James Hunt’s iconic Hesketh 308 to be auctioned in Monaco

James Hunt finished fourth at the 1975 British GP in the Hesketh 308

James Hunt finished fourth at the 1975 British GP in the Hesketh 308

The works Hesketh 308, chassis number 308-1, which was extensively driven by James Hunt throughout the 1974 season will be up for auction at RM’s exclusive biennial sale which takes place on 9–10 May 2014 during the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique weekend at the principality.

The 308-1 was the winning chassis at the 1974 Silverstone International Trophy, and the car which contested the Brand Hatch Race of Champions and both the British and South African Grand Prix that year. In 1975 the car was campaigned by Alan Jones.

Hesketh Racing was formed in 1972 by the British Peer, Lord Alexander Hesketh, who was a keen motorsport enthusiast with a desire to compete in the sport at the highest level.

After two seasons of racing in lower formula, Hesketh commissioned well-known racing car engineer Harvey Postlethwaite to design and construct an all-new, bespoke car in which Hesketh’s lead driver, James Hunt, could contest the 1974 Formula 1 World Championship. And so was born the Hesketh 308.

Lord Alexander Hesketh with James Hunt

Lord Alexander Hesketh with James Hunt

With its aluminium monocoque body, the new 308 certainly looked the part, and with power coming courtesy of Ford’s powerful and reliable Cosworth DFV, the car had all the credentials to be successful.

However, with the might of such highly funded, established teams as Ferrari, Lotus, and McLaren to compete against, few people gave the fledgling and unsponsored Hesketh team any real chance of turning out to be competitive.

This view was to quickly change when Hunt took to the track at the start of the season.

Only four Hesketh 308 chassis were built, of which the car being offered for sale, chassis no. 308-1, is both the first and, arguably, the most significant.

Chassis 308-01 made its debut appearance at the 1974 Brands Hatch Race of Champions, where Hunt staggered the paddock by placing the car on pole position; but the race itself ended up proving less successful, as Hunt spun off and retired on lap four.

Hesketh 308 cockpit

Hesketh 308 cockpit

Two weeks later, 308-01 started its first grand prix in South Africa, where Hunt ran in 5th position for much of the race, until he retired with a mechanical failure. Hunt again took the chassis to pole position at the International Trophy race at Silverstone, where, after a slow start, he clawed his way up the field until he finally passed the great Ronnie Peterson’s Lotus down the inside and into the Woodcote corner; this is now regarded as a landmark, classic moment in racing history, and one that resulted in Hesketh’s first ever Formula 1 victory.

The chassis was taken to most Championship rounds during the 1974 season, serving as either the race car or the team’s spare T-car. Chassis 308-01 is also the car in which Hunt started the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, before spinning out on the second lap of the race.

Alan Jones drives the Hesketh 308 during the 1975 Swedish GP

Alan Jones drives the Hesketh 308 during the 1975 Swedish GP

Chassis 308-01 remained in service with the team into the 1975 season, during which the young Alan Jones and Harald Ertl took it to three top 10 finishes.

Sadly, the 1975 season proved to be less promising than expected for Hesketh Racing and at the end of that year, the financially stretched Lord Hesketh pulled the plug on his F1 ambitions.

Famously, Hunt left the team to join McLaren, where he went on to win one of the hardest fought World Championships of all time, beating the brave and badly injured Nikki Lauda to the top step of the podium.

Most recently, this story has been told to cinema goers around the world in the blockbuster movie Rush. The car is estimated to fetch bewteen €400,000 and €650,000 at RM Auction’s 2014 Monaco sale.

Subbed by AJN.