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Amon Reunited with Maserati That Started Career

Chris Amon Reunited with the Maserati That Started His Legendary Career

Kiwi motorsport legend, Chris Amon, has been reunited with the Maserati 250F that kick started his career after a painstaking restoration of the classic Formula One car enabled Amon to get behind the wheel again for the first time in nearly five decades and, despite their respectable ages; Amon still clocked more than 160 kmh.

“It felt very special – the more I drove it, the better it got and the more the memories came flooding back,” said Amon after the drive at Manfield Park, reflecting on being reunited with a great love of his life, a 57-year-old Maserati Grand Prix car.

The celebratory outing during the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild was conducted with the sort of brio expected from a pair of past stars of Formula One.

The legendary New Zealand racing driver showed why the 250F has been called the best Grand Prix machine of all time, with a spirited run that had a near-capacity crowd on their feet and clapping.

Amon and the very machine that kick-started his international career clearly were invigorated by their first time together on a race circuit in decades – a trackside speed camera clocked the green machine at 160 kmh on the start-finish straight.

Amon smilingly conceded he’d given it “a bit more of a tickle” than he first thought would be appropriate.

However, he knew the engine was only truly on song at 5500 rpm, and so it proved. The altered note was music to the ears of race fans of all ages.

The 250F is a special machine – just 26 were built and it had a remarkable success in the 1950s – and this particular car enjoys a singular status in New Zealand motorsport history.

It was only the second racing car raced by Amon and he was just 17 years old when he got behind the wheel of a car that had already been driven by two legends of the sport, Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins.

Behind the wheel of the 250F, Amon won at Levin and was placed 11th in the 1962 New Zealand Grand Prix.

The Maserati also provided the springboard for his international career. British team owner Reg Parnell saw him drifting it at Wigram and told the teen later he'd never seen a 250F driven like that since the great Juan Manual Fangio retired.

The car’s return was thanks to the Southward Car Museum, which has owned it since 1967 and over the past year has refurbished it from a static display car to one that is fully able to relive its glory days.

Amon always said that sitting into the wide cockpit, behind that massive six-cylinder engine, the Maserati 250F was unlike any other car he’d known. He reiterated that thought today.

While it seemed a lifetime ago since he raced the car at 17, he was surprised how easily it all came back. Including the techniques required to get it cleanly off the line and to slow it down. On a 250F, the throttle pedal is in the middle and the brake on the right.

“The more time I spent in it, the more everything started flooding back,” said the 67-year-old, who’d sneaked in a few practice laps last Thursday

Now, as then, the car came across as being excitingly powerful and incredibly loud yet also very imbued with a special delicacy.

“They were known as a well-balanced car, and that’s how it felt today. Looking back, it was probably a relatively easy car to race – though it was a car that you very much steered on the throttle.”

In deference to the car’s age, rarity and value, Amon today resisted temptation to chuck the cigar-bodied 2.5-litre single-seater into a full-blown four-wheel-drift, but didn’t doubt it still had to potency to do it

The display opportunity arose from a commitment from the Southward Museum trust to bring stars of its world-class collection back to active condition.

This went a step further last year when the museum demonstrated an equally precious Ferrari Monza 750 sports car. The national and international response to that breakthrough event astounded Southwards.

Amon remains a key figure in New Zealand motorsport, no more so than with the Toyota Racing Series, the high-powered wings and slicks single-seater category now contesting the NZGP.

The Chris Amon Trophy is awarded each year to the overall Toyota Racing Series champion.

Click to enlarge


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