Former Formula One and Sports Car racer Chris Amon has died aged 73, after losing his battle with cancer.
Often hailed as the best Formula One driver never to have won a Championship Grand Prix, Amon’s top flight career began in 1963 with his debut in Monaco having caught the attention of team manager Reg Parnell. Though he put in a number of committed performances including battling with broken ribs brought on by a crash in Italy, he failed to register any points until the following season.
Despite his slow start, Amon impressed Bruce McLaren enough for his fellow Kiwi to sign him to his sports car team, which led to greater successes capped by victory at the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours, in which Amon and McLaren headed home a famous 1-2-3 win for Ford behind the wheel of a GT40 MkII.
By 1967, Amon had been lured to Ferrari, where his top-flight fortunes improved considerably. He had a strong start to the season, finishing third at the Monaco, Dutch, British and German Grands Prix and fifth in the Championship behind winner Denny Hulme.
Amon stayed with Ferrari for the following season and, despite his blistering pace taking pole position at the Spanish, Belgian and Dutch Grands Prix, he failed to convert his dominance in qualifying into a race win. Though he led for much of the Spanish Grand Prix, a failed fuel pump put him out of the race on lap 58, while a damaged radiator ended his hopes in Belgium.
Following the fraught campaign with Ferrari, Amon sought success elsewhere, spending time at several other teams including March, Matra and Tyrrell – none of which could carry him to the win he so craved. A curtain was finally drawn on his Formula One career in 1976 when, following Niki Lauda’s horrific crash at the Nurburgring, the Kiwi refused to restart the race. He was promptly sacked by the Ensign team and was briefly picked up by Wolf-Williams Racing, but only started one Grand Prix. The Canadian round of that season was to be his last in the sport.
Amon did, however, win eight non-championship Grands Prix, the Tasman Series, the Daytona 24 Hours, the Monza 1000km and the Nürburgring 6 Hours sharing a works BMW CSL with Hans Stuck.
Following his racing career, Amon returned to the family farm in New Zealand, which he helped to run for a number of years. He was awarded the MBE for services to motorsport in 1993.