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Fall 2016 88


August 3, 2016

Chris Amon is best known for

Ford’s 1966 victory at LeMans in a

GT40 MK II co-driven by Bruce

McLaren. Both were Kiwi’s, coming

from New Zealand. Amon’s father

owned a large sheep ranch and he

learned to drive when he was only

six. After racing in New Zealand

and Australia as a teenager, he ar-

rived in England in 1963 at the age

of 19. If you were serious about rac-

ing you went to Europe, and espe-

cially England. It was, at that time,

the hub of small, independent race

car manufacturing.

Amon set his sights at the very

top – Grand Prix – and was deter-

mined to prove himself as capable

as any of the other top drivers of

the time, notably Jimmy Clark,

Dan Gurney, Graham Hill and John

Surtees. He drove well and ac-

quired the reputation as an excel-

lent development driver, able to

communicate with engineers and

mechanics and provide precise

technical feedback. Ferrari’s former

technical director, Mauro Forghiere,

called him, “

by far, the best driver I

have ever worked with.

Amon’s driving career included

stints with teams from Parnell,

Cooper, Scuderia Ferrari, March

Engineering, Equipe Matra, Mar-

tini Racing, Elf/Tyrell, Motul BRM

and Ensign. He also drove for his

own team, Chris Amon Racing.

His Formula 1 career was a

combination of brilliant driving, un-

fortunate mechanical mishaps and

an occasional accident, which re-

sulted in his being described as,

the most talented driver to never

win a Grands Prix

.” His career

spanned 14 seasons between 1963

and his retirement in 1976. He

drove for thirteen teams, entering

96 grands prix. Although holding

the record for having driven for the

highest number of teams in the his-

tory of the world driving champi-

onship, Amon’s highest finishes

were three second places and eight

thirds. He took the pole five times.

Like all drivers in the 1960s-

1970s, Amon did not limit himself to

only the world driving championship.

Good, experienced drivers were always

in demand and Amon was no excep-

tion. Following his 1966 LeMans win

he was offered a ride with the Ferrari

Team. He started out in 1967 as the

No. 4 driver but by mid-season he was

the only one left. Lorenzo Bandini died

in a crash at Monte Carlo, Mike

Parkes was badly injured at Spa and

Ludovico Scarfiotti had a falling out

with Enzo Ferrari.

The following year he started four

races from the pole position but re-

tired seven times in eleven races. As

part of his Ferrari contract, he drove

sports cars for them and won the 24

Hours of Daytona and the 1000km of

Monza, helping Ferrari in winning the

World Manufacturer’s Championship

in 1968. He also competed in the Can-

Am series in 1966, 1969 and 1970. In

1967 he attempted to qualify (without

success) for the Indianapolis 500 driv-

ing the George Bryant entry.

His driving career came to a

close in 1976. Following Niki

Lauda’s near-fatal crash at the

Nürburgring, when the race was

restarted Amon refused to partici-

pate. He was let go by the Ensign

team and signed by the Wolf-

Williams Team for the remainder of

the 1976 season. A crash during

qualifying for the Canadian Grand

Prix convinced him it was time to

hang up his driving suit. He re-

turned to the ranch in New Zealand

until he retired. He was 73 when he

died of cancer.