Kiwi F1 legend Chris Amon has just lost his battle with cancer. He was 73.
Sadly, one of the last vanguards of a bygone racing era has left us all. New Zealander Chris Amon died in Rotorua Hospital on Wednesday morning after a prolonged battle with cancer. Amon, Bruce McLaren and Danny Hulme were the trio of New Zealander titans who conquered the tracks in the 60’s. Or should we say almost conquered? Throughout his illustrious career, Amon had never been able to bag a championship Grand Prix.
— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) August 3, 2016
The thrill of the racing world in his day is not the only thing that is now inimitable in his career. Plenty of social workers and modern day parents will be frowning at the way he got started with driving. Having grown up on a sheep farm, he learned to drive a tractor at the very tender age of six. So he had all the practice he needed with vehicles on rough terrain before debuting in Europe at age 19.
He made his big break in Formula 1 with McLaren in the 24-Hour Le Mans race, cinching a victory and being signed on to Ferrari as a result. Unfortunately since then, he never won another race. Not for lack of talent, mind you, he was known as one of the speediest devils on the track at the time. However, his engines and Lady Luck herself were often far less cooperative with his agenda than they could be. He suffered from unreliable engines and often terrible misfortune. Case in point, at the 1971 Italian Grand Prix, he’d been well ahead of the competition when the visor on his helmet detached itself nine laps from the finish. Just a year later at the French Grand Prix, his lead was once again disrupted by a punctured tire.
Nevertheless, if you’d asked Amon if he thought of himself as unlucky, he’d just have laughed.
“It’s been said that I was an unlucky F1 driver because I should have won a lot of races, but the fact is many of my contemporaries were killed in F1, so I think I’m still lucky to be around.”
Keep in mind that he came from an era where death was still a very real threat on the fledgeling Formula 1 circuits. Seeing as he’s survived perilous accidents and life-threatening injuries like broken ribs, we suppose cancer’s a relatively peaceful way to go.
He may not have ever won a championship, but that never stopped him from becoming something of a legend in his own right. Just check out the tributes that have been coming his way after the news.
Very sad to hear about the passing of Chris Amon. Spoke to him a month or so back. Lovely man. The last of our golden era. RIP.
— Play the Ball (@playtheballnz) August 3, 2016
— Barrie Thomlinson (@NZ1racing) August 3, 2016
Definitely none too shabby for a kid who was taught to drive by a shepherd.