DRIVERS: CHRIS AMON

Name: Chris Amon
Nationality: New Zealand
Date of birth: July 20, 1943 - Bulls

The only child of a well-to-do sheep farmer, Chris Amon grew up on the family farm near the village of Bulls, about 100 miles to the north of New Zealand's capital Wellington and close to the west coast of North Island. When he was still a teenager he convinced his father to buy him an Austin A40 and was soon racing around the family farm and later at the nearby Levin race track.

He moved on to hillclimbs but it was soon clear that the Austin was not fast enough and he moved on to a 1.5-litre Cooper-Climax in 1960. He was soon showing well and at the end of 1961 he acquired an old Maserati 250F which had previously been raced by Len Gilbert. It was not a success but at the end of 1962 he managed to finish second in a race at Renwick. He then purchased the 2.5-litre Cooper-Climax in which Bruce McLaren had finished third in the New Zealand GP, and at the 1963 race in Pukekohe he was seventh.

Towards the end of that season he went to Australia to race at Lakeside. Among the spectators was Reg Parnell who was impressed and offered Amon the opportunity to go to Britain in 1963. Amon was 19 when he contested his first F1 World Championship GP. Driving a year-old Lola-Climax he began to make an impression although his best result of the year was only seventh place in Britain and France. Parnell died in January 1964 and his son Tim took over, doing a deal to run Lotus-BRMs. That year Amon scored his first points with fifth place at Zandvoort.

He was then signed up by Bruce McLaren for 1965 although the new team never had an F1 car available for him and so he raced only in CanAm apart from a few drives with Parnell when Richard Attwood was out of action. In 1966 he was once again looking for a fulltime drive in F1 with various one-offs. He continued with McLaren in CanAm and in the midseason shared victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours with Bruce McLaren in a Ford GT40.

This finally put his name into the spotlight and at the end of the year he was called to Maranello and signed to drive in 1967 alongside Lorenzo Bandini, Mike Parkes and Ludovico Scarfiotti. He started the year winning the Daytona 24 Hours and Monza 1000 with Bandini. In May Bandini was killed at Monaco, then Parkes suffered serious leg injuries and Scarfiotti decided that he had enough. Thus Amon found himself as Ferrari lead driver.

In 1968 he went back to New Zealand and won two races in the Tasman Series but in World Championship events things always seemed to go wrong and by 1969 things were becoming strained with Ferrari. That year he won the Tasman series for the team but the rest of the year was disappointing and he left at the end of the season to join the new March team. He won the International Trophy at Silverstone but once again World Championship success eluded him and he moved on to join Matra in 1971. He won the non-championship Argentine Grand Prix before the season started but he was still unable to win a Grand Prix.

In 1972 he stayed with Matra and was running away with the French GP when he was delayed by a puncture and lost out again. That year he lost money on an engine company which was building F2 engines and in 1973 he found himself with nothing to do apart from drive for the new Tecno team. That was not a success and he left to do a couple of races for Tyrrell.

In 1974 he started up Amon Racing but the car was not a success and at the end of the year the team was disbanded. He did some races with BRM at the end of the year and then dropped off the F1 scene, only doing a couple of races with Ensign in 1975. Staying with Ensign in 1976, he achieved some impressive results, but after witnessing Niki Lauda's fiery accident at the Nurburgring, he decided that he had had enough and left the team. He did a one-off in Canada for Walter Wolf at the end of the year, and after a brief dalliance with CanAm in 1977 he quit the sport.

Back in New Zealand he farmed and then began doing tests for a local motoring TV programme and ended up with a deal to help Toyota New Zealand develop their cars and competing on occasion in Toyota machinery in events such as the EnergyWise Rally in 2004. There is now a Toyota Amon Cup, awarded to the winner of the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand and in 2007 Amon lent his name to the Chris Amon International Scholarship to support Kiwi Toyota Racing Series Champions in their quest to further their careers in International single-seater racing.

Print