(Reuters) - Former Ferrari driver Chris Amon, often described as one of the best in Formula One never to have won a race, has died at the age of 73 after a battle with cancer, family of the New Zealand motorsport great said on Wednesday.
Amon was part of a well-known trio of New Zealand drivers competing in Formula One in the 1960s and early 70s alongside Bruce McLaren and Denny Hulme, who both enjoyed more successful careers in the sport’s premier series.
Bad luck was often cited as the key reason for his lack of Formula One victories, with former world champion Mario Andretti once famously saying: “If he became an undertaker, people would stop dying.”
Like McLaren, with whom he won the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race in a Ford GT40 50 years ago, he founded his own team but Chris Amon Racing failed to achieve much success.
“Chris battled cancer in recent years but retained not only a close interest in Formula One -- and his very wide range of favorite topics -- but also his wonderful sense of humor complete with infectious chuckle,” Amon’s family said in a statement.
McLaren chairman Ron Dennis praised Amon as he paid tribute to the driver.
“It was with profound sadness that I heard the news this morning that Chris Amon had passed away,” Dennis said in a statement.
“He nearly won a fair few, but always it seemed that his luck would run out before he saw the chequered flag,” Dennis recalled, terming Amon as “one of the fastest racing drivers”.
Williams also paid tribute to Amon who finished on the podium 11 times, also driving for March and Matra among 13 teams in a career that spanned 14 seasons.
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by John O'Brien