Man­feild Grand Prix salutes Chris Amon

The Tribune (NZ) - - MONTHLY EVENTS CALENDAR INSIDE -

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.

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