McLaren honour iconic F1 driver with new statue unveiled on MTC Boulevard

Henry Valantine
McLaren driver James Hunt leads the 1976 Belgian Grand Prix held at Circuit Zolder, Belgium, 16th May 1976

James Hunt in the McLaren leads a pack at the 1976 Belgian Grand Prix. Circuit Zolder, Belgium, 16th May 1976.

McLaren have honoured 1976 World Champion James Hunt with a life-size bronze statue at their factory, unveiled on the 30th anniversary of his passing.

The Boulevard at the McLaren Technology Centre has had another bronze statue of one of the team’s iconic figures unveiled, with Hunt joining the likes of team founder Bruce McLaren, Ayrton Senna and Niki Lauda in having himself immortalised in such a form.

Hunt’s battle with Lauda for the 1976 World Championship has gone down as one of the most dramatic in the history of the sport, with his rival having returned from a terrifying near-death crash at the Nurburgring to compete and take the title race down to the wire.

Heavy rain at the season finale saw Lauda withdraw from the race on safety grounds, however, with Hunt taking title glory in nail-biting circumstances for McLaren.

Such was the drama involved in that season, the 2013 film Rush is based on the story of their on-track rivalry and off-track respect and friendship.

Known as a larger-than-life character, after retiring from driving Hunt formed a formidable commentary duo with Murray Walker for the BBC for more than a decade – with their chalk-and-cheese personalities leading to entertaining on-air clashes while ultimately retaining an underlying respect for one another.

His untimely passing came from a heart attack aged only 45.

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The life-size bronze statue, sculpted by artist Paul Oz, who has been behind several F1-related designs in the past, including those at the MTC, depicts Hunt sat down smoking a cigarette – a common sight during his career – with a helmet tucked under his arm and a hat on his head at a slightly jaunty angle.

Oz said it took him a year to create the statue which now sits proudly at the McLaren base, with Hunt’s passing having occurred three decades to the day.

He wrote on Twitter: “Today, marking 30 years since the 1976 world champion James Hunt’s life was tragically cut short, a life-size bronze statue is unveiled at McLaren MTC Woking. An acutely focused 12 month project to recreate Hunt exactly as his passionate fans will remember him.”