A Ferrari recipe for disaster
- Mattijs Diepraam, Felix Muelas
- 8W May 1999 issue, with November 2005 input by Allan McCall
- Chris Amon - The unluckiest hero, by Tom Prankerd
1973 Monaco GP
Adjacent to Chris Amon in the catalogue of Grand Prix drivers you will find Michele Alboreto. While the Italian did win a handful of races and the New Zealander missed out on outright World Championship Grand Prix success, the similarities between Amon and Alboreto are striking. As a young driver, both attracted attention with spirited drives in lesser cars, to be picked up by Ferrari in a time the Scuderia were very close but not quite there. When it mattered, both were hampered by bad luck and with a fast upstart joining the team - in Amon's case Jacky Ickx, in Alboreto's case Gerhard Berger - their careers took a worrying dive. The autumns of their careers also show remarkable parallels, the two seemingly happy to linger in F1 just for the sake of it, in the end selling out to the abysmal efforts of Tecno and Scuderia Italia.
When Tecno signed Amon their timing was perfect, since Chris was a free agent because of a curious cock-up between him and his intended stable for 1973. Originally, Amon had planned to drive for his 1970 employers again, returning to March after Matra had withdrawn from Grand Prix racing at the end of 1972. But shockingly, Amon was fired before a wheel had turned. An altercation with the March principles led to the separation, and Chris Amon, still a big name in F1, saw himself replaced by Jean-Pierre Jarier. The sacking proved fatal for Amon's career in the long term, the New Zealander now up for grabs for the few remaining outfits with an unfinished driver line-up. In fact, Amon had nowhere to go but to the sophomore Tecno crew.
For the little Italian team, which had suffered a disastrous 1972 debut season with the PA123, switching between Bell and Galli, signing Amon was a major coup. Hopefully, the Kiwi's experience would take the team forward and Tecno could leap ahead on the grid to a position they had been familiar with in F2 and F3 for past years.
For this, Tecno's Luciano Pederzani had put his faith into another PA123 with chassis number 006. This Allan McCall-penned car, a proper monocoque, was a completely different design to the 1972 PA123s (numbers 001, 002 and 005), even though the similar type designation would tell you otherwise. McCall had been contacted by Pederzani late 1972, as a countermove to Martini's request consortium of independent designers led by Fowell and Alan Philips to design the Tecno car for 1973. Insulted, Pederzani called McCall to the Bologna factory where he and Swiss mechanic Eddie Wiess designed and built the new car in just one month. The plan was to go it alone with a new sponsor while the drinks company was still waiting for the British-designed car to be finished. McCall then managed to persuade Amon to test the Italian car, and when push came to shove Martini logos still appeared on the car when it made its debut after the early-season overseas events were skipped.
McCall having already left, Tecno finally debuted the PA123-006 in Belgium, Amon struggling on to score the team's only point in history. It was to prove Luciano Pederzani's point too, as the team stayed away to await the arrival of 'the other car' which then only managed to quicken the demise of the team. The alternative Tecno chassis was popularly called the Goral, after the Fowell and Philips-led consortium, but mostly referred to as E731. It distinguished itself by its exceptionally low construction and a cramped cockpit. When Fowell's brainchild was finally ready to race at the British GP, Amon only practiced the monster, as it proved completely hopeless. After another no-show in Germany, the Tecno chapter finally closed in Austria, the team eventually packing it in after a disastrous Austrian practice which left Amon with no engine to run the race with! The only good thing to come out of it was that Martini & Rosso was able to spend their money better, moving camp to Brabham.
All PA123s and the E731 were powered by Tecno's own F12, an awkward flat 12-cylinder engine which was claimed - and rather optimistically so - to have an output of 460bhp, revving at 11,000rpm and linked to a Hewland DG400 'box.
In reality, it made life extremely complicated for a team whose roots lay in their lower-category production facility rolling out simple off-the-shelf racing machines. Sticking a DFV in the back and going for a neat little kart-like chassis would have been a choice closer to the team's heart, which was formed in karts: the company's original name was Tecnokart, which was erected in 1962 by Luciano and Gianfranco Pederzani as the offshoot of a hydraulic pump manufacturer. Effectively, its karting roots were found in its successful F3 designs, clearly based on kart-inspired lines, while its F2 cars were also as controllable and 'chuckable' as karts. On them, Tecno soon based a production empire, every driver wanting to mean business in F2 or F3 around 1970 knocking on Tecno's door. Clay Regazzoni even won the 1970 F2 championship in one of the Pederzani cars.
But as March and Martini - the chassis manufacturer, not the sponsoring vermouth company! - have shown it's hard to combine a production philosophy with an all-out F1 attempt, even with the use of customer Cosworths. Which was a shame, as Tecno virtually disappeared from F3 and F2 in the early seventies because of founder Luciano Pederzani concentrating on F1. The project was heavily inspired by Ferrari, but only romantically so, Pederzani thus only selecting Ferrari folklore - such as building your own engine and going for a tubular frame and riveted-on aluminium skins - as the core from which he wanted to expand his team. Back then, going the self-built engine route had enough objections, as the examples of 1972 showed: Ferrari itself were hardly there and about to hit rock-bottom in 1973, BRM was going down the tubes non-stop no matter what, and Matra even pulled the plug on its V12 and F1 altogether - as, ironically, Chris Amon had to experience from close-by, even though he stuck the French engine on pole in its home race in 1972. So, short of the Martini sponsorship, all the bad omens were there for the Tecno project.
And so it inevitably failed.
For Chris Amon in 1973 there remained a couple of guest drives in a third works Tyrrell at the two season-closing North American GPs, a double header which would become familiar to Amon in the remaining years of his waning F1 career. These were spent with his ill-fated Amon F101, also designed by Gordon Fowell (one wonders how he could have kept faith with Fowell after the Goral disaster) and a second BRM in an arrangement similar to the No.29 Tyrrell drive at the end of 1973, after which a short-lived re-emergence followed with Mo Nunn's neat MN175.
This was before a final season with Ensign saw several worrying car failures. At the restart after Niki Lauda's fiery accident at the 'Ring, Chris decided he had had enough and quit the team, and in the middle of yet another guest-drive arrangement, this time with the unpopular Wolf-Williams effort, a heavy practice accident finally put paid to Amon's F1 ambitions. His eyes were opened: what was he doing risking his life for 26th place on the grid? He wisely quit there and then and after a short period in CanAm went back to New Zealand to manage the family farm.
Reader's Why by Gerald Swan
The Tecno was to be yet another disaster in the career of Chris Amon, the man often describes as the best driver never to win a Grand Prix. This was probably an understatement, he was almost certainly one of the great talents in Formula 1.
Chris was born on the 20th July 1943 in Bulls in the North Island of New Zealand, the son of a prosperous sheep farmer Ngaio Amon who bought his son an old 1.5 litre Cooper Climax in 1960. He then moved onto an old Maserati 250F until in 1963 he was to race a 2.5 litre Cooper Climax in the Tasman championship. Here he was seen by Reg Parnell who, impressed by Amon's ability, was to put him in a Lola Climax F1 at only 19 years old. Despite driving a series of uncompetitive cars and his legendary bad luck (he signed for McLaren in 1966 but Bruce could only field one car for himself) he was signed by Ferrari in 1967. Here he showed his natural speed but time and again he was robbed of victory. Three second places were the best he could manage in his entire Grand Prix career although he started from the front row no less than 19 times.
His ability to be in the wrong team at the wrong time was shown when he tested the new Ferrari at the end of the 1969 season and decided it would be uncompetitive and instead signed for the fledgling March team for 1970. March were to have a difficult baptism, although Chris would win the non-championship International Trophy at Silverstone, whilst the Ferrari was to prove in Ickx's hands to be an excellent car (and would of course lead to the championship-winning car that Lauda was to drive in the mid seventies).
Frustrated at his lack of success Amon joined Matra at the end of 1970, needless to say his luck was still awful. Again he was to win a non-championship F1 race but World Championship success still eluded him. He was to lead the French GP at Clermont-Ferrand by miles until a puncture intervened and he finished third. Things really went from bad to worse when he joined Tecno in 1973 whose cars were simply awful. Chris struggled on in 1974 with an ill-fated attempt at a self-built chassis and some promising runs in an underpowered BRM. In 1975 he had some excellent runs in Mo Nunn's tiny Ensign team with whom he continued until mid 1976. His final GP was Mosport in 1976 when his uncompetitive Wolf-Williams was involved in an accident with another car. In 1977 he retired to his family farm in New Zealand with his wife and children.
The Pederzani brothers of Bologna in Italy, who had made their name with a succession of highly successful racing karts, founded the Tecno team. They moved into Formula 3 and then Formula 2 with a number of distinctive short-wheelbase cars that were driven by such notable names as Ronnie Peterson, François Cevert and Clay Regazzoni. In 1971 they decided to embark upon a F1 project, they developed a flat-12 boxer engine not dissimilar to Ferrari's. After several delays the Martini and Rossi sponsored Tipo PA123 T001 debuted at the Belgian GP at Nivelles-Baulers. The chassis was an aluminium monocoque with a tubular frame with riveted aluminium stress skins. The engine was stressed and mounted rigidly to the tub, whilst the original side mounted radiators did not work so a large wide radiator was mounted at the front. The team drivers were Italian Nanni Galli and Britain's Derek Bell. A series of near disastrous races followed, accidents, engine failures and chassis breakages proving F1 was very hard indeed. A number of improvements were made during the season including a suspension redesign by Ron Tauranac.
By the start of 1973 Alan McCall (designer of the F2 Tui) was commissioned to design a new chassis by Luciano Pederzani, whilst, following complaints by Amon to Martini and Rossi, the Goral consultancy (consisting of engineer Gordon Fowell and enthusiast Alan Phillips) were also requested to design a chassis. The McCall Tecno PA123-T006 was tested by Amon at Misano, but McCall departed after a disagreement with Luciano Pederzani and Amon whilst happy with the engine did not like the chassis. The car debuted at the Belgian GP at Zolder; it had triangular monocoque tub, a fenced twin entry bluff nose, tubular rocker arm front suspension and wishbones at the rear. The car looked unfinished and the engine was a test hack, despite this an exhausted Amon (suffering from an overheated cockpit) wrestled the car home 6th for Tecno's first championship point. At Monaco where the car is pictured Amon qualified 12th (1min 29.3sec) and retired on lap 23 with numerous problems after running as high as 7th.
Tecno missed the next two GPs awaiting completion of the Goral chassis. Thus for Silverstone Amon had two chassis to choose from.Sadly neither was much good. He couldn't even fit properly into the cockpit of the Goral tub and retired the McCall chassis with fuel pressure problems. Similar problems afflicted him in Holland, whilst in Austria both cars arrived (the Goral chassis on a trailer towed by Fowell's road car). Although he qualified (barely) Amon had had enough and went home in disgust; this was to be the final appearance of Tecno in F1.