Chris Amon, the driver who many considered the best to have never won a Formula 1 race, has died in New Zealand. He was 73.
Amon made his grand prix debut at the 1963 Monaco Grand Prix for the Parnell team and, despite a frustrating campaign that included him breaking some ribs in a crash at the Italian GP, he stayed with the outfit and scored his first points the following year in Holland.
While he initially struggled to make a big impact in F1, Amon was signed by Bruce McLaren for sportscar appearances and took his biggest triumph with victory in the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours in a Ford GT40 Mk II.
That prompted an invitation from Enzo Ferrari to drive for his F1 team in 1967, when he delivered a number of podium finishes during a campaign that was overshadowed by the death of teammate Lorenzo Bandini at Monaco.
Amon showed incredible speed during his time at Ferrari – with a run of pole positions in 1968 – but the bad luck that would dog his career meant none of them would be converted into a race victory.
At times he needed to be consoled, after seeing win after win slip through his grasp through no fault of his own.
His luck never seemed to change and, amid terrible reliability problems, Amon felt his future would be better set elsewhere. But spells at March, Matra, Tyrrell and even his own team in 1974 failed to give him the win that so eluded him.
In 1976, after joining the Ensign team, more bad luck and accidents – plus the impact of Niki Lauda's crash at the German Grand Prix – prompted him to refuse to restart that race and he was fired.
Amon decided to retire from F1 at that point and, despite a brief flirtation with the Wolf team at the end of that season, his grand prix career was over.
He returned to his native New Zealand and helped run the family farm for many years. He kept close links with motoring though – appearing on television shows and commercials as well as making a brief return behind the wheel in a rally with Murray Walker as his co-driver in 2003.
He died in Rotorua Hospital on Wednesday after a battle with cancer.
His family said in a statement: “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.”