Meet Racing Driver Freddie Hunt


Freddie Hunt is a racing driver with an added burden: he’s the son of Formula 1 legend and 1976 world champion James Hunt. After three years in the sport, and under mounting pressure to perform, he hung up his helmet in 2009 and left the car world behind. Or so he thought… Today, he’s back on track, with a different attitude and the goal of winning the world’s most famous endurance race. He slowed down just long enough to tell SLMan about life behind the wheel and how he’s learnt to follow in a famous father’s footsteps.

Tell us what you’re up to right now, Freddie…
I’m working towards my ultimate goal of winning the 24 hours of Le Mans. I have been building towards this goal with the support of the iconic Texaco brand which has a long and strong association with my family. This year’s race has just been put back to September, but I will still be competing in the Road to Le Mans. It’s a support race to the main 24 hours of Le Mans – I see it as an ideal opportunity to test our prototype LMP3 car, improve my knowledge of the circuit and hone my driving skills prior to entering the full race.

So what does a typical day look like for you?
Unfortunately, it’s  too expensive to be driving a racing car every day. My days are filled with admin and fitness training – racing is pretty physically demanding. I am also learning to meditate. My head needs to be in the right place in a racing car, so keeping cool is important. Days leading up to races will be spent mostly ‘getting in the zone’ by de-stressing and focussing. I am working on a couple of start-ups with some friends, so that takes up the rest of my time when I’m not racing.

We’ve mentioned him already, but how do you handle the constant references to your father?
It used to bother me. I would feel pressure because of it, but I have learnt to embrace that expectation and see it as just part of the job. For the first few years of racing, I did struggle more. There were a lot of journalists and photographers wanting to speak to me and I wasn't used to that level of attention. But it also has its upsides: Texaco, which supported dad in the 70s and 80s, now supports me. I feel very lucky to have its backing – without it, I wouldn’t be in this very fortunate position.


Not so long ago, you took a break from racing – what did you get up to then? 
I went to South America for a while, spending most of my time working with horses and being in the mountains. While I was there, I went to watch a TC2000 race in Buenos Aires and the bug bit again, so I tried to find sponsorship to race in Argentina. This turned out to be unfruitful, so back I came to England.
In the past, you’ve said you suffered a mental block with racing. How did you overcome it? 
Time was the main thing. A few years away from the track helped; this altered my perception on racing and allowed me to take a different attitude towards it. Mental health is something I think most of us will struggle with at some point in our lives, so it’s an important subject. I made a short film with Damon Hill, the 1996 Formula 1 world champion, about male mental health a couple of years ago which you acn watch n the Texaco Havoline Europe Facebook page. I believe modern society isn't helping the situation – we don't exactly live natural lives anymore.

Talk to us about race days now… Do you still get nervous?
Yes, I do – I’m constantly putting pressure on myself. I use music and meditation to relax, but most importantly I take the attitude that the results don't matter and I'm just racing for fun – that way I can truly relax and my best performance can come out. 
What qualities does a racing driver need to succeed? 
A wealthy backer! They also need the raw talent, the ability to be calm and collected under pressure, determination and balls. 

How do you celebrate a win? 
Well, I used to do what most people do – get drunk. But I've stopped drinking now, so I'm open to new ideas for my next win. In the days following a race, I’ll unwind by taking long dog walks.

How important is your fitness to the sport?  
It's absolutely key. Fitness and strength are vital, so I rely on a good diet. As soon as you start to tire in a racing car, your performance will deteriorate. My diet is complicated: I am lucky to have a rather special nutritional therapist who ensures my diet is high protein and fat, no grains, minimal carbs and as little sugar as possible – though no one’s perfect.
What’s been your proudest moment? 
In motorsport, it was probably my performance at Le Mans last year. We didn’t win, but I did my job to the best of my ability and made no mistakes. Considering it was my first time on the track and I was still fairly new to that type of car, I was pleased with how it went. It was also a great moment to give back to my sponsor Texaco. Hopefully this year I will have a fast teammate and we can have a really good chance of winning. My proudest moment off the track would be crossing the Andes mountains alone on foot. I enjoy a good solo trek, so when I was living in Argentina, I thought it would be good fun to cross the mountains into Chile. It turned out I was right – it was bloody incredible.

What about the worst?
Formula Ford in 2007 – my first season in racing. But there have been numerous awful days. In those early days, I couldn't get my head together in the races and would crash a lot. I had a really big accident at Hockenheim in 2009, which was definitely up there in my worst days at work. 

Have you ever been starstruck by anyone?
No, but the two coolest drivers have got to be Jenson Button and Daniel Ricciardo. 
Where’s been your favourite place to drive?
Off the track, it would have to be New Zealand’s South Island. The windy roads through the mountains are breath-taking – it was a shame I was in a camper van and not my Audi. My favourite race track is Le Mans. I've only raced there once so far and I absolutely loved it. It’s a nice mixture of different corners with plenty of passing opportunities.
What do you drive away from the track?
My day-to-day road car is an Audi S3 and I have a tuned Toyota Hilux as my country workhorse. I’d love to have a McLaren P1, but it’s not very practical.

Finally, how is the rest of 2020 shaping up for you? 
The main event is Le Mans again. I intend to win it and, with the right preparation and team mate, I believe I can. I will be doing some other races as well, but they are yet to be confirmed. I want to take this opportunity to thank Texaco for their continued support of me over the last three years. Without them, I wouldn't be in this very fortunate position. Away from motorsport, I've been working on a stealth start-up in the fashion industry and I'm really excited to be launching it this year. Watch this space. 
Follow Freddie on Instagram.
Watch his film on men’s mental health here.

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