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 2 - 2019 - ON THE HUNT FOR HESKETH 308-2 & FERRARI 312T/022
As you probably appreciate, owners of classic cars are pretty wealthy people and although I pride myself on my diligence for research, sometimes these individuals are extremely difficult to track down. I used https://www.oldracingcars.com to find out who owned the cars and where they were last located, but that’s where the trail for my targets stopped dead.
James Hagan was the present owner of 308-1, the first Hesketh Racing scratch built car, designed by Harvey Postlethwaite and created in the converted stables at Lord Hesketh’s stately home, Easton Neston.
Hesketh Racing HQ, the converted stables at Easton Neston
Hagan’s 308-1 had been converted into the 308-2 specification which would have been fine for our project as it looked exactly the same as James Hunt’s Dutch GP winning car. However, the car was then reverted back to 308-1 spec for authenticity. This wasn’t an easy task as there were no blueprints of the car available to work from. Bob Curl who designed the original bodywork of 308-1 told me that he had to work from photographs to fabricate the new front end. An amazing achievement.
Fiberglassing was completed by Len Marchant who worked on the original car back in 1974, and still to this day is making panels for classic racers from his workshop.
Len has hung on to hundreds of moulds since the 70’s, not because he ever thought that they would be used again, just because he liked them. As he admitted to me ‘I’m a bit of a hoarder’. Classic car racing has become big business over recent years with Goodwood and a number of other high profile events around the world. Owners keep bashing them up and Len keeps making the replacement panels.
I discovered that Fred Fatien owned 308-2 (James Hunt’s 1975 Dutch GP winning car) but he proved to be very elusive. I did find a person who had direct access to Fred but I was then stuck in a difficult situation of using this 3rd person to communicate with him, which was not ideal. Fred was a customer of his and obviously he was cautious about pushing the relationship as I bombarded him with requests to pass to Fred on my behalf.
Unfortunately the 2020 Dutch GP was only 1 week before the Monaco Historic event and Fred had already entered his car to race. He loves his 308 and is passionate about racing, therefore he was reluctant to have the car diverted to Zandvoort for parade laps just in case it suffered a problem or had an off. I think we can all understand that.
Subsequently 308-2 was not going to happen. James Hagan however graciously agreed that his 308-1 would be available for the Zandvoort event.
On a positive note, we established contact with Neil Wooding (Senior Assistant Producer) from Sky Sports F1. Neil is a big fan of historic motorsport and having produced similar content on the Toleman team, he knew that a Hesketh Racing film would resonate with F1 fans around the world. It was a one-off opportunity and a bit of a no brainer.
Ferrari 312T/022 was proving to be difficult. It had recently been acquired by Tom Hartley Jr in 2019 and then sold on to a private collector reportedly for £6m. After a few conversations with people who were in contact with the new owner, it was apparent that the car was not going to be raced whilst in his ownership. It was an investment and destined to be kept under wraps.
Like 308-2, Ferrari 312t 022 was a non-starter. The wheels of our project, yet again, had fallen off.
We struggled on regardless. You always need a Plan B, C or even D
I managed to make contact with the owner of Ferrari 312T/018 through the those wonderful people at the Automobile Club de Monaco who stage the Monaco Historic event every two years. For all intents and purposes 018 was identical to 022 and had also been driven by Niki Lauda during the 1975 F1 season, so it was certainly of the right period.
Ferrari 312t - 018 on debut at the 1975 South African GP
The owner loved the idea of the Zandvoort Hesketh / Ferrari celebration and gave his blessing to include his car. All of a sudden the project was back on, but now we were running out of time. With 3 weeks to go, Hesketh 308-1 had to be transported from the UK to Zandvoort and Ferrari 312T/018 from Italy. The logistics were putting an almighty strain on all involved, but it was still doable..wasn’t it?
Zandvoort is a very tight circuit and the whole town was going to be locked down on the Wednesday before the race. If we were outside the circuit after the curfew, our two cars would not have been allowed to enter.
I would agree that some of my ideas do get a bit ‘out there’, and on occasions I adopt the ‘you have to go out, to come in’ scenario. In other words, explore every solution to a problem because sometimes even the most ridiculous of solutions can lead you to another path you’d not thought of.
To overcome the potential of having the cars locked out, I started looking at having them airlifted in by Helicopter. The vision however of having cars worth a heck of a lot of money, dangling on a wire a hundred feet above the ground, filled me with enough dread to cancel the whirlybird solution before I embarrassed myself.
The only chance we had was to get the cars to the circuit on time.
But alas, even though we had answers for many challenges, there was nothing we could do about the events that would suddenly unfold on a global basis. We could not have foreseen this.
Within an instant the world had changed and we were all plunged into a monumental calamity, the likes we had never experienced before.
We went into lockdown. The project was finished.
...or was it?
GETTING BACK ON TRACK
Coming Monday, November 7th