Chris Amon - The unluckiest hero
- Tom Prankerd
- 8W Special, October 1, 2000
- 1969 Tasman Championship - Something that Chris Amon did win, by Tom Prankerd
- Chris Amon - Something magic about Chris, by Mattijs Diepraam/Alessandro Silva
- Tecno - A Ferrari recipe for disaster, by Mattijs Diepraam/Felix Muelas/Gerald Swan
Reg Parnell (Racing) Lola-Climax Mk4A
1963 British GP
Amon and luck. The two have become mutually exclusive in a legendary way, Chris' main claim to fame being arguably the best driver never to have won a World Championship race - although in the view of many he would tie for that honour with Jean Behra. But tough luck is not the first thing associated with the gritty Frenchman, and with Amon it still is to this day. As a 19-year-old boy, racing in his very first F1 season, the events that caused the stigma to develop still lay in waiting. The 1963 season was a learning experience all the same but there was nothing unlucky about failing to do anything with the year-old Lola. It is only later that luck deserted him in the same way Jean Alesi was denied victory so many times. But at least Jean got one at last.
Chris Amon is often referred to as the best driver who never won a Grand Prix, but this is faint praise for someone who really should be acknowledged for his place as one of the greatest drivers of all time.
Motor racing wasn't exactly in the young Chris' blood, however. Born on the 20th of July, 1943, Chris was the only child of a wealthy sheep owner Ngaio Amon. The "only child" status meant that after leaving school, he was able to persuade his father to buy him an Austin A40 special, which he broke in around the family spread at Bulls, a few miles from the Levin circuit. He entered the car in a handful of very minor local races, and some hill climbs. He then progressed to a 1,500cc Cooper, then an old Maserati 250F, but it was in the Cooper in which Bruce McLaren won his first Grand Prix that Amon really began to catch the eye. He entered the car in the New Zealand winter series, but mechanical problems hindered him. However, Scuderia Veloce entered him in a similar car and in the rain at Lakeside he ran a tremendous race, and one of the spectators was English team owner Reg Parnell. He persuaded the 19-year-old Amon to come to England and race for his squad. He impressed still further in a test at Goodwood, and was on the pace in the Goodwood International Trophy and Aintree 200 pre-season races.
For 1963 (here Chris is seen at the non-championship Austrian GP at the airfield track of Zeltweg) the Parnell team were using the year-old Lola cars made for the Bowmaker team, powered by Climax V8 engines, again of a year-old specification. Amon was teamed with the ultra-experienced Maurice Trintignant for the first race of the season, at Monaco. His career in Grand Prix racing got off to a typically unlucky start: Trintignant's Climax developed a misfire, and he took over the young Kiwi's car. At Spa he was partnered by Lucien Bianchi, and started 15th, ahead of the Italo-Belgian. However, on oil fire ended his race after nine laps. His season was a learning experience, the car letting him down at Zandvoort and Mexico City, and a steering failure caused a big shunt at the Nürburgring. He missed Monza after a practice accident damaged the car, leaving him hanging out of the cockpit. The three broken ribs sustained also caused him to miss the trip to Watkins Glen. He was usually midfield in qualifying, and generally out-paced his varied team-mates, who included good friend Mike Hailwood. His best results of the year were a fine pair of 7th places, at Reims and Silverstone. During this time, however, Amon was attracting as much attention through his party-hard life as he was through struggling with the Lola. He was a member of the near-legendary 'Ditton Road Flyers', named after the road in London where he shared an apartment with American Peter Revson, Hailwood and Tony Maggs.
Parnell was impressed with the youngster's results in what was after all uncompetitive machinery. Amon himself was quite fond of the car "Those old Lolas were not too bad, but the big disadvantage we had over the works teams using Climax engines was that they had fuel-injection, while our cars were still on carburettors. But I had quite a good season learning the ropes with them and the idea was that Reg should buy ex-Team Lotus 25s for the following season, update them to '64 spec. and power them with brand new Climax V8s." However, tragedy struck the little team, and shortly after arranging for Amon to drive as team leader, and for Hailwood and Peter Revson to share a second car, Parnell passed away due to peritonitis in January 1964. His son Tim took over the team, but Amon had his misgivings. "With the best will in the world he couldn't do the same job as his father. We wound up racing the old Lotus 25s powered by sub-standard BRM V8s which were well down on power compared to the works engines, but that was simply a fact of life that you had to accept..." In a series of four pre-season British races, Chris recorded three 5th places at Snetterton and Silverstone, and then again at the Syracuse Grand Prix, but at Monaco Amon failed to qualify, while Hailwood soldiered on to sixth. He scored his first World championship points with a fifth at the next round, Zandvoort, but the second year at Parnell went much the way of his first, Chris trying to gain as much experience as possible, but blighted by mechanical failures - five from eight starts.
Then Amon was dealt another blow. Parnell was offered better BRM engines for 1965 if it ran Richard Attwood as its regular driver. Chris was reluctantly dropped, and was signed by fellow Kiwi Bruce McLaren for his eponymous team. However, due to a variety of problems, there was never a second car available, and Chris' McLaren exploits were limited to the Can-Am car. His only Grand Prix action of the year came when he was briefly recalled after Attwood managed to injure himself in a sportscar race, qualifying 8th at Clermont-Ferrand before retiring. He was then placed in a third Parnell entry, a Brabham, at Silverstone, but the car failed to arrive. He was promoted to the second car for the Nürburgring, and got to race, but another mechanical failure stopped him early on. Another retirement at the non-championship Enna race was his last drive before Attwood returned.
Amon failed to land a full-time ride for 1966, and with an unimpressive record (20 starts, 2 points) his career seemed to have stalled before it had even began. He was drafted into the works Cooper-Maserati line-up for the French Grand Prix at Reims when Richie Ginther moved on to Honda, and qualified an excellent 7th, albeit behind team-mates Surtees (2nd) and Rindt (5th) as well as the similar Rob Walker-entered car of Siffert (6th). Cooper had planned to race Amon in the car for the rest of the year, but John Surtees became avaliable after a disagreement with Ferrari, and Amon was dropped. However, he did appear in a Brabham powered by an old 2-litre BRM motor for the Italian Grand Prix, which he raced under the banner of Chris Amon Racing. Unsurprisingly, given that the fast Monza circuit was the last place you wanted to give away a litre in engine capacity, he failed to qualify. He also continued to race for McLaren in Can-Am, as Bruce still struggled to get his Grand Prix team off the ground. His association with McLaren gave Amon his biggest success to date, when he partnered Bruce McLaren in a Gulf Ford GT40 Mark II at Le Mans, spearheading the now infamous formation finish at the 1966 24 Hours.
This brought him back into the public eye, and in late 1966 he received an invitation to go and meet Enzo Ferrari at Maranello. He signed for the Ferrari team alongside Lorenzo Bandini, Mike Parkes and Ludovico Scarfiotti. He recalled, "I flew to Maranello to see Ferrari between the Laguna Seca and Riverside Can-Am races at the end of 1966 and agreed to drive for him the following year, but I don't think my relations with Bruce were quite the same again afterwards as I think I figured in his team's long-term plans." However, Chris realised he needed to get himself back in a full Formula One programme. The team was to be led by the fiery Bandini, a man with a fearsome reputation. However, Amon was to find him "utterly charming and helpful, particularly when it came to giving me assistance when setting up the cars... one of the nicest guys I ever met in motor racing."
Amon was due to make his Ferrari bow at the 1967 Race of Champions, but crashed his car driving to the circuit, and only practiced the car before withdrawing. His Ferrari contract also included a sportscar programme, and he started off in 1967 by winning the Daytona 24 Hours and Monza 1000km events with Bandini in the 4-litre 330P4. The Formula One season was to get off to a tragic start, however. Desperately trying to catch Hulme's Brabham, Bandini crashed and overturned at the chicane, and perished in the inferno. Amon had to drive past this grisly sight for lap after lap, taking the pleasure out of his eventual third place. Two races later Parkes broke both his legs at Spa in a huge smash, and Scarfiotti retired from racing, appalled by the horror of it all. He would return shortly, driving occasional races for the likes of Eagle and Cooper. This meant for the French Grand Prix at Le Mans Bugatti, Amon was the only Ferrari driver, and would remain so until joined at the final round by British F2 driver Jonathan Williams. Despite this savage baptism, Amon wound up fourth in the championship, with 4 third places (including a wonderful recovery drive at Brands Hatch) and a greatly enhanced reputation. He rounded off the year by partnering Stewart to second in the Brands Hatch sportscar round.
Chris was a great fan of Enzo Ferrari: "When I went to Ferrari in 1967, Enzo Ferrari was very competitive, very active, although he was close to seventy then. I remember talking to him in his office in Maranello at the end of 1966. He wouldn't put in the contract that I would have an F1 drive. The contract just said that I would drive for Ferrari, with no mention of F1. But I was not at all happy with the situation. He simply said that he wouldn't specify F1 in the contract but that when we went to the next F1 race, I would be driving. And that's what happened. Throughout my relationship with him, whatever he said would happen, did happen. He never praised anybody if you had a good race, but at the same time there was never any criticism if you had a bad race. I think the nearest he came to criticising my results was after the Canadian Grand Prix in 1967 when it poured with rain. The Firestone tires weren't much good in the wet, and I didn't like wet races anyway. I had lunch with him when I got back, and he said to me, 'I feel like the Duke of Modena.' I didn't have a bloody clue who the Duke of Modena was, and I asked someone afterwards what the old man was talking about. It turned out that the Duke of Modena had a mercenary army that only fought battles on fine days - the Duke wouldn't fight in the rain. That had been Ferrari's form of censure."
Early in 1968 he worked with the brilliant young engineer Mauro Forghieri to place aerofoils on the 312 Grand Prix car - a revolutionary touch. He flexed his muscles by winning the first two rounds of the Tasman Cup, and narrowly losing the series to Jim Clark. The older car was used at Kyalami, but when the new car came Chris took a hat-trick of poles, but mechanical problems prevented him from capitalising on this. He never started outside the top five with the new car, and had two astonishing near misses in his quest for victory: first at Brands Hatch, secondly at St. Jovite. Brands saw a memorable duel with the Rob Walker Lotus 49B, driven by Jo Siffert. After the sidelining of both the Gold Leaf Lotus cars, the pair were left to an epic battle, as Amon recalls: "When I chased him round Brands Hatch during the '68 British race, I was all over him in the twisty sections, but he was blowing me off up the hill to Druids and out onto the Grand Prix circuit. the Ferrari V12 had a very narrow rev band and the DFV had a great deal more torque."
The Canadian race was a different proposition altogether, Amon dominating despite his clutch not working, until a crownwheel broke 17 laps from home with a 62s lead. Amon was nearly in tears, and had to be consoled by a crutch-mounted Jacky Ickx. He also drove a notable race in the downpour that year at the Nürburgring. Although out-classed by the Stewart/Matra combination, he fought a thrilling blind battle with Graham Hill, instincts preventing them from colliding in the murk, until Amon span out with 3 laps to go. Such was the visibility, Hill didn't realise he was gone, and also span off trying to hold the Ferrari off! He managed to restart, but it left Stewart with a lead of four minutes, arguably the biggest in World Championship history. What was all the more notable was Amon's defeat of the acknowledged rain master, his team-mate Jacky Ickx. The second place at Brands was the highlight of his year, which was blighted by 6 retirements from 11 starts. He was also runner-up at the F2 race in Limbourg, testing the Ferrari 246 Dino car, and came third in the International Trophy.
By 1969, the situation at Ferrari was looking troubled. The marque was running into financial trouble, and poor reliability was costing them. After taking his own team of Ferrari Dino F2 cars down under for the Tasman series, and scoring four victories on his way to becoming Tasman champion (see the 8W article on the 1969 Tasman series), Chris' luck returned to normal as he led by a country mile at Montjuich Park until his engine blew. Despite six race starts in the top six, Amon had only a third place at Zandvoort to show for his efforts, as well as a few drives in the 312P sportscar: partnering Pedro Rodriguez to 4th place in the BOAC 500 sportscar race at Brands Hatch and retirement from the ADAC 1000kms at the Nürburgring, also coming second at the Sebring 12 Hours and retiring from the Monza 1000kms with Mario Andretti. He also had a few outings in the 612 CanAm car, but his best result was second at Edmondton, and he was unable to mount a full programme due to his other commitments. The F1 V12 was unreliable, and although Forghieri's new F12 had proven very fast in testing, he had no reason to belief it would be any less delicate. "I could fell that it was tremendously strong and powerful during those early tests but it kept flying apart... I thought, hell, I can't stand any more of this..." After two-and-a-half seasons at Maranello, he quit the Scuderia. Little was he to know that the financial resuscitation to be performed by Fiat would turn the F12 into one of the best engines of the decade. His last race for Ferrari was a second place at the 1970 Monza 1000kms.
Amon made what was to be the first of several moves to teams whose aims and ideals were stratospheric, but actually abilities were somewhat lower. March had been formed by Max Mosley, Alan Rees, Graham Croaker and Robin Herd, with the intend to build customer chassis for F2 and F3. They decided, however, to go for the top straight away, also designing and building the March 701 running on the ubiquitous Cosworth DFV for F1. Amon was signed as lead driver for the STP-backed works team, alongside Jo Siffert and an occasional third car for IndyCar driver Mario Andretti. Amon was led to believe that the A in March stood for his name, although Mosley wanted Jochen Rindt for the seat. Many believe that it stood for the Alan in Alan Rees, but it is much more likely that the four founders decided that March was a little more memorable than Mrch.
It seemed like the deal was going to pay off, as Amon won the pre-season Silverstone International Trophy, convincingly beating Stewart in the first heat of the race, then hanging on to the Scot in the second half. He then lined up second on the grid for the season opener at Kyalami, behind only the Ken Tyrell-entered Elf March of Jackie Stewart. However, overheating in the under-tested car ended his race after 13 laps. Incidentally, 1970 was the first year in which he used a closed helmet. He was again top 6 in qualifying at Jarama, only for the engine to pop after just 9 laps. He was as excellent as ever at Monaco, again starting second, and running second until a suspension failure at three-quarters distance let Rindt past to famously harry Brabham. This was also the race where he refused to drive the car unless the entry number was changed from 18 to 28 - 18 was the number Bandini had been driving back in 1967 at Monaco.
Spa was an improvement in his luck. He started 3rd, then doggedly hung on to Rodriguez' Yardley BRM P153, but was unable to pass, finishing feet behind the Mexican after taking the formidable Masta Curve flat-out on his last lap. His second place was the first points score for the works team. Things were back to normal at Zandvoort, though - after an excellent 4th place on the grid, his clutch broke after a single lap. He did superbly at the French Grand Prix, hauling the March to another second place. However, he was not getting along with Mosley and Herd, and at the end of the year left for the French Matra Sports team. A planned run in the 1970 Indy 500, in one of his compatriot and friend Bruce McLaren's car, did not work out, and his place was taken by fellow 'Ditton Flyer' Peter Revson.
The blue-and-white car was quick, but Amon's luck failed to improve, despite a win in the non-championship Argentine Grand Prix before the season started. He scored his fourth and final pole position at the Italian Grand Prix, often called the greatest Grand Prix of all time. But for Amon's bad luck, though, it could have had a much less exciting finish. After a slow start, Amon soon picked off the upstart drivers, and was pulling away from the huge slip-stream battle. However, when he pulled away a transparent strip form his visor, the entire thing came away, and he had to slow to avoid a major accident. This sort of misfortune has become synonymous with the name of Chris Amon. His slowing down allowed the Gethin-Peterson-Cevert-Hailwood-Ganley battle to pass him, and another chance was gone.
Amon, however, was not as bothered as it may have been thought: "I think I'd got over the sense of disappointment at not winning by the time I left Ferrari. It used to burn me up and make me so mad when I started, but I think I'd got it under control by 1969. I had just as much disappointment with Matra, of course..." He also competed in the Questor Grand Prix, a meeting at the Ontario Speedway for F1 and American F-A. He placed the Matra second in qualifying, and ran well until a puncture dropped him back. However, another spirited fight-back saw him 4th by the end.
By 1972, Matra were winding down the Formula One project. However, this did not prevent one or two shows of heroics from Chris. The most famous of these was at the gorgeous Clermont-Ferrand track, where he led dominantly until a puncture caused him to pit. He then charged back up through the field, finishing third, unable to catch Stewart and Fittipaldi despite annihilating the lap record. Amon has a rather odd explanation for this display: "When we went so well at Clermont we were using one of the spare long-distance engines from the Le Mans car! The latest F1 engine with its two-ring pistons was giving us a lot of problems, so we fell back on this stand-by engine with three-ring pistons which didn't give us a problem with crankcase pressurisation."
At least at Matra he had made some money, but this all went down the pan when he invested in a racing engine firm, ran by ex-BRM engineer Aubrey Woods. Amon Racing engines supplied F2 motors to a few drivers in 1972, their most notable customer being sideburned Swede Reine Wisell, before the company became to expensive, and was sold on to March at a loss. He was due to return to March, but was replaced by Jean-Pierre Jarier at the last minute, which Amon believed to be due to financial reasons. His only other outing of the year was driving Frank Williams' Politoys FX3, rebuilt since its accident at the British Grand Prix, at the John Player Victory Meeting at Brands Hatch. The race ended in retirement with engine failure.
Needing money now, he signed for the relatively new Martini & Rossi Tecno team, an Italian marque which had experienced considerable success at building chassis for the lower formulae, and had entered F1 in 1972 with the capable driver pairing of Nanni Galli and Derek Bell. After a dismal season, the squad was trying to regroup. The team was a complete disaster, though and didn't turn up until Zolder. Amon hauled the horrid car, powered by an in-house F12, to an amazing 6th place, and then qualified 12th at Monaco. He was unhappy with the chassis, and commissioned Gordon Fowell to build a new car. This was equally undriveable, although at the time Chris called it "the best chassis I've ever sat in", and he walked out after the Austrian Grand Prix. He would claim that the half season with the Italian team "felt like ten". Elf Tyrrell entered him in a third car for the two North American races which closed the season, and he was lost in the midfield at Mosport, then withdrew from the US Grand Prix along with Stewart a mark of respect for the late François Cevert. He also drove the infamous BMW CSL Coupe "Bat Mobile" touring car in a handful of races with Hans-Joachim Stuck.
Reasoning to himself that nothing could be worse than the Tecno, he revived Chris Amon Racing. John Dalton gave him backing, and Fowell designed the new car, the Dalton Amon F101. Amon enjoyed Fowell's new ideas and fresh approach. The car was built by John Thompson's garage in Northampton, and the bodywork was designed by Prof. Tom Boyce. Former Rondel F2 mechanic Richie Bray looked after the cars, with Ray Buckley looking after the DFVs. Going the usual customer path of a DFV and a Hewland 'box, the car had several advanced features, such as a single central fuel tank, titanium torsion bars and a forward driving position. Dalton Amon were due to start the season with the rest at Interlagos, but the car hit a number of testing problems, not least of which was its structural weaknesses. Amon remembered, "I prided myself on being able to develop a car, but it was so difficult with this one because it just kept falling apart. The first time I ran it at Goodwood, a wheel fell off. The same thing happened at Silverstone, along with a few other bits and pieces. I only had to get in and something would fall off. Being the part owner, I kept on saying 'Make this stronger, change this, change that', and the bloody thing ended up being so bloody heavy it wouldn't have been competitive anyway."
After a more stable run in the Daily Express International Trophy, the car finally debuted at the 1974 Spanish Grand Prix, where Amon placed it 23rd on the grid, despite a vibration from the brake-discs. With wets for the race, the vibration was worse, and Amon slowed down early in the race, realising that the main use was for an extended test session. However, despite his steady approach a brake shaft broke, and it was only Amon's skills which prevented the car from slamming into the armco, which considering the race was at Jarama, could have been very hairy.
After missing Belgium, he was a remarkable 20th at Monaco with a new nose design, but a hub failure prevented him from starting. More trouble during testing meant that Amon Racing missed the French and British races, then Amon was taken ill at the next round, at the Nürburgring, and Larry Perkins deputised, but failed to qualify. One more DNQ at Monza was the last appearance of the car and the Amon team, and the F101 now rests in a museum near the old Nürburgring. Amon would later reveal in an interview that he turned down a chance to join Bernie Ecclestone's Brabham team during this troubled period: "I said no to Bernie Ecclestone's invitation to replace Rikki von Opel at Brabham because if I'd gone to drive for Brabham, it would have knocked the morale of our team. It wouldn't have been fair to John or the guys, who were working all hours. If I'd got into a Brabham BT44, I'd never have gone back to my own thing." Carlos Reutemann, a driver who in raw talent was nowhere near Amon, especially at the time, won three times that year with the Brabham. A possible reason for Amon's lack of a win may rest with this lack of selfishness and ruthlessness: in F1, being a nice guy isn't enough...
After the disbandment of his own team, however, Amon was happy to accept an end-of-season drive at the North American races for the rapidly declining BRM outfit alongside the under-rated Jean-Pierre Beltoise. The team were distinct midfielders, only two years after the Frenchman's amazing Monaco win. At Mosport Amon scrapped onto the gird after a qualifying misfire, which recurred in the race, leaving him 13 laps down and unclassified after several pit-stops had failed to remedy the defect. At Watkins Glen, however, he was remarkable. Starting 12th, he hauled the uncompetitive, grossly overweight and underpowered BRM P201 home in 9th despite a tyre stop.
Again his Formula One career seemed to have finally stalled. He won a 1975 Tasman Cup race at Invercargill in a Talon F5000 car, but that was it until a chance meeting with Morris 'Mo' Nunn would land him a couple of drives in the N175. Although the results (a pair of 12th places) were unremarkable, Nunn and Amon struck up and excellent working relationship. The Kiwi signed for a full season for 1976. The little team chose to sit out the long trip to Brazil, and Amon's first race of the year was at Kyalami, where he came 14th. He finished a fantastic 8th at Long Beach, then started 10th at Jarama. He drove superbly to come home 5th, ahead of the works Brabham-Alfa of Carlos Pace. Zolder saw him an astonishing 8th on the grid, and Chris and the N176 were seemingly like a competitive proposition. Points again seemed on the board until a wheel detached itself. Amon was lucky to escape from the resulting accident unhurt. As usual he performed admirably at Monaco, starting 12th, although a puncture held him back to 13th and last in the race.
Then, at the Anderstorp circuit in Sweden, he started an unbelievable 3rd, and was the only driver who could live with the Tyrrell P34s. Unfortunately, Ensign's first podium (and Chris' first for four years) was thwarted when a suspension failure threw him from the track. Again, injury was only avoided through good fortune. For the first time Chris began to worry about the danger, and his time left in Grand Prix racing was to be limited. Amon decided to skip the French round, hoping absence would make the heart grow fonder. At Brands he was back on form, stating 6th and running 4th until a water leak developed in the DFV, and the team, ever running on a shoestring, called him in rather than rising an expensive blow-up.
Set-up problems dogged him at the Nürburgring, but he was hopeful for the race. However, on the second lap Niki Lauda shunted badly, and Amon was in the queue of cars which were forced to file slowly around the blazing Ferrari as marshals and Hesketh driver Guy Edwards struggled to extract the Austrian from the cockpit. He refused to take the restart, and Nunn fired him from the team. Amon declared his retirement, and returned to New Zealand. "I'd seen too many people fried in racing cars at that stage. When you've driven past Bandini, Schlesser, Courage and Williamson, another shunt like that was simply too much. It was a personal decision - and the right one, for me..."
However, Walter Wolf, determined to pull something from his messy first season in F1 with Frank Williams, who had by now left the team, contacted him. Amon was signed to drive for the team in the North American races and after recording some promising times in Canada, things were looking rosy. Then, in the second qualifying session, his car was T-boned by another and the tub was wrecked, Amon again lucky to walk away.
He then turned down an offer for a full drive in 1977 but did try to get a career together in CanAm the following year, again for Wolf, but quit after only a handful of races, admitting that "I'm just not enjoying this anymore." His place was taken by a young Canadian named Gilles Villeneuve, who Chris would recommend to Enzo Ferrari later in the year. This long after leaving his team, Enzo Ferrari still trusted Chris' judgement. Chris returned once more to New Zealand, where since he has dedicated his time to looking after the family farm on the West Coast of the country, in the province of Manawatu. However, he has found time to fit in a lucrative deal as a test driver for the New Zealand wing of Toyota, featuring in adverts for the Japanese car company and using his renowned testing skills to develop the cars for his homeland's particular characteristics. He has also appeared at several nostalgia events, both in New Zealand and Europe, although there is a reason why he chooses to live on a farm in the middle of nowhere...
Many people still ask the question "How good was Chris Amon?" The answer is, that as a driver he was very good. Very, very good. He won the Le Mans 24 Hours, plus 8 Grands Prix which, although being of non-championship status pitched him against class fields. This was in the days when the championship was often frowned upon for being a way of rewarding reliability rather than speed. He was the moral victor of many other races. Anyone who he raced for or alongside still has glowing memories. Forghieri said that "he had no belief in his own ability, [but] I felt that he was the one driver who could equal James Clark." Look at the Tasman Cup, and there is the truth to back that up. Mo Nunn praised him: "He was the first driver we had who could give us any feed-back on how the car was behaving. He pinpointed a problem we had in respect of our straight-line speed, a problem we traced to the wrong airbox shape. Admittedly, early on in our relationship, I used to test him. On one occasion I adjusted the rear wing by one notch. After two laps he was back in the pits saying 'Morris, have you changed the rear wing adjustment?' He helped us make the new car [the N176] competitive."
Such stories are to be found at every team he drove for and every engineer who worked with him. Another comes from when he was testing Firestones in the March 701. As tyre changes weren't speedy at the time, Amon was given to grabbing a cup of copy between sets of tyres. One time the Firestone men made as if to change the tyres, and did nothing of the sort while Amon was absent, and he climbed back into the cockpit, drove back out and began lapping again. After a few laps he pulled back in, and climbed out. After pacing up and down, looking at the car, he turned to the mechanics and asked, "Do you fellas think you might have mixed up the tyre and put the same ones on as before - I can't feel any difference!" Then you have the fact that, but for bad luck, Chris matched many of the more universally credited greats. He was on the pace of Stewart in the March 701, but the Tyrrell cars were better prepared than the works chassis. In the Tasman Cup, he narrowly lost out to Jim Clark, to many the absolute greatest, in 1968 and firmly beat Rindt in 1969. Add to this his sportscar credentials, and you have a very formidable driver. Maybe he made the wrong decisions at times - turning down Brabham, picking exactly the wrong time to leave Ferrari - in the flat-12 312B Chris could have been World Champion. Chris Amon was not a failure, but a respected, extremely talented driver who simply never got the breaks he deserved.
Chris Amon's F1 record