his father's one-off sportscar excursion in a Gulf Mirage Ford in the Kyalami Nine Hours in 1973.

Still, one might think whether Freddie - given the chance - would return to a higher class of single-seater racing.

Possibly yes. It depends on the situation, what the car is capable of - many different variables. I mean, I love driving, open to drive anything. It just depends on the circumstances.

One of the best ways to measure one driver's ability against the other is by putting them in equal cars. Freddie took a few spins in a Chevrolet Cruze-based touring car series in Germany. Which possibly meant door-to-door, bumper-to-bumper racing.

Yeah, yeah, there was. It's much more a contact sport - eventhough it's not supposed to be - but it ends up that way. I've enjoyed it. I mean the cars weren't certainly comparable to the ones I had driven before - these weren't very quick and didn't have much grip, but it was still good fun.

Now with Tiga and LMP2, though, Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship has to be the weapon of choice.

That's the target, that's the main goal. For now - and the next couple of years - I'm about to gain experience for it, but Le Mans is the ultimate target. And a full WEC entry, possibly. It just depends on my driving ability and whether I will get the funding.

Follow Freddie Hunt on Twitter and Facebook.

Image credits:

Freddie portrait: Freddie Hunt Official Facebook page

Jodie Kidd image: drive.com.au

Chevrolet Cruze image: emotionalengineering.net

Freddie & Tiga car: crash.net