The Top-20 #F1 Constructors who Failed to win a Championship – 6th: Hesketh

Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler: BlackJack’sBriefs

As with my series on drivers, I started with the Wiki ‘List of Formula One Constructors’ and quickly reduced 136 to 43 eligible constructors by removing the Champions, and those hopefuls who failed to last beyond two or three seasons, and also those who only competed before 1958. [See Part-20 – Intro for details.]

“Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”

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Hesketh
Alexander Fermor-Hesketh, 3rd Baron Hesketh, of Hesketh in the County Palatine of Lancaster, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, succeeded to the barony in 1955, aged four, after the premature death of his father.

Alexander’s grandfather, the 8th Baronet had been raised to full peerage in 1935. Their baroque-style seat, Easton Neston, was the work of Nicholas Hawksmoor c.1715, inspired by Michelangelo’s Campidoglio Piazzi in Rome and, in turn, inspiration for the Petit Trianon at Versailles.

The Hesketh family, lords of the manor of Rufford since the 14thC, had previously enjoyed Rufford Old Hall from about 1530, which was donated to the National Trust in 1936.

There was also a Rufford New Hall, built in 1760, of Georgian style, that was sold to the local council and converted as a hospital for tuberculosis patients.

Alexander was educated at Ampleforth College, a boys’ boarding school run by Benedictine monks, although he absconded when he was fifteen and went into the secondhand car trade. After a brief spell with Dean Witter in San Francisco, and with a ship-brokerage firm in Hong Kong, he returned, at his coming of age, and inheritance, to set up Hesketh Finance…

Hesketh met with Anthony ‘Bubbles’ Horsley, and sold him his car, for cash. The next day Hesketh’s mother telephoned Horsley requesting the return of her car… and the two young ‘scamps’ became firm pals – perhaps an aristocratic English version of Tom and Huckleberry. Horsley was a dedicated racing driver, of no known talent, while Hesketh had the wherewithal to bankroll his chum’s passion, and Hesketh Racing was formed… allegedly as ‘something to do at the weekends’…

Briefly in F.Ford, and then F3, it was quickly realised that for Horsley to keep crashing, and for Hesketh to keep paying, was getting them nowhere so, when they encountered James Hunt, who was also broke, and had had several crashes of his own, it was decided they were all birds of a feather… but at least James had talent… and together they moved up to F2.

With Horsley now managing the team Hesketh Racing rented a March 722, and then bought a F2 Surtees for 1973, which was perhaps an odd, but possibly patriotic, choice because the car to have at that time was a Brabham or a March, despite Mike Hailwood being crowned 1972 F2 Champion, in a Surtees. As no other Surtees driver had much success Mike’s five wins, and a 2nd, from fourteen races, plus five pole starts and two fastest laps, perhaps demonstrates Hailwood’s talent and clearly suggests he might have gone on to surpass Surtees’ own record.

Nevertheless, the car was written off by James… so Hesketh, perhaps somewhat eccentrically, determined that it would cost little more to be crashing in F1 than in F2 and promptly upgraded his team to the highest echelons of European motor racing and, in the process, possibly upset ‘Little Bern’ no end… for which the lord make us truly grateful. [Pun intended – I think.]

1973

For two decades it had been customary in F1 for privateer teams, and individuals, to acquire cars from the main manufacturers, often the previous year’s model (or even older), and enjoy themselves near the back of the grid, so Hesketh rented a Surtees TS9 for the non-Championship Race of Champions… but Hunt refused to play ball and had the cheek to finish 3rd, which had his happy lordship rushing to buy a March 731 (which might have been one of those old 721’s in disguise…), but with the tremendous foresight to also hire junior March designer, Harvey Postlethwaite to develop the chassis, at the team’s base at the stately home of Easton Neston.

At their first appearance, at Monaco, Hunt qualified in 8th, and was running 6th when the engine took a dive. At their next appearance, in France, he scored his first Championship point, in 6th place, following this with successive 4th, 3rd, and 2nd places, in Britain, Holland, and America – with Hunt’s undoubted speed, and a reasonable car, there was to be no trundling around at the rear of the pack for this little team.

At Silverstone James had only qualified 11th but spent most of the race dicing with Peter Revson, Ronnie Peterson and Denny Hulme for the lead – three and a half seconds covered the four drivers after ninety minutes racing. At Zandvoort James qualified 7th, and finished 3rd, behind the two Tyrrells… and at Watkins Glen he qualified 4th and finished an astonishing 2nd, just half a second behind Peterson. After fifteen laps Hunt tried a pass, drew alongside but… “I looked over at Ronnie, and he looked fiercer than me…” Hunt decided to leave his putsch for the final ten laps but his car handled less well with a lower fuel load, and it didn’t happen.

However… if you really have Championship-style talent you should not need a year or two to dial yourself in…

This year the March company (who had fired Hunt from their F2 team the previous year, after two crashes too many) finished 5th in the Championship, with 14pts., all courtesy of the Hesketh team and Hunt… who took 8th in the Drivers’ Championship, despite missing the first five races.

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1974

Hesketh started the year, in Argentina and Brazil, unable to repeat their 1973 performance but before the European races got under way young Harvey had produced the first actual Hesketh car – the 308 – which Hunt put on Pole at the non-Championship Race of Champions… and then put it into the barrier on the fourth lap, in the rain. But, in the non-Championship International Trophy, Hunt again started on Pole, and brought the car home to its first victory (in just it’s second appearance…!), 37secs. ahead of Jochen Mass’ Surtees.

From the Spanish GP to Monaco the Hesketh gradually moved up the grid until, in Sweden, Hunt qualified 4th and finished on the podium, 3secs. behind the two Tyrrell’s.

Hunt and the Hesketh continued to be fast, and continued not to finish… but in Austria Hunt put the car in 7th on the grid and put himself back on the podium, behind Reutemann (Brabham) & Hulme (McLaren). In Canada Hunt managed 4th, and then in America, rounded of the season with another podium, behind the two Brabhams.

In their first season as a constructor Hesketh finished 6th in the Championship, with Hunt again in 8th.

1975

While His Lordship now contemplated building his own V12 engine, Harvey updated his design to the 308B and in the opening events Hunt challenged for victory. In Argentina he was 6th on the grid and recorded fastest lap while finishing a strong 2nd. In Brazil he was again in the points but in South Africa the team suffered poor reliability… and Hunt also retired in the first four races in Europe.

But in Holland Hunt put the car 3rd on the grid, behind the two Ferraris. The race start was delayed by heavy rain but Hunt pitted early for dry tyres and took the lead on lap fifteen. Lauda pushed him hard but just couldn’t get past, finishing just one second behind, with Regazzoni 3rd (55secs. adrift) as Hunt and Hesketh notched up their first GP win.

[NB: in today’s F1 it is barely possible for a new team to score points, even though now gifted down to 10th place… and impossible to actually win anything… Which format do you prefer…?]

In France Niki turned the tables on his adversary. Qualifying 1st and 3rd again Lauda held the lead throughout leaving Hunt to harry him all he liked, without success, while they were both being caught by Mass. On the last lap, behind a back-marker, Niki slid wide, and James was there, like a mongoose with a cobra… but Niki recovered, as Jochen prepared to pounce, and there were just two and a half seconds between all three as they crossed the line.

At Silverstone Hunt qualified badly but the race was a shambles following a major hail storm on lap 53. Three cars crashed on this lap, six on lap 54, and six on lap 55. The race was stopped, and declared to have finished after 56 laps. Hunt was granted 4th.

Germany was a metaphorical wash-out but in Austria Hunt was back on the front of the grid, alongside Lauda. Unfortunately ‘rain stopped play’, again. When the race finally got underway Niki initially led but, as he struggled with his car, James was able to pass… at which point the revived March team made an unexpected challenge… Making the most of their 4th and 8th places on the grid, although Hans Stuck crashed out on the tenth lap, the ‘Monza Gorilla’ jumped from 8th to 3rd and was all over Hunt as Lauda fell back and, as Hunt’s engine became a V7 (which was not a vodka ‘alky-pop’) he and Brambilla came up to lap Brett Lunger who was making his F1 GP debut (and, being American, was having his first race in the rain…) in a semi-private/semi-works Hesketh.

Brambilla cried: Carpé diem…!” and also seized the lead… and even pulled away from Hunt. The race was stopped early, Brambilla took the chequered flag, and then stuffed his car into the barriers, and drove the tattered vehicle around a final lap, waving to the crowd, many of whom probably didn’t know who he was, and most had probably already gone home anyway…

At Monza Lauda sealed his first Championship, and Ferrari their first since 1961. Hunt fought hard but had to accept 5th place.

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With the season all wrapped up the final race at Watkin’s Glen still provided enormous entertainment… without having to childishly resort to ‘double-points’. The Canadian GP had been cancelled and the irate Mosport organisers arrived at the Glen with a writ to freeze the prize money… but this little bit of fun was soon forgotten as the GPDA had a dispute over transfer-fees and salaries. More entertaining was the arrival of Lord Hesketh wearing a ‘Save the Whales’ T-shirt.

Not amusing at all was the absence in his home GP of Mark Donohue who had crashed in Austria but had seemed not to be seriously injured. The next day he complained of a headache and was admitted to hospital, where he died, the following day, of a brain hemorrhage.

Mark was replaced, in the First National City Bank Penske team by John Watson, who suffered electrical problems during the Sunday warm-up… and the mechanics grabbed the spare car from the Bank’s display podium in the paddock… which upset the Bank’s PR folk.

Williams then tried to keep the spectators entertained by laying on a sort of team cabaret. First, Lella Lombardi’s car also suffered ‘voltage vexations’, which couldn’t be fixed, and then Jacques Laffite mistook a small bottle of visor-cleaning fluid for eye-drops… There was no long-lasting damage but he was unable to race… and Lella promptly attempted to jump into his car… but it didn’t work – she didn’t fit… although it seems to be unrecorded if she was too large, or was unable to reach the pedals…

By comparison the race was rather boring, Lauda proving to Fittipaldi why he had taken over Emerson’s Championship mantle, until Regazzoni collided with Mass and had to pit for a new nose, returning to the track just before the leaders. Lauda went by without a problem but Clay continually obstructed Rato’s (only later known as ‘Emmo’) progress. While waving his fist the marshals also waved blue flags for six laps… until they waved a black one.

Regazzoni then moved over but the Clerk of the Course still insisted Clay come into the pits, obeying the black flag, to be admonished… at which point the selfishly motivated Luca CdM got into a physical ‘scuffle’ with the Clerk and childishly withdrew Regazzoni from the race in protest.

When a man says: “It’s not the money, it’s the principle…” you know it’s the money…

When a lady says: “It’s not that I don’t like you, but I have to wash my hair (sort my knicker drawer / polish my nails / take care of my friend who is retaining water…)”, she doesn’t like you…

When Rosberg says: “I didn’t deliberately hit him, I just wanted to make a point…” you might well conclude he, in effect, deliberately hit him…

When a team manager says… [Insert whatever you like…]

Meanwhile the Monza Gorilla was again trying to attract attention, bouncing about in the cockpit because his seat had come loose… but the four drivers ahead of him, Mass, Hunt, Peterson and Scheckter, were having a ding-dong for 3rd place.

For a one-car, almost ‘private’, team Hesketh and Hunt had really put one over on all but the ‘big-boys’ – with 33pts. Hesketh finished =3rd to Ferrari (72), Brabham (54) and McLaren (also 33), while Hunt finished 4th to Lauda, Fittipaldi, and Reutemann, just 4pts. adrift of Carlos.

Although it is rarely mentioned, Lord Hesketh ran his team entirely without sponsorship… which had thus been very expensive for him… and so, with considerable regret, he now decided he needed to get a ‘proper job’… Fittipaldi was forming his own team and Hunt was offered the vacant seat at McLaren.

After just two and a half seasons, having literally come from nowhere, Hesketh Racing, with one win, one fastest lap, and eight further podiums, quietly bowed out…

Well, almost…

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1976

First Postlethwaite took his 308C design to Walter Wolf Racing… and then Horsley decided to update the 308B to 308D, and to continue under the Hesketh banner. He managed to acquire sponsorship from Penthouse (a famous ladies knitting magazine…) and RIZLA+ – so it seems there must be money to be made from cigarette papers… which Pierre Lacroix’ Lacroix Rolling Paper company has been making since 1660 – and how many of you knew that…? It was two hundred years later that the company changed to rice paper, which is when the ‘Rizla+’ name first appeared.

As a child, watching my uncles ‘rolling their own’, I asked if there had previously been a lesser variety called ‘Rizla-’ (minus), but they didn’t know. In fact the name comes from the French for rice, ‘riz’, and the family name, ‘la Croix’ abbreviated to ‘la+’ – and I certainly never knew that, nor that the family held control of the company for 318 years. In the present millennium the company closed their historic factory in France, and another in Wales, and concentrated their production in Belgium. [Hmm… I wonder if Mr Bruznic has ever tried this company’s little delicacies…]

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Meanwhile… journalist and amateur driver, Austrian Harold Ertl, had managed to acquire sufficient sponsorship from Warsteiner to make three entries in a Hesketh in 1975, and acquitted himself well enough for Horsley to offer him a full-time drive in 1976, but it wasn’t a successful time and, during his five-year career Ertl failed to score a single point.

Ertl was joined by Britain’s Guy Edwards, who had debuted in F1 in 1974 with Graham Hill’s own team but never made much of a mark on the GP circuit. He sat out 1975 but was offered a handful of drives in a second Hesketh for 1976, and was even less successful. He also had two F2 outings, and made nine appearances at Le Mans. Makes one wonder why the name is so familiar…

Rolf Stommelen and Alex Ribeiro also had one-off drives and, between them, failed to score a single point for Hesketh during the year.

1977-78

In 1977 ‘New’ Hesketh ran three cars, for five drivers, on and off and, more often than not failed to qualify. Reducing themselves to a single entry, shared by three drivers, in 1978, Hesketh suffered one retirement and failed to qualify five times, before giving up, although in the wet, non-championship International Trophy Derek Daly diced for the lead with Hunt’s McLaren.

In the two and a half years with Lord Hesketh and James Hunt, the team scored 62pts. – in the subsequent two and a half years, nothing, zilch, nada. They really should have quit when they were ahead…

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After F1

In 1980 Hesketh founded Hesketh Motorcycles, with hopes of reviving the British motorcycle industry but, for a whole host or reasons, it failed. There have been several attempts to keep the company afloat, until the present, with a 2014 announcement of the ‘Hesketh-24’ (named after Hunt’s 1975 car number).

Although Alexander Hesketh automatically became a member of the British House of Lords on his majority he took no part in politics until he met Thatcher, who convinced him to become a full-time politician, working with her, and then John Major, in the Dept. for Environment and then the Dept. for Trade and Industry, before becoming the government ‘Chief Whip’ in the Lords. He was also Conservative Party Treasurer… and then ‘saw the light’… and moved to the UK Independence Party.

In 1994 Hesketh was a founder member, and later Chairman, of British Mediterranean Airways before selling out to British Midland. He now serves as an ‘independent director’ of Kazakhstan’s national airline, Air Astana…
Hesketh also joined the board of Babcock but was obliged to resign, in 2007, when he asserted the company’s new aircraft-carrier project would make the country a “…laughing stock.” Two ships were commissioned, with construction starting in mid-2009, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, and the HMS Prince Charles… but, in 2010, a government review declared Britain only needed one such carrier. [One wonders how many beads they had to count to work that out…!] However, penalty clauses in the contract would cause canceling the second vessel to be more expensive than building it…! The Prince Charles thus went ahead, in mid-2011, with the intention of it being either moth-balled, or sold…

hesketh-old-01Conversions to the original design escalated the price by £2B so, in 2012 this decision was reversed. In 2014 it was reversed again… I can’t help feeling Hesketh had been right.

The Queen Elizabeth was christened and floated in July, this year. Fitting out is hoped to be completed by the end of 2015. The crew will move aboard in May, 2016 (must be expecting a very long New Year holiday…) with sea trials beginning in August (three months to stow your gear, and check the lights work…?), and delivery to the Royal Navy in May, 2017. Helicopter flight trials will commence in late 2017, with F-35B trials (for which an aircraft carrier is actually needed…) not until the end of 2018. It is hoped an ‘operational military capability’ will be declared by the end of 2020… by which time millions of under-nourished people around the world will already have died, and were unlikely anyway to have ever been defended by these monstrous acquisitions.

That’s how it seems to this writer, anyway…

In 2005 Hesketh was ‘obliged’ to sell the family seat, Easton Neston… to Californian fashion designer and retailer, Leon Max (Leonid Maxovich Rodovinski, from St. Petersburg).


Previously:

7th Porsche

8th March

9th Jordan

10th Shadow

11th Toleman

12th Toyota

13th Alfa Romeo

14th Sauber

15th Arrows

16th Stewart

17th BAR

18th – Surtees

19th – Lola

20th – Dallara

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