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Chris Amon, 1943-2016

03 Aug 2016

Chris Amon, widely regarded as the finest driver never to have won a Grand Prix, has passed away aged 73.

The New Zealand ace started 96 races for the likes of Ferrari and Matra between 1963 and 1976, taking 11 podiums and five pole positions.  

An enormously talented racer who was hugely respected by his peers, Amon - the son of a sheep farmer - broke into F1 with Parnell in 1963, but it was his victory with countryman Bruce McLaren in the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours that earned him his big break - an invitation to drive for Enzo Ferrari.

Amon showed rapid speed for the Prancing Horse, beating Jackie Stewart to pole position at Spa in 1968 by a full 3.7s, but despite several podiums, unreliability helped keep him from that elusive first win.  

In fact, bad luck became something of an Amon trademark, with fate seemingly determined to stop him from making the breakthrough his talents deserved. At the Italian Grand Prix in 1971 he led until the visor on his helmet became detached nine laps from home, while at the 1972 French Grand Prix he was leading comfortably when a puncture dropped him down the order.

Still, Amon never considered himself unlucky. “I’m luckier than Jimmy [Clark] and Jochen [Rindt], and Bruce [McLaren], and Piers [Courage],” he told Motor Sport magazine in 2008. “Luckier than my team mates [Lorenzo] Bandini, [Ludovico] Scarfiotti, [Jo] Siffert and [Francois] Cevert.

“I had several big accidents that could have killed me; I broke ribs, but I was never badly hurt.”

After retiring from motor racing he returned to his native New Zealand and helped run the family farm for many years.

In a statement issued on Wednesday his family said: “Chris battled cancer in recent years but retained not only a close interest in Formula 1 - and his very wide range of favourite topics - but also his wonderful sense of humour complete with infectious chuckle.”