How legendary F1 driver James Hunt changed the life of Bruce McLaren’s only child

Sam Cooper
James Hunt and Bruce McLaren

As well as winning titles for them on the track, James Hunt had a big impact on the McLaren family off track.

Bruce McLaren’s only child Amanda has described how James Hunt was the one to make her realise just who her dad was.

This story was originally told on the Pondering Papaya: A McLaren F1 podcast, you can listen to the full episode by clicking here.

How James Hunt changed the life of Bruce McLaren’s only child

Being the child of someone famous is not always easy and for Amanda McLaren that was particularly true. She is the only child of Bruce McLaren, the team’s founder, and she lost her dad aged just four after he was killed during an accident at Goodwood.

Amanda admits she does not have many personal memories of her dad given her young age when he died but told the Pondering Papaya podcast how James Hunt was the one to make her realise just what her father had achieved.

“I think I’ve spoken to other children who had a reasonably famous parent and they said it was the same for them,” she said. “It’s just the norm for a young kid growing up.

“When they weren’t racing, my mum used to throw dinner parties and Uncle Graham [Hill], Uncle Jackie [Stewart], Uncle Denny [Hulme] would come to these dinner parties.

“To me, they were just uncles, because I was brought up in the time when you called everybody mr. so and so or uncle so and so, you never called them by their first name and so they were just family friends.

“It wasn’t until I was 10 years old and I’d been to the grand prix at Brands Hatch with my mum and James Hunt was driving for McLaren. James was kind of gorgeous and he was a lot of people’s pinup boy on their bedroom wall, including mine and a lot of my girlfriends at school.

“And so we go back to school on the Monday morning and we’re all doing ‘what did you do at the weekend?’ And everybody’s saying what they did. And I said, ‘Well, I went to the British Grand Prix and I met James Hunt.’

“Suddenly, there was this kind of stunned silence. If you want to go from zero to hero on the popularity stakes, you tell 10 year old girls that you’ve met James Hunt.

“And so their eyes kind of came out of their sockets and they started asking me all these questions and I do remember myself very proudly saying that James drives for the company that my father founded.

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“And then they started asking me all these questions and I had no answers. So I went home and I started looking at the magazines that my mother had and I started looking at the books in her bookshelves, which had the names of these people that I knew like Uncle Danny and Uncle Jack and then I saw there were books with my father’s name on them. And so I started asking questions at that point and I started reading.

“It really was from that point onwards when I started realising that not everyone’s father went racing and yes, of course, by that point, my father had been killed, but I still sort of didn’t really understand that he’d done anything that special until that point.

 

“The more I talked to people, the more I read and understood, the more I realised just how much he had achieved in the 32 years of his life.

“What a legacy he created even back then. At 10 years old, James was winning a second World Championship at that point.

“It wasn’t until that point that the motor racing bug hit so thank you James.”

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