40 years ago, one of the most talented and charismatic Formula One drivers of all time won the World Championship at Fuji in Japan. As the climax to one of the most controversial seasons on record, the race had it all: excitement, drama, heavy rain and, of course, the crowning of a new Champion.
James Hunt had already experienced many ups and downs that year, but it was when disqualified points from the Spanish Grand Prix were reinstated that he really began to believe he could do it. At the decider in Fuji, Mario Andretti took pole position; Hunt was second on the grid; and long-term friend and rival, Niki Lauda, started third. With heavy fog and running water on parts of the track, some drivers debated whether the race should even go ahead at all – and Hunt was one of them. But despite the risks, the race went ahead and Hunt took the lead from the start.
It looked like an easy win, but as the track began to dry, everything changed. Hunt lost several places. Following a puncture, a delayed pit stop and confused team messages, Hunt didn’t even know his race position – or the fact he’d slipped out of a title-winning spot. He just knew he had to overtake as many cars as he could, passing anyone in his way. In the final few laps of the race, Hunt sensationally fought his way into third position – and to his surprise, won enough points to secure the title.