Died

Chris Amon

New Zealand

  • Bulls, New Zealand Place of Birth
  • 20 July 1943 Date of Birth
  • 1963 Monaco Grand Prix F1 Debut
  • Frank Williams Racing Cars Current/Last Team

Christopher Arthur Amon MBE was born in Bulls, New Zealand. As a former Formula 1 driver active in the 1960s and 1970s, he is widely regarded as one of the best drivers never to win a championship Grand Prix. His reputation for bad luck was so strong that fellow driver Mario Andretti once joked, “If he became an undertaker, people would stop dying.”

NationalityNew Zealander
BornChristopher Arthur Amon
20 July 1943
Bulls, New Zealand
Died3 August 2016 (aged 73)
Rotorua, New Zealand

Chris Amon was the only child of wealthy sheep-owner Ngaio Amon. After leaving school, he convinced his father to buy him an Austin A40 Special, which he entered in minor local races and hill climbs. He then progressed to a 1,500cc Cooper and an old Maserati 250F, but he began to draw attention while driving the Cooper previously used by Bruce McLaren to win his first Grand Prix.

In 1962, Amon entered the Cooper for the New Zealand winter series, but mechanical problems hampered his performance. However, his impressive performance in the rain at Lakeside with Scuderia Veloce caught the eye of English racing driver Reg Parnell, who persuaded Amon to race for his team in England. Amon continued to impress during tests and pre-season races, leading to his entry into Formula 1.

For the 1963 F1 season, the Parnell team used year-old Lola cars with Climax V8 engines. Amon teamed with the experienced Maurice Trintignant, faced typical bad luck, including mechanical failures and accidents. Despite this, he usually qualified in the midfield and generally outpaced his teammates, including his friend Mike Hailwood. His best results of the year were seventh at the 1963 French and British Grand Prix.

Amon’s social life was also notable, as he was a member of the Ditton Road Flyers, a social set named after the road in London where he lived with Peter Revson, Hailwood, and Tony Maggs. Despite the challenging year, Parnell promoted Amon to lead driver. However, tragedy struck when Reg Parnell died from peritonitis in January 1964, and his son Tim took over the team.

In 1964, Amon recorded three fifth-place finishes in pre-season races but faced mechanical problems throughout the season. Parnell was offered BRM engines for 1965, but only if Richard Attwood was the regular driver, leading Amon to be replaced. Bruce McLaren quickly signed Amon for his new team, but without a second McLaren F1 car, Amon primarily drove in CanAm races.

Amon rejoined Parnell for the 1965 French Grand Prix to stand in for an injured Attwood and was promoted to second driver for the 1965 German Grand Prix, though mechanical failures continued to plague his races. He ended the year driving a Brabham at the 1965 Italian Grand Prix under the “Chris Amon Racing” banner but failed to qualify.

Amon’s biggest success to date came in 1966 when he partnered with Bruce McLaren to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a 7-litre Ford GT40 Mark II. This victory led to an invitation to meet Enzo Ferrari, resulting in Amon signing with Ferrari for the 1967 season.

Amon’s first year with Ferrari began tragically, with teammate Lorenzo Bandini dying in a crash at Monaco, and Mike Parkes and Ludovico Scarfiotti also facing injuries and retirement. Amon became Ferrari’s only driver for much of the season, achieving three third-place finishes and fourth in the 1967 Drivers’ Championship. He also won the Daytona 24 Hours and Monza 1000 with Bandini.

In 1968, Amon worked with engineer Mauro Forghieri on aerodynamics and achieved several pole positions but faced mechanical issues that prevented race wins. Despite this, he secured ten Championship points and numerous near-victories.

Amon began 1969 with success in the Tasman Cup but continued to face bad luck in F1. Frustrated by Ferrari’s unreliable engine, he left the team, missing out on their successful new flat-12 engine in the 1970s.

For the 1970 F1 season, Amon joined March Engineering, achieving notable finishes but again faced mechanical failures. In 1971, racing for Matra, Amon secured some points-scoring finishes but continued to be plagued by misfortune. He narrowly missed winning the 1971 Italian Grand Prix when his helmet visor detached, forcing him to slow down.

Amon continued to race in various teams, including Tecno and Ensign but struggled with unreliable cars and bad luck. He finally retired from F1 in 1976 after witnessing Niki Lauda‘s horrific crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix, which was the final straw for him.

After retiring from F1, Amon returned to New Zealand to run the family farm. In the early 1980s, he became a well-known figure in New Zealand, test-driving vehicles on the TV show Motor Show and consulting for Toyota New Zealand. He tuned the 1984 Toyota Corolla and appeared in commercials for the company.

Despite never winning a championship Formula 1 Grand Prix, Amon won eight non-championship races, the Silverstone International Trophy, the Monza 1000, the Daytona 24 Hours, the Tasman Cup, and the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. He raced in 102 Grand Prix, scoring 83 Championship points and reaching the podium eleven times.

Amon died in Rotorua Hospital on 3 August 2016, aged 73, of cancer.

Chris Amon Formula One World Championship career

F1 Career1963–1976
TeamsCooper, Amon, Ferrari, March, Matra, Tecno, Tyrrell, BRM, Ensign, Wolf–Williams,

Non-works: Lola, Lotus, Brabham
Entries108 (96 starts)
Championships0
Wins0
Podiums11
Career points83
Pole positions5
Fastest laps3
First entry1963 Monaco Grand Prix
Last entry1976 Canadian Grand Prix

Sources: Wikipedia.com

Teammates

Driver Nationality Current/Last Team F1 Debut Status
New Zealand McLaren 1958 German Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend
British Surtees 1971 Austrian Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend
Austrian Team Lotus 1964 Austrian Grand Prix Died, F1 Legend
Belgian Ligier 1966 German Grand Prix Retired
Swiss BRM 1962 Monaco Grand Prix Died
British Tyrrell 1965 South African Grand Prix F1 Legend

Teams

Team Nationality Debut Season Status
Lola British 1962 Historic
Cooper British 1950 Historic
Ferrari Italian 1950 Current
March British 1970 Historic
Matra French 1967 Historic
Tyrrell British 1970 Historic
BRM British 1951 Historic
Ensign British 1973 Historic
Frank Williams Racing Cars British 1969 Historic