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The Playboy and the Rat The Story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda By Roy Calley

Release date: 02nd July, 2013
Publisher: JMD Media

List Price: £12.99
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What is described as James Hunt’s ‘decadent lifestyle’ is about to get the Hollywood treatment when Ron Howard’s film, Rush is released on 13 September.

There’s no doubt that Hunt lived life to the full. In fact, it would be fair to describe him as Formula One’s last playboy, a man who, according to some, was a womaniser, drank like a fish, wore flip-flops to black tie dinners, smoked like a chimney and drove high-speed racing cars with aplomb.

How accurate Tinseltown’s portrayal of Hunt will be remains to be seen, but it would be disappointing if an over-emphasis on his off-track activities detracted from his undoubted prowess as a racing driver.

Hunt is often portrayed as a snobby, upper-class oaf who got lucky, but there was little privileged about his route to the very top of Formula One. And while his compelling F1 battles with Niki Lauda gave rise to a belief that they were the fiercest enemies, in fact these apparent rivals shared a scruffy basement flat in west London as both men endeavoured to make their way in the cut-throat world of grands prix racing.

In case the movie doesn’t concentrate for long on Hunt’s almost perennial lack of money and the fact that he didn’t always have a new babe on his arm, then a more accurate picture of James Hunt and his rivalry with Niki Lauder can be established by reading Roy Calley’s book.

Lauda was probably the more accomplished driver, but Hunt, known as ‘Hunt the Shunt’ for his propensity to write cars off from his earliest days in motor racing, was prepared to take more risks. Their racing denouement came in the hirsute days of 1976 after Hunt moved to the McLaren team to take on Ferrari and Lauda.

That year’s F1 championship has been described as the sport’s best-ever, even though Lauda was absent for two races after suffering a near-fatal crash at the Nurburgring which caused such severe facial burns and damage to his lungs that he was administered the last rites.

Much was made of the so-called ‘rivalry’ between Hunt and Lauda during the 1976 championship which had everything: great theatre, disqualifications, intrigue, dirty tricks and most of all, courage. However, away from the race track, Hunt and Lauda were good friends. “The difference between me and James was, I always knew there was a limit,” said Lauda in a recent pre-movie interview. Hunt died, penniless, at the age of just 45.


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