CHRIS AMON 1943 – 2016
Chris made a swift rise up the ranks of motorsport, having showed promise at just 18 years of age in the New Zealand winter series. He was added to Reg Parnell’s Grand Prix team after Reg saw him perform at Lakeside.
His early career was blighted by bad luck, sadly to become a common theme, and in 1965 he lost his seat to Richard Attwood as part of the team’s deal to run BRM engines. Bruce McLaren quickly signed him up, but he was only able to compete in sports cars.
Chris spent 1966 with McLaren, but again problems meant the second F1 drive failed to materialise. However he partnered with Bruce in a Ford GT40 at Le Mans, the pair taking a famous victory.
This caught the eye of Ferrari, whom he joined for 1967, but a tragic year in which Lorenzo Bandini was killed, Mike Parkes injured and Ludovico Bandini quit F1, made Chris the sole representative of the team for much of the season.
He handed this well, and performed admirably over the coming seasons, winning the 1969 Tasman series, but quit Ferrari for March in 1970, just when the Italian team’s V12 engine came good. Chris joined Matra, where he cruelly lost out on certain race victories due to his bad luck.
Becoming frustrated that his talent was going to waste he made a series of poor decisions, joining March (but being sacked before a race had taken place), Tecno, starting his own team and guest drives for Tyrrell and BRM.
A lease of life in 1976 came in the form of Mo Nunn’s Ensign, and Chris performed well in the car. But growing unease at the strength of the chassis came to a head after Niki Lauda’s accident at the Nürburgring, where Chris refused to take the re-start, and parted ways with the team. He later said: “I’d seen too many people fried in racing cars at that stage… another shunt like that was simply too much.”
He was convinced to take part in a few drives with Wolf in F1 and Can-Am, but he quit racing for good, saying: “I’m just not enjoying this anymore”.
Chris stayed involved in motorsport back home in New Zealand, testing cars on the TV programme Motor Show, and being involved with Toyota.
He was awarded an MBE in 1993 and inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.
When asked by Simon Taylor in Motor Sport about his career he responded: “People tell me I am the unluckiest F1 driver of my era, but actually I’m the lucky one. I had several big accidents that could have killed me; I broke ribs, but I was never badly hurt.”
A statement from his family said: “Chris battled cancer in recent years but retained not only a close interest in Formula One but also his wonderful sense of humour, complete with infectious chuckle.”
Chris was a kind and considerate soul who made friends across the globe. He will be sorely missed.