The Mas­ter Me­chanic,

New Zealand Classic Car - - Motor Sport Flashback - Top: Keke Ros­berg is pic­tured here in 1978 win­ning the sec­ond of his two NZGPS — both times in Chevrons Above: Lone Star Menu

“‘Chris was also a stead­fast friend of Man­feild — he loved the track and never failed to cham­pion its qual­i­ties, of­ten on our be­half.

“‘We were deeply hon­oured when Tish and the chil­dren agreed to our re­quest to re­name the cir­cuit in his mem­ory. It was es­pe­cially right [that] the cir­cuit he loved so much should also hon­our his mem­ory dur­ing the pe­riod of NZGP ten­ure,’ Mrs Keane said.

“The re­nam­ing pro­posal has been months in the mak­ing, and had pro­gressed with whole­hearted sup­port from Man­feild Park Trust and sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing trust set­t­lor the Manawatu Car Club, which had sought Mr Amon’s ad­vice when it built Man­feild in the 1970s. The one sad­ness was that cir­cum­stance pre­cluded Mr Amon be­ing told what was in the wind.

“‘Iron­i­cally, we had held off talk­ing to Chris be­cause he was so fa­mously a mod­est man [that] we knew we’d have to mount an es­pe­cially per­sua­sive ar­gu­ment to win his ac­cep­tance. Trag­i­cally, he was lost to us just be­fore this was to hap­pen. We de­ter­mined to pro­ceed so long as we had the sup­port of the Amon fam­ily, and were de­lighted when Tish in­stantly gave her bless­ing.

“‘We are also thrilled that two of their chil­dren, James and Ge­orgie, have joined our work­ing group for the Fe­bru­ary cel­e­bra­tion, and that the fam­ily is here to­day to cel­e­brate that we are now and for­ever Man­feild: Cir­cuit Chris Amon.’

“Mrs Keane and Mr Smith en­force the re­nam­ing is mo­ti­vated wholly by de­sire to hon­our an emo­tional con­nec­tion with a man ‘who meant so much to us all. The Man­feild per­spec­tive is sim­ple: Chris was a man of spe­cial char­ac­ter. We will miss him tremen­dously. We in­tend to never for­get him.’

“To­day’s nam­ing cer­e­mony was also at­tended by rep­re­sen­ta­tives

Mas­ter me­chanic

The press re­lease from Man­feild con­cluded:

“Also in at­ten­dance were Bruce Wil­son and his son, Rolf, who have just pub­lished a book about Bruce Wil­son’s time as a me­chanic for Chris Amon dur­ing the early rac­ing years, in­clud­ing the pe­riod when they ran the Maserati 250F that is now held by the South­ward [Car] Mu­seum.”

It had been a big week for Bruce, given that the pre­vi­ous Satur­day, the book, about his life — that is so in­ter­wo­ven into that of Amon’s — was launched at the Rush Col­lec­tion in Feild­ing. The book, writ­ten by well-known Haw­er­abased his­to­rian Gor­don Camp­bell, will be re­viewed in a fu­ture is­sue; it is great that

the con­tri­bu­tion of an­other span­ner man has been recorded. The Mas­ter Me­chanic will be avail­able in book­shops but can also be pur­chased by vis­it­ing the­mas­ter­me­chanic.co.nz.

On sub­ject of Kiwi me­chan­ics, in re­cent years, we’ve had Max Rutherford’s book about his time in Europe dur­ing the 1960s, and I can think of a num­ber of other Kiwi me­chan­ics who also have great sto­ries to tell. I un­der­stand that at the Leg­ends of Speed event in Auck­land on Novem­ber 25, at no point in the evening was any men­tion made of the mas­sive in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion that Kiwi me­chan­ics and en­gi­neers have had for over 60 years. I hope I heard that wrong, be­cause the legacy is ex­tra­or­di­nary.

Ken Smith

Since 2011, the New Zealand Fes­ti­val of Mo­tor Rac­ing at Hamp­ton Downs has al­ter­nated between hon­our­ing a driver and a mar­que. The 2017 hon­ouree is the one and only Kenneth James Smith, who is now clos­ing in on his 60th con­sec­u­tive year of hold­ing a rac­ing li­cence. The 2017 fes­ti­val will be the first not or­ches­trated by Jim Bar­clay and will, for the first time, be a one-week­end af­fair, from Jan­uary 20 to 22. The diminu­tive 75-year-old will in­evitably be one of the lead­ing lights in the ground-shak­ing For­mula 5000s (F5000s) — the (mostly) V8-pow­ered sin­gle-seaters in which Kenny was un­beat­able at Hamp­ton Downs at the 2016 fes­ti­val, and again at Mike Pero Mo­tor­sport Park a fort­night later.

It is won­der­ful that Kenny’s ex­tra­or­di­nary life and ca­reer will be hon­oured, and, as I men­tioned a few months ago, a book on the wee bloke with the gi­ant love of the sport has been pro­duced. It is fair to say that, ini­tially, Kenny wasn’t quite con­vinced about this book malarkey, but af­ter a cou­ple of solid

ses­sions of teas­ing sto­ries out of him, the flood­gates opened. On at least three oc­ca­sions, my mo­bile phone would ring, re­veal­ing the caller to be the sub­ject of the book — each time, the call would come a day or two af­ter we’d spent part of a week­end tak­ing notes, and each time the call would go along th­ese lines: ‘Michael, I know you’ll be busy but is there any chance we could meet some­time to­day — I’ve thought of some­thing else …’ On each oc­ca­sion, the an­swer to my ques­tion ‘Where are you right now?’ would be ‘Right out­side your of­fice.’

So, he went from feel­ing slightly re­luc­tant to be­ing quite en­thu­si­as­tic, and more than once I have heard from one of his faith­ful helpers of many decades — and over half a cen­tury in the case of Barry Miller — that Kenny keeps com­ing up with new sto­ries. Hav­ing needed a gen­tle nudge by Jim Bar­clay to act as a cat­a­lyst for this book, Kenny is al­ready telling me that we need to start plan­ning the next one about the sec­ond phase of his ca­reer. Next year, he’s plan­ning to race at the Grand Prix de Monaco His­torique in May, but he keeps men­tion­ing that each of his three NZGP wins was 14 years apart — and 2018 will be 14 years since win num­ber three! Amaz­ingly, as I’ve been tap­ping out th­ese words, he’s phoned to tell me that he’s go­ing test­ing in a cou­ple of days — “I think my Lola is about as quick as any of them, but Michael Lyons is com­ing out again and he’s al­ways quick — so I’ve got to be on top of my game …”

For the record, Lyons will turn 26 between the fes­ti­val and the big event at Taupo at the end of Jan­uary, which will fea­ture F5000s up against the dozen or so vis­it­ing 1970s For­mula 1 (F1) cars with the ear-split­ting high-revving 3.0-litre en­gines. It would be a rea­son­able bet to put now that Lyons and Smith will share the front row of a grid at some point — with a mere 60 years, near as dammit, sep­a­rat­ing them. As I said — ex­tra­or­di­nary — no doubt there will be a film one day.

Fa­ther and son world cham­pi­ons

Had there been a world cham­pi­onship in the 1920s, there is lit­tle doubt that An­to­nio As­cari would have taken the ti­tle for Alfa Romeo, in which case, his son, Alberto, world cham­pion in 1952 and ’53, would have been the first ‘son of’ to be crowned. Da­mon Hill was 1996’s world cham­pion and so be­came the first — and, un­til 2016, the only — ‘son of a cham­pion’ to also take the ti­tle — his dad, Gra­ham, of course, be­ing world cham­pion in 1962 and ’68, and the only cham­pion to also win the In­di­anapo­lis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Forty years ago this month, Keke Ros­berg ar­rived in New Zealand

vir­tu­ally un­known on the world stage, but, by the end of Jan­uary 1977, he’d sewn up the in­au­gu­ral For­mula Pa­cific cham­pi­onship here, and we all ex­pected he’d walk straight into F1 on the strength of it. He didn’t, so he re­turned here in Jan­uary 1978 and did it all again. Some rides in F1 back­mark­ers fol­lowed, but, de­spite a fan­tas­tic win in a non-cham­pi­onship race run in mon­soon con­di­tions, the big boys of F1 still ig­nored him. At the end of 1981, Alan Jones abruptly re­tired, and Wil­liams needed a driver for its topline car — by the end of 1982 (to be fair, with a touch of luck), Ros­berg was world cham­pion.

His son, Nico, had looked likely from time to time, but it wasn’t un­til he fig­ured out how to win that he then kept do­ing it. Be­fore wrap­ping up the 2016 world cham­pi­onship in the fi­nal race at the end of Novem­ber, he had sur­passed Stir­ling Moss as the win­ningest non cham­pion. Now that ac­co­lade is back with Sir Stir­ling, as it should be, and as Nico Ros­berg basks in the glory of a well-de­served cham­pi­onship, most F1 fans are hop­ing that the new rules for 2017 pro­vide a great deal more va­ri­ety in terms of cars ca­pa­ble of reg­u­larly win­ning — start­ing with Mclaren, Wil­liams, and Fer­rari would be good …

Ger­hard Berger

I was in­trigued to learn that the for­mer Fer­rari and Mclaren driver Ger­hard Berger had ne­go­ti­ated Ros­berg’s contract with Mercedes. The savvy Ros­berg no doubt fig­ured that, if you’re bar­gain­ing with a cou­ple of hard-nosed Aus­tri­ans in the form of Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff, the best guy to have on your side is a hard-nosed Aus­trian — cue Berger. His fame ex­tends to Lone Star on Ric­car­ton Road, where I spot­ted the ‘star burger’ while pe­rus­ing the menu in the com­pany of leg­endary Christchurch his­toric rac­ing per­son­al­ity Peter, aka ‘Baldric’, Grant.

Fifty years

I can re­call it so vividly — a news­pa­per ar­ti­cle show­ing proper Grand Prix cars be­ing un­loaded off a ship at Auck­land wharf. When my mother alerted me to it, even at eight, I sensed there must have been a rea­son for this be­ing brought to my at­ten­tion — surely this would be be­cause I would be at­tend­ing my firstever Grand Prix. A day or two later, I was aboard a red VW as we crawled in queues from Ma­nurewa to Pukekohe — it was Jan­uary 7, 1967. Jim Clark, Jack Brab­ham, and Jackie Ste­wart headed the bill, but Denny Hulme, who would end that year as world cham­pion, was a non-starter. The top lo­cals in­cluded Jimmy Palmer, Roly Le­vis, Graeme Lawrence, and Ken Smith — and, half a cen­tury from me at­tend­ing my first Grand Prix, the lat­ter is still rac­ing … at the front. Some­one re­ally ought to write a book about him …

Next month, 50 years and one month on, I’ll be at Man­feild: Cir­cuit Chris Amon, to be hon­est, with­out quite the same sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion as I had in 1967, but I still can’t stay away — or praise Toy­ota New Zealand enough, be­cause with­out it, I have to won­der if we’d have been able to re­tain the Grand Prix ti­tle: only Ma­cau and New Zealand are per­mit­ted to use ‘Grand Prix’ out­side of F1.

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