Chris Amon – the man who could easily compete for the mantle of F1’s most talented driver never to win a Grand Prix – is celebrating his 69th birthday today.
Born in New Zealand, Chris’ F1 career spanned between 1963 and 1976, and was blighted by a litany of poor strategic and career decisions that would always conspire to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Plucked from the seemingly unobtrusive backwaters that were the antipodeans motor racing scene, Chris found himself at the wheel of a Lola Climax F1 car at the tender age of nineteen.
Several seasons of particularly patchy results with a host of Lotus and Coopers somehow saw him drafted into the Ferrari squad in 1967, which proved the launching pad for the world to see his true talent, although he never achieved the results to match it.
Despite achieving nineteen front-row starts, his best Grand Prix results were a trio of second places, as time and time again he would see a great result snatched from his grasp.
There were probably more near-wins than he would care to admit to, and history repeated itself from the end of 1970, when he switched to Matra. Dominating the 1972 French Grand Prix at Clermont-Ferrand, he picked up a puncture, limped to the pits … and finished third.
Matra’s withdrawal at the end of 1972 saw Chris sign for the Italian Tecno team, but their cars were useless.
And if it could get worse, it seemingly did. Chris then decided to fun his own F1 project, but his Cosworth-powered challenger was a dog, and the project mercifully ground to a halt after just a few races before he jumped ship to BRM and impressed with some solid drives.
His final two seasons were spent with the little Ensign operation, before he switched to Wolf, and was T-boned in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix. Emerging shaken, bruised, but otherwise unhurt, he elected to walk away from the cockpit and retired to his farm in New Zealand.
[Images via Forix, LAT, The Cahier Archive, Tumblr]