Manfeild Grand Prix salutes Chris Amon
Motor-racing greatness is celebrated at the 2017 New Zealand Grand Prix, at Manfeild on February 11-12.
A national event of high overseas’ interest, the 35-lap chase for the country’s most prized motorsport trophy by Castrol Toyota Racing Series, highlights an action-packed weekend. The big race also cements a historic link with a local identity whose memory is being honoured. Chris Amon, after whom the 3km Manfeild track is now named, was the local boy who made his Formula 1 debut at 19 then spent 14 years at the highest level, becoming a Ferrari favourite and also delivering Ford’s cherished Le Mans’ ‘66 victory.
Home to Bulls in 1976 to run his parents’ farm, triggered another track-linked career, developing Toyota road cars at Manfeild, the track whose design he also influenced. The track, in the wake of our hero’s passing on August 3 2016, is now known as Circuit Chris Amon.
The 2017 NZGP is our first without Chris but his presence continues with the Chris Amon Trophy, the series’ spirit and the tenor of the weekend. This GP salutes a very special Kiwi. The Amon family will be honoured guests – and some of his special cars, too – and, on the night of February 12 at Manfeild Stadium, a dinner blending a prize-giving for Amon’s beloved TRS highlighted by hearing from Amon’s team-mate at Ferrari in 1968, the great Jacky Ickx.
How apt the first race of this TRS championship should be won by Christchurch’s Marcus Armstrong. As a Ferrari Academy elite driver, he is the first Kiwi with the Italian marque’s backing since Amon.
‘‘Both days are fully packed, with practice and qualifying all Saturday morning then racing all Saturday afternoon into the early evening – a good chance for a family picnic,’’ says Manfeild chief executive, Julie Keane. ‘‘Sunday morning starts nice and early and there are four more races after the signature event. We’re planning a lot of entertainment for those who mightn’t want to spend every minute watching track action. This is a significant event for our region and we urge the community to get behind it. It’s going to be a great weekend.’’
Details of the NZGP and the dinner are on www.manfeild.co.nz.
Chris Amon, left, with team mate Jacky Ickx and Swiss driver Jo Siffert.