The last time Chris Amon saw the Ferrari sports racer pictured here was in 1967, when he and Scotland’s (Sir) Jackie Stewart drove it into second place in an endurance race in Britain.
A month or so earlier, the New Zealander had abandoned an almost identical car at Le Mans. He left it on fire in a ditch, surrounded by French policemen. It was midnight and Amon was out of the classic 24-hour race.
Now, the Ferrari 330 P4 Amon last drove with Stewart 46 years ago is being restored in Britain. Chassis number 0858, one of only three P4s ever built, will be prepared for historic race meetings.
Overseeing the project is 82-year-old Briton David Piper, a former Formula One driver perhaps better known for the crash in which he lost a leg as a stunt driver filming the 1971 movie Le Mans, starring Steve McQueen.
Four P4s and their 4.2-litre V12 engines made up Ferrari’s sports racing team in 1967 – three dedicated P4s and earlier P3 model, updated to P4 specifications and called the P3/4.
Amon first drove the P4 in the United States, preparing for the 1967 Daytona race. But his most vivid recollection of the racer is from Le Mans the same year.
Ferrari entered four cars in the French classic – three P4s and the P3/4 – for second and third placings behind the winning Ford GT40. Amon drove the P3/4 but retired on the 105th lap.
“I got a puncture in the right-rear tyre and the suspension upright was scraping on the track,” he said.
“There were sparks everywhere. I had about seven miles [11.2km] or so to go before I could pit and change tyres.
“Back then there was a toolbox in the cars, so I decided to stop and change the tyre myself. We carried a smaller get-home tyre for emergencies.
“I got the torch out of the toolbox to see what I was doing in the dark, but the torch wouldn’t work.
“So I took the hammer I needed to loosen the wheel hub and waited for the headlights of the other cars to give me some light.
“It was on the Mulsanne Straight. The cars were doing around 190-200mph [307-325km/h] going past me, so I didn’t have much time to see what I was doing.
“I took a swing at the wheel as a car flashed past but the head of the hammer flew off. I got back in the P4 and drove off.
“It caught fire from the sparks soon after and I jumped out and watched it eventually drift off the track and into a ditch.
“Gendarmes ran to it and flew into a panic because they couldn’t see the driver.
“They nearly died when I walked up and tapped one of them on the shoulder.”