The 50th anniversary of Hesketh Racing’s first Formula 1 victory was celebrated at a special event at Silverstone on Saturday 20 April. Organised by Valentine Lindsay and held during the Vintage Sports-Car Club’s Spring Start meeting, it reunited members of the legendary team and included a demonstration run by the Hesketh 308 in which James Hunt had scored that historic win.

On 7 April 1974, Hunt started the prestigious International Trophy from pole position, having qualified 1.7-seconds faster than the Lotus of Ronnie Peterson. He then made a poor start and dropped into the midfield as the race got underway – and to make matters worse, the gear lever broke off in his hand.

Undeterred, Hunt launched a superb comeback drive and took the lead from Peterson with a dramatic move down the inside of the daunting, 150mph right-hander at Woodcote. The victory was not only the first for Hesketh Racing but also for Hunt himself at Formula 1 level. It came less than two years since the team had first appeared in Formula 3, and less than 12 months after it made its World Championship Formula 1 debut in the 1973 Monaco Grand Prix.

Numerous Hesketh Racing alumni gathered at Silverstone to celebrate that success, including ‘Le Patron’ himself – team owner Lord Hesketh. Having been introduced by Christopher Tate, Lord Hesketh said a few words and recalled that – in those days before big screens and radios – the first he knew about Hunt overtaking Peterson was when he saw the crowd in the grandstand opposite all waving their programmes.

‘Le Patron’ was joined by Hesketh Racing team manager Bubbles Horsley, plus mechanic Dave Sims, draughtsman Graham Humphrys, fabricator Nigel Rackett, engineer Nigel Stroud, and designer Frank Dernie. Lord Hesketh was able to share the occasion with his children and grandchildren, and the family of the late Jon Fisher – Hesketh Racing’s store manager – were also there.

During the lunch break in the VSCC’s Saturday programme, experienced historic racer Callum Grant did some spirited and evocative demonstration laps in Hesketh 308/1 – the very car in which Hunt had won the International Trophy, and which has been beautifully restored to 1974 specification by owner James Hagan. It then returned to the pits, where it was displayed with a number of Hesketh motorcycles that had also gathered for the occasion.

‘It was a very special day,’ said Valentine Lindsay, ‘and we’re incredibly grateful not only to James Hagan but also to Tania Brown at the VSCC and everyone at the British Racing Drivers’ Club. Seeing everyone together, and watching Callum out on track, was a memorable moment, and now we’re all really looking forward to next year, when we can celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hesketh’s victory in the Dutch Grand Prix.’