Model history: Lord Alexander Hesketh was barely 22 years old when he founded Hesketh Racing in 1972. The young Lord was full of ambition and within a year climbed the ranks from Formula 3 into Formula 1. His principle driver was James Hunt, who was both hugely talented and an equally flamboyant character as his employer. As his technical man, Lord Hesketh hired a promising, young engineer named Harvey Postlethwaite. The three men's first foray into Grand Prix racing was with a March 731 improved by 'Doc' Postlethwaite. Hunt scored an impressive 14 World Championship points and finished on the podium twice in his and the team's debut season.
For 1974 Postlethwaite was commissioned to develop a brand new Formula 1 racer. Being his first ground-up design, it was not surprising that his design followed very conventional lines. The 'Hesketh 308' featured an aluminium monocoque chassis. Like many of the competitors it used a 'coke-bottle' shape. Unlike most of the 1974 Formula 1 cars, the new Hesketh still sported a nose mounted radiator. Power came from the obligatory Cosworth DFV V8 engine, which was used by all top runners except for Ferrari. Probably the most striking design feature of the 308 was the massive airbox, which was also part of Postlethwaite's modifications for the 1973 March.
There was little conventional about the Hesketh team's approach to racing. Lord Hesketh was not just very flamboyant, he was also a pure romantic, relishing the old days when the cars sported their national colours. Accordingly his car featured no sponsor names and was painted in the English colours of white with a blue and red band across the flank. With his playboy lifestyle, Hunt fitted perfectly in the picture of the young Lord. The two men were an odd couple in a world that had rapidly turned 'corporate' since the introduction of big brand sponsors in the late 1960s. And it was not just a big show, because as soon as the flag dropped Hunt and his March and later Hesketh put in stunning performances, at times challenging the well established teams.
With the first Hesketh still under construction, Hunt used the old March in the first two races of the season. The Hesketh 308 eventually debuted in March of 1974 during the Race of Champions at Brands Hatch. Hunt retired from the race and did so again a fortnight later at the car's Grand Prix debut in South Africa. Success came a week later when Hunt drove the 308 to victory in the non-championship International Trophy race at Silverstone. In the season's Grands Prix, Hunt could not challenge seasoned teams like Tyrrell, Lotus, Ferrari and McLaren for outright pace. Thanks to his steady driving and the ever improving Hesketh, he found himself on the podium three times towards the end of the season.
Postlethwaite's original design may not have been revolutionary, it did form a good basis for further development. During the off-season, the single front radiator was discarded. It was replaced by two lateral radiators mounted longitudinally inside the sidepods. Postlethwaite used the freed up space on the nose to his benefit by fitting a small wing, which would become the trademark of the 1975 Heskeths. Towards the end of the 1974 season, Postlethwaite had also started experimenting with rubber alternatives for the standard steel coil springs. He limited the trials to the front suspension where a separate spring unit with a rubber cone was fitted. The progressiveness and resistance of the spring could be quickly changed by adding or removing bits of rubber.
Hunt continued his good form by clinching second in the first race of the new season. Hesketh was clearly closer to the top teams than a year before. From the Spanish Grand Prix, Hunt was joined by a second driver, one very young Alan Jones. At the Dutch Grand Prix, Hunt and Hesketh made the most from the changing weather conditions. On a drying track, Hunt was the first to pit for slick tyres. It was enough to emerge in the lead after all top runners had swapped tyres. Hunt fought off the soon to be crowned World Champion Niki Lauda and score the team's first Grand Prix victory. He followed that maiden win with another second place finish and eventually ended the season fourth in the driver's standing. Hunt completed the final two races with the new 308C, which featured rubber springs on all four corners.
Unfortunately, Lord Hesketh was forced to pull the plug at the end of the year. Ironically, it was the lack of funds and the inability to find sponsors that dealt the fatal blow to the flamboyant team. The four original 308s were sold to privateers, while the two new 308Cs were sold to Frank Williams and raced as the Williams FW05 in 1976. Team manager Anthony Horsely ran some of the old cars for privateers and even developed new Heskeths for 1977, but the Lord played no part in this chapter of 'his' team's history. Hunt joined McLaren in 1976 and finished the season as World Champion. Hesketh's other driver, Alan Jones, followed his former teammate's example in 1980. So Lord Hesketh gave two future World Champions their break into Formula 1.
The very first Hesketh, chassis 308/1 was debuted by James Hunt in the 1974 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch. After two retirements, Hunt drove the car to a victory in the Daily Express International Trophy race at Silverstone. It then mainly served as a T-car. At the start of the 1975 season it was sold to Harry Stiller, who entered the car for a young Alan Jones. He finished no higher than seventh. Today the car is owned by an American enthusiast. He is seen here in action during the 2008 Monaco Historic Grand Prix.
Halfway through the 1974 season, the first Hesketh 308 was replaced by chassis 308/2. It was subsequently used by James Hunt for well over a season. In the first year Hunt managed to score two podium finishes. Further improved to '308B' spec for 1975, chassis 308/2 was even more competitive with Hunt scoring a victory at Zandvoort and two second place finishes. The chassis was used for a further season by Guy Edwards and Harald Ertl but with little success.
Lord Hesketh retained the Zandvoort winning machine until 2007 when it was acquired by a historic racer of considerably talent. That year and again in 2008, James' son Freddie Hunt was reunited with his father's old car. He drove the car at the 2007 Goodwood Revival and the 2008 Goodwood Festival of Speed. The current owner took the car out of the 2008 Monaco Historic Grand Prix, where he was among the top runners.
In the history section of the Hesketh F1 there is a mistake. You state that Lord Hesketh gave both James Hunt and Alan Jones their first break into F1. This is incorrect as I gave Alan Jones his first break into F1. He was contracted to me and had been so for a year prior to him entering into F1. He was paid by me, entered by Custom Made/Harry Stiller Racing Ltd., sponsored by me personally and, was never an employee of Hesketh Racing. I thought it best to make you aware of this error in your text.