Jacky Ickx to honour Chris Amon at NZ Grand Prix
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Jacky Ickx, whose friendship with Chris Amon began when they were young Ferrari team-mates, has been announced as the guest speaker at a Manfeild celebration of the Kiwi's life.
Manfeild chief executive Julie Keane says it is fantastic the Belgian superstar of Formula One, sports car racing and endurance desert rallying is attending the Chris Amon Celebration, central to the New Zealand Grand Prix at the Feilding facility on February 11-12, 2017.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Kiwis to meet and hear personally from one of 'greats' of the Amon period of Formula One.
"We are delighted Jacky has accepted our invitation to recount those days for us at the Chris Amon dinner that wraps up the Grand Prix weekend saluting a special friend of Manfeild, a New Zealander admired and respected by his peers and enthusiasts worldwide."
The evening promises to be a highly entertaining all-out motorsport celebration, spanning past to the very present as it will combine the prize-giving for the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, the international launch pad for today's breed of young stars. It will also include an auction for the Kiwi Driver Fund, of which Chris Amon was patron.
Ticket details will be announced soon.
The Amon family is also pleased one of the great characters of Amon's international years will be with them for the Grand Prix weekend.
"We are delighted that Jacky will be attending the first New Zealand Grand Prix on the re-named Manfeild circuit," said Tish Amon.
"My husband and Jacky were team mates at Ferrari in 1968 and for us it is an honour that one of Chris' contemporaries is travelling so far to join us for this special event."
Ickx's brilliant and incredibly diverse career truly kicked off when he joined Amon at Ferrari in 1968.
The drivers' pathways were eerily similar. Both came in very young, had been plucked from near obscurity and were fast-tracked to the best teams of the day.
"Actually, Chris had at least experienced a high-powered single seater car in New Zealand before he went abroad," Mrs Keane noted.
"Ferrari provided Jacky, at age 23, with his first full Formula One racing season. He'd only started seriously driving top formula cars a year prior."
The 71-year-old has recounted since that he regarded Amon as a hero and, though the 1968 championship outcome favoured the Belgian over the Kiwi, the freshman never doubted who was the true star that year.
"Jacky Ickx utterly admired Amon's driving. In a recent interview on this subject, he said that the only way to make a true comparison of drivers is if they are in the same car - in 1968 he knew Chris was better than he was.
"That's quite a salute from a man whose accomplishments now place him at the very pinnacle of the sport."
Ickx left the Prancing Horse after 1968 for Brabham - also winning that year, as Amon had three years before - the Le Mans 24-Hours sports car race, also in a Ford GT40, with an even more fraught finish, the closest in history.
He took the endurance race title on five other occasions for Ford and Porsche - a record finally bettered in 2005 - earning him the nickname "Monsieur Mans".
Ickx returned to Ferrari in 1970, when Amon made his fateful decision to seek better horsepower elsewhere. A poor call; Ickx stayed four more seasons and enjoyed successes that could well have been the New Zealander's, though a world title also eluded him.
Nonetheless Ickx achieved 25 podium finishes in Formula One, including eight wins, and also enjoyed considerable success in rallies, touring car and off-road races, including a 1983 Paris to Dakar win.
Ickx still occasionally demonstrates favourite old race cars and also serves as a brand ambassador for Volkswagen.
Manfeild's guest will also be involved with other activities at Manfeild: Circuit Chris Amon during race weekend but the dinner will provide best opportunity to hear his stories, Mrs Keane said.
"Our very successful 'dinner with Damon' back in 2011, when we hosted the 1996 F1 world champion, and our deep desire to give Chris Amon fans the first opportunity, since his passing, to honour him at Manfeild - a place he helped design and was so involved with - was the impetus for the dinner.
"This will be a big event and we now ask New Zealand motorsport supporters to do their bit by coming to the Grand Prix and joining us on the night to celebrate Chris and his legacy."