NZ racing legend has vivid memories of the P4 from the 1960s - including the time he left one burning in a ditch
Pretty much the last time Chris Amon saw the Ferrari sports racer pictured on this page was in 1967, when he and Scotland's Jackie Stewart finished second in an endurance race in Britain.
A month or so earlier, the New Zealander had abandoned an 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 endurance race.
Now, the Ferrari 330 P4 Amon last drove with Stewart 42 years ago goes up for sale at Ferrari's headquarters in Italy. A man from London house Sotheby's will handle the May 17 auction. Talk is chassis number 0858, one of only three P4s ever built, will fetch more than US$5 million ($9 million).
Four P4s made up Ferrari's sports racing team in 1967. Three were dedicated P4s, with chassis numbers 0856, 0858 and 0860. The fourth car was an earlier P3 model, updated to P4 specifications. The revisions included a stronger engine and a Ferrari-built gearbox to replace the P3's ZF unit.
The P4 was the final iteration of this particular series for Ferrari. It is regarded as one of the greatest sports-racing prototypes ever designed by Ferrari. The car for sale has been in the hands of its American owner for the past 38 years.
"To say this car is rare is an understatement," says Max Girardo, managing director of specialist automotive auction house RM Europe.
"There is tremendous excitement surrounding 0858's appearance at our auction.
"Its offering represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire one of the most important race cars ever created and a highly desirable piece of Scuderia Ferrari racing history."
Amon's association with the P4 and its 4.2-litre V12 engine began in the United States in December 1966, preparing for the Daytona race in February'67. He was one of four drivers Ferrari were using.
"It was a bit awe-inspiring for me because it was sort of my first connection with Ferrari and I was conscious of the fact that there were four of us going for two Formula One seats," he said from his home in Taupo.
"I wanted to show up reasonably well and fortunately I did."
The first thing Amon noticed about the P4 was how nimble it was. "It was a lovely car. I'd been driving Ford GT40s for a couple of years. They were a really nice car and I had done many, many miles in them.
"But the P4 was far more nimble. I noticed that as soon as I got into it. Compared with the Ford, it felt much more like a CanAm-type car than a long-distance car."
The P4 on paper developed around 360kW (480bhp) but was down considerably on torque compared with the 4.7- and 7-litre V8s used in the Mk I and Mk II GT40s.
"Some of that 480 horsepower in the P4 never left the stable," said Amon. "Oh, I think it was genuine but with the various oil-scavenging problems once the engine was in the chassis, I don't think they ever produced the power they got on the test bench."
But despite the power difference, the P4s cleaned out the GT40s at Daytona. "They were quite a lot quicker around the infield at Daytona, whereas the Fords had us at top speed on the banking."
Ferrari skipped the next North American race at Sebring and headed for hometown Italy, pairing Amon with Lorenzo Bandini in one of two P4s in a 1000km race at Monza.
Amon and Bandini won in P4 chassis number 0858. The Italian fans were ecstatic. Bandini died two weeks later in the Formula One Grand Prix at Monaco.
"I finished third at Monaco," said Amon. "I was running second but punctured after hitting debris from Lorenzo's car and had to pit. It was a terrible day, that."
Later that year Amon would partner Stewart in P4 0858 to finish second. But his most vivid recollection of the Ferrari 330 P4 is from the 1967 Le Mans, where Ferrari entered three cars. Amon didn't finish.
"I got a puncture in the right-rear tyre and the suspension upright was scraping on the track. 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. You have to remember that 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."