Chris Amon, a man regarded in many circles as the best driver never to win an F1 World Championship race, says he is honoured by the announcement that his life and career is to be celebrated at the New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing later this month.
The 67-year-old, who started just under 100 races in a career that ran from 1963 to 1976, will be honoured at the event at the Waikato Circuit over the final two weekends of January with a special collection of cars driven by Amon during his career set to appear.
Those cars include the Amon AF101 he used when running his own team in 1974 and Talon MR1A he raced during the same year.
Amon will aim to use the event to raise funds for Bruce McLaren – who raced on the F1 grid at the same time as his countryman before his death in 1970.
"It will be a lot of fun and it will be nice to see a lot of my old cars," Amon told NZPA
. "Hopefully we can raise a bit of money for the Bruce McLaren Trust, because Bruce's memory is dear to the heart. We spent a lot of time together and he did a lot for me."
Amon competed in F1 in an era that was a world away from the sport seen today, with the biggest improvements coming in terms of safety. During Amon's own F1 career, no fewer than 13 rival drivers died in accidents during Grand Prix weekends, while by contrast, there have been no fatalities in modern day F1 since the dark weekend of the San Marino GP in 1994 where both Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna lost their lives.
"I think in terms of the driving pleasure and the types of cars, we probably had the best of it," he said. "The two things that have changed are they do get a lot better paid, but more importantly, it's a lot safer now. That was the downside of our era, it was so damned dangerous. We weren't that conscious of it at the time, but it was and we lost a lot of people."
Indeed, many have said that Niki Lauda's huge accident at the Nurburgring in 1976 was part of the reason why Amon elected to bring his career in F1 to an end although he insists that he simply felt the time was right to walk away.
"I was only 33 but I had been in it since I was 19 and I had had enough," he said. "I never got sick of the racing, but I got sick of the travelling, the restaurants, the hotels, the suitcases."
Amon has already has a taster of what he can expect at the Waikato event after being reunited with his old Talon MR1A, as well as with his former chief mechanic Bruce Harre.
Harre's son Michael is part of the Virgin Racing team that debuted in F1 last season.