An example of one of the greatest Grand Prix cars of all time will be on the track at Manfeild Autocourse during the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting in January.
And it will be driven by a Grand Prix great who drove the car early in his career.
Former Ferrari Formula 1 driver Chris Amon will drive the Maserati 250F single-seater, which is now part of the world-renowned Southward collection at Paraparaumu.
Amon raced the 2.5-litre, six-cylinder, front-engined Grand Prix car when he was 17, a year before he headed to Europe to enjoy a long and illustrious international career.
The Maserati is one of 26 built and is the oldest of several former NZGP racers being showcased at the festival of motorsport-themed event.
The weekend peaks with the 35-lap Grand Prix for the Toyota Racing Series.
Manfeild chief executive Phil Abraham says the opportunity to see the Maserati in action is one motor racing fans won’t want to miss.
“The Maserati 250F is recognised as a landmark racing machine,” he says. “It was the archetypal (racing) car of the 1950s.
“This particular car has even more historic relevance to New Zealanders because it was driven by Chris Amon who, of course, is an international name with firm links with our region, and our circuit.”
Maserati introduced the 250F for the 1954 Formula 1 season and remained in use by customer teams until 1960, the last year of the 2.5-litre formula. By then it was outmoded by the rear-engined Cooper-Climaxes that sounded the death-knell of the front-engined GP racer.
After 1961, when F1 turned to 1.5-litre power, only one serious attempt to field a front-engined car was made – by the British tractor-manufacturing firm Ferguson, which used the car to showcase its four-wheel drive system.
The Maserati that Amon will drive in January was bought new from the factory by British team BRM as a test bed. It was the only 250F in which the oil tank was located beside the driver, and just one of two fitted with disc brakes.
It placed third in the Argentine Grand Prix of 1955 with Mike Hawthorne, and also provided another Englishman, Peter Collins, with a victory that year.
Amon drove it in the 1962 New Zealand summer season, highlights being a victory in an all-New Zealand race at Levin and a fighting 11th place in the GP, the last to be staged at Ardmore.
This car provided Amon with a taste for oversteer which never left him.
“The (1962) Grand Prix was remarkable for the rain, which began as soon as the race started,” he says.
“Cars were spinning all over the place. I remember at one point heading down the straight and seeing the front wheels had stopped (aquaplaning on the puddles).
“I loved that car. You could steer it on the throttle. I’d grown up reading about guys like Fangio (five-times world champion Juan Manuel Fangio) and it was from their era.
“It was that car that got me to Europe. Reg Parnell (who took Amon overseas) saw me drifting it at Wigram and told me later he’d never seen a 250F driven like that since Fangio retired.”