Motorsport: When James Hunt met Christian The Lion…

Believe it or not, as much as I am a big fan of Motorsport, I do have friends.

No, not imaginary friends… Real friends…

Back in 2011, my good friend Kane Hughes got the chance to be Photographer for Team ES Racing at the Rockingham round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship that year. Myself, Nik and Aaron were also there on Race Day as we were supporting the return of Tony Gilham to the series with Geoff Steel Racing, but thats a story for another day…

Kane is an excellent photographer and has helped my son Aaron when he got his first professional camera and began photography himself, teaching him how to use the camera, different angles to use and much more.

Anyway, the reason for this post is that Kane recently put me in touch with Derek Cattani, the gentleman who in 1970, did a photoshoot between 1976 Formula One World Champion James Hunt and a certain Christian The Lion…

Also add in the fact that James Hunt’s son Freddie is taking part in a full season of the TOCA Renault Clio Cup in 2015 and theres a touch of BTCC in there too…

Heres a bit of background…

Christian The Lion was a lion originally purchased by Australians John Rendall and Anthony “Ace” Bourke from Harrods department store in London in 1969 and ultimately reintroduced to the African wild by conservationist George Adamson. One year after Adamson released Christian to the wild, his former owners decided to go looking for him to see whether Christian would remember them. He did and with him were two lionesses who accepted the men as well.

When John and Ace were informed by Adamson of Christian’s successful reintroduction to the wild in 1972, they traveled to Kenya to visit Christian and were filmed in a documentary during the course of the reunion. According to the documentary, Adamson advised Rendall and Bourke that Christian might not remember them. The film shows the lion at first cautiously approach and then quickly leap playfully onto the two men, standing on his hind legs and wrapping his front legs around their shoulders, nuzzling their faces. The documentary also shows the lionesses, Mona and Lisa, and a foster cub welcoming the two men.

Heres the story from Christian The Lion’s personal photographer, Derek Cattani…

In the Spring of 1970 the now famous Christian the Lion was the talk of the Kings Road,
His photo stories appeared in the National press, with pop stars and sports personalities making a special pilgrimage to the Sophisto-Cat furniture shop in the `Worlds End` of Kings Road, London, where he lived with John Rendall and Ace Bourke and shop manager Jennifer Taylor.

His personal photographer Derek Cattani was kept busy keeping a photo log of his activities and various celebrity visits with John & Ace which turned into the now World best selling book `A Lion called Christian`.

In March of 1970 Jennifer Taylor was being dated by a young up and coming racing driver called James Hunt. During an evening dinner party with John and Ace they all agreed that a photo session with Christian and James with his new Formula 3 racing car would be a great publicity picture.

A few weeks later after James had returned from a Formula 3 race in France they all met up with Derek Cattani at the home of James’ parents’ in Cheam, Surrey where the race car was garaged for the photo session.

A rather nervous James sat in the cockpit of his Formula 3 racer whilst a very inquisitive Christian padded around the court yard. John had explained to James that it was best to allow Christian time to get used to his new surroundings and “Toy”

After a short while a relaxed Christian decided to explore his new friend and car and with one gentle leap bounced straight onto the light alloy front of the car much to James amazement.

Luckily no damage was done!

A now braver James prompted by Derek decided to leave the security of his cockpit and pick up Christian, allowing Derek the chance to click away and record the few seconds Christian allowed him the privilege of this encounter.


(Photo Credit to Derek Catani)

The photo session now over with the result being that a set of great shots in the bag and there was no damage done to man, car or beast.

The following August 1970 Christian was on his way to Africa to start a new life with George Adamson, accompanied by John, Ace, Derek, and a film crew to record the first few months of freedom, and James followed his winning ways and signed up with Hesketh Racing in 1973.

Christian was successfully rehabilitated in Kenya by George Adamson and by 1973 was indeed the King of the Jungle, and in 1976 James  became Formula 1 World Champion and became “King of the Road”.

Such stuff as dreams are made on.

For more information on Derek’s work with Christian The Lion and how his work supports the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust, please visit here: ChristianTheLionPrints or where you can also purchase a print of Christian and help support the Trust in your own way.

All the best!


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