THE HESKETH 308/3, FROM MONTJUÏC TO KIT CAR 43
On April 27th 1975 the fourth and last Formula One GP was hosted on the Montjuic street circuit. One of the leaders of that race was James Hunt, who was driving his Hesketh 308 Ford Cosworth engine. He took the lead on the first corner, when the two drivers of the front row –Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni, both with Ferrari–, were involved in a crash that put them out of the race. Hunt kept the leading place for six laps but made a mistake that forced him to retire of the race.
The team brought three Hesketh 308 to the 1975 Spanish GP at Montjuic, two of them for the race: chassis No.2 was for J. Hunt while chassis No.1 was rented to C.M. Harry Stiller Racing, driven by Alan Jones, who made his debut in F1 in this event. Chassis No. 3 was Hesketh’s “T car” and was kept all the weekend parked inside the Olympic Stadium, where the F1 paddock was located for the first time with 36 cars.
Hesketh & Hunt, the idols
And this car, chassis No3, is the one that you can admire now in Kit Car 43, a benchmark store for scale model cars. Ramon Sala Pallás has always been a great enthusiast of Hesketh Team, founded by the peculiar Lord Alexander Hesketh. Ramon bought this car years ago and restored back to its original form again, with the blue and red colors and the No. 24 on the airbox, displaying it on his model cars store.
“In our youth, all of us have an idol that makes a great impression in our lives forever. My idol was James Hunt and his car Hesketh 308. I saw a picture of this car in a magazine and I fell in love with it. Later I was able to see this car racing live, it was wonderful. About Hunt, what can I say of him that people don’t know yet? says Ramon. He has always been an enthusiast of model cars, the latter becoming profession. He already owned “some models of Heskeths in different scales” before having the chance to buy a real Hesketh 308.
“And a very special one. James Hunt drove it and it was the same that was in Montjuic circuit. I was thrilled but I thought it would be a dream for me. Only a dream. But after seeing I could afford it and checking the car was in good shape despite not having an engine or airbox, I decided to buy the car in order to restore it and display it on my model cars shop. Now the car is in place and Josep Maria Montaner did a very good and accurate work of restoring. Thanks to him, the Hesketh No. 3 looks now as in its prime, linked forever with motor racing history in Barcelona” says Ramon.
A year and a half of thorough work
The beginning of the restoring of the Hesketh 308/3 was decided when Ramon Sala could –at last– get the high airbox that covered the engine, as the car came with the low one. This element was part of the personality of the 308, so that was a key issue for him. Sala commissioned the restoring to Josep Maria Montaner, owner of RCA Racing who worked a year and a half to give back the car the appearance that has today.
“These kind of restorations are difficult but at the same time they are a big motivation.” says Montaner, a man of great experience in this type of works after having restored historic rally cars “For example, when you clean up pieces and can read on them details about its number of piece or the year of fabrication, those are such nice moments that all the hard work and problems you find in other parts of the car are worthwhile. It’s like being doing archaeology”.
“The body work and the steering raised doubts as well but I could clearly see that they were the original ones. So I was more respectful for both: better restoring them than having a brand new part there. So yes, I can say that the steering wheel is the same James Hunt had in his hands”.
One of the peculiar features found in the 308 was part of its set up: it was mounted with asymmetric configuration for axels, the same way the team seemed to use in Monza. “Josep Castañer, who helped me on the technical side, realized that one of the axels was 1,5 cm longer compared to the other”, Montaner said. The most important thing to go ahead with a work like this and to succeed is to be accurate and careful with details. “We had to rebuild elements such as the security roll bar, the fuel pipe and supports for the front bodywork. These and other parts brought many problems, due to the lack of original information of the car, so we needed to improvise a little. But seeing the car finally restored is the best prize for our hard work”.
Present at 35 Grands Prix
Hesketh 308/3 debuted in July 1974 in the practice rounds of the Grand Prix of England –after the chassis No. 2 was seriously damaged in the previous race in Dijon– and was last used in the closing GP of the 1976 season, in the Japanese circuit of Fuji. In its debut, the car introduced evolutions in the rear suspension compared to the previous two versions of Hesketh 308. This car was at 35 GP, competing in 20 of them. James Hunt drove the 308/3 six times climbing twice to the podium: he was third in the 1974 Austrian GP and claimed a second position in Argentina in 1975. After him, it was driven by Torstem Palm, Brett Lunger and Harald Ertl.
Only four Hesketh 308 chassis were made: James Hunt won his first race with Chassis 2 in the 1975 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort on June 22nd 1975.