If you watched the 2022 Dutch GP broadcast by Sky Sports F1, you may have seen a rather good film about Hesketh Racing when they won the event back in 1975. While the completed film only lasts 10 minutes, the journey for us to get it made took nearly three years. It’s an ‘against all odds’ story rather like that of Hesketh Racing itself.
How did our little company that operates from a converted milking shed on a Surrey farm, convince the F1 and Sky Sports conglomerates to make a film about Hesketh Racing’s stunning achievement?
This is the background story from the initial idea, to filming and finally having it broadcast on Sky Sports F1.
To find out more about Hesketh Racing, please visit the website:
PART 1 - 2019 - I'VE GOT AN IDEA
It was announced that after a 35 year break, the Dutch GP would be making a welcomed return to the F1 calendar. As many of you know, Zandvoort was the venue of the titanic 1975 battle between James Hunt (Hesketh Racing) and Niki Lauda (Ferrari). For 33 laps they slugged it out, but Hunt didn't falter. He crossed the finishing line a mere 1 second ahead of Lauda.
It was Hunt’s first and Hesketh Racing’s only Grand Prix win.
As the current custodians of the Hesketh Racing trademarks and with the 2020 Dutch GP now confirmed, we thought it would be a great idea to reunite the original 1975 cars of Hunt and Lauda for one last, celebration. A victory parade in front of 100,000 F1 fans.
I had already exchanged a few emails with Erik Weijers, Chief Operating Officer at Circuit-Zandvoort about the project and Erik had told me ‘We’ve got to make this happen. That 1975 race is very important to us’. This gave me the confidence to throw caution to wind and give it a go.
I mean…how difficult could it be?
Before you start any project, you can’t get carried away and jump straight in, you have to clearly identify the problems. New projects are like components of an engine, you need to get the right bits in the right place at the right time otherwise it won’t start.
In terms of initial problems, we had a few.
#1 - First we had to present it to F1 and get them onboard.
#2 - We had to find the owners of both cars and get their approval.
#3 - To have the event filmed, we had to pitch the idea to Sky Sports F1.
Our biggest problem was that we were not very well connected and didn’t know anyone at F1. We also didn’t know who owned the cars or where they were and the only experience we’d had with Sky Sports F1 was subscribing to the channel. We were well and truly working from a very blank piece of paper.
One thing I have learned over the years however, it’s believing in your own ability. If you come up with a great concept and put in the hard work, you will usually succeed, even though all the cards are seemingly stacked against you.
This was not unfamiliar territory for me. I’d spent my entire working life coming up with crack-pot ideas and breathing life into them. Once you have a great idea you then need to convince other people that it’s a great idea and once you get a few people onboard, the thing starts to generate it’s own momentum, a life of it’s own.
Our business RetroGP.com is a perfect example. I went to the 2009 British GP and being of a certain age, was very disappointed that I was not able to find any merchandise for sale that represented the teams from my era. Tyrrell, Toleman, Shadow and above all Hesketh Racing who had captured my imagination as a 13 year old.
As many know, it takes quite a while getting out of the Silverstone Car Park, but I used that time well. I knew that there must be thousands of F1 fans around the world who were of a similar age to me and who would want to purchase a team shirt of those forgotten F1 teams. On the Tuesday of the following week I launched RetroGP on-line. On Wednesday the first order arrived. It was for a Hesketh Racing T Shirt. 13 years later the business is still going strong.
I digress. I needed to solve Problems 1, 2 and 3.
We decided to tackle the F1 problem first. Without the backing of F1, the project wouldn’t even get into first gear.
F1 were not going to give this project the green light unless it served a purpose. It had to fit their own objectives. I needed an angle, a hook on which to base our pitch. Looking through F1’s corporate hospitality website pages I found the golden nugget of a quote.
The two F1 cars that had battled fiercely back in 1975 performing demonstration laps around the new Zandvoort circuit was certainly going to be something amazing and unique. I knew that F1’s quote was going to become the backbone of our presentation.
But how was I going to pitch the idea to them without knowing who to contact? I knew that I’d only get one chance so it had to be someone with a bit of clout. Owning the Hesketh Racing trademarks does have a few advantages and mentioning the marque can open doors that were normally very firmly shut.
My first port of call for finding the right people to talk to at F1 was Google. Pretty obvious right? The good thing about Google if you use it well, is that you can find the names you’re after. You can then delve a little deeper into their interests, causes they support, recent statements or marketing projects. Snippets of information that could be useful in developing a more personalised pitch deck or presentation. Anything to give you an edge and get you noticed.
Google kept throwing up the names Ross Brawn and Chase Carey but I knew I stood little chance of getting through the door even with the Hesketh Racing name in our arsenal.
Next I resorted to LinkedIn, which is always a valuable resource to connect with people. I scoured my contacts for anyone who may have had previous dealings with F1 and would be able to get us in through the back door.
Andy King had worked in F1 for quite a few years and now operates KMC, a sponsorship and marketing consultancy. Andy liked our idea and would soft pitch it to F1’s Director of Hospitality and Experiences, Kate Beavan who he had known for a number of years.
We waited with baited breath for Kate’s feedback.
A few weeks later, on a cold winter’s day my partner Fiona and I met Andy in London and after a coffee walked to the offices of F1 at St. James Market.
The lift doors opened and then the nerves hit. Ross Brawn and Chase Carey were sharing a few words right in front of us. They separated as we exited the lift, giving us just enough room to pass between them. Both are pretty big lads.
Any nerves soon faded during the meeting with Kate who was an absolute joy. She had been with F1 for 18 years and must have listened to hundreds of pitches over the years. She was respected globally and certainly a major player within the industry.
I was hopeful that we could get enough interest to at least be invited back for a second meeting. A second meeting wasn’t required as Kate wrapped up the meeting by saying “Love it, let’s make it happen”.
Problem #1 had been overcome, now the hard work would start. The small matter of finding the cars.
ON THE HUNT FOR HESKETH 308-2 and FERRARI 312t 022
Coming Thursday, November 3rd