Motor racing loses a flamboyant star

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JAMES HUNT, Britain's last Formula One motor racing world champion before Nigel Mansell won the title last year, died of a heart attack at his home in Wimbledon yesterday. He was 45.

Hunt, who had worked as a BBC commentator since 1980, had recently embarked on a fitness regime. His brother, Peter, said: 'He had no indication of any problem, no heart problems in the past.'

Despite his successes on the track, Hunt did not die a rich man. It was reported that he had lost a fortune on failed business ventures and was claiming legal aid in an action over his divorce from his second wife, Sarah, the mother of his two children.

He was a tenacious if erratic driver during the early part of his career, his frequent accidents earning him the nickname 'Hunt the Shunt'. A natural extrovert who revelled in the limelight, his name appeared as frequently in gossip columns as on the sports pages.

Hunt drove in 92 grands prix, winning 10 of them. His finest hour came in 1976, when he won the world championship by one point from Niki Lauda after the Austrian refused to continue in the rain at the Japanese Grand Prix, the final race of the season. Hunt retired from racing in 1979.

The big breakthrough in Hunt's career came when he drove for Lord Hesketh, who formed a private racing team in the early 1970s.

Lord Hesketh, now the Government Chief Whip in the House of Lords, said: 'He not only drove with me, but he was a great friend. I know his record in racing will stand.

He was truly outstanding and he represented the archetypal British sportsman.'

Obituary, page 24

Tributes, page 34