The Manfeild circuit in the Manawatu region of New Zealand's North Island has been renamed to honour one of the country's greatest drivers, Chris Amon, who was inextricably linked to the track throughout its history.
In a ceremony attended by his family today, the track was officially renamed 'Manfeild: Circuit Chris Amon', in memory of the former Formula One racer, who died aged 73 after a battle with cancer in August.
Regarded as one of the greatest drivers never to win a championship Grand Prix, Amon famously went on to take victory in the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours alongside another Kiwi legend, Bruce McLaren. He would later go on to help design the circuit at Manfeild - close to his home town of Bulls - with its signature banked corners being added at his suggestion.
Amon's widow Tish said the family was "extremely honoured Manfeild is recognising Chris in this way."
The renaming proposal has been months in the making and had progressed with wholehearted support from Manfeild Park Trust and supporters, including the Manawatu Car Club. Manfeild chief executive Julie Keane revealed that discussions about naming the track in his honour had actually started prior to the famously modest driver's death. The one sadness was that circumstance precluded Mr Amon being told what was in the wind.
"Ironically, we had held off talking to Chris because he was so famously modest a man we knew we'd have to mount an especially persuasive argument to win his acceptance. Tragically, he was lost to us just before this was to happen," said Mrs Keane.
"We determined to proceed so long as we had the support of the Amon family and were delighted when Tish instantly gave her blessing."
"He would be humbled the circuit is to carry his name. He gained enjoyment both behind the wheel and as a spectator.
"Chris was passionate about the ongoing development of Manfeild and it becoming the home of the New Zealand Grand Prix."
Gordon Smith, chairman of Manfeild Park Trust, said the renaming had been motivated "wholly by desire to honour an emotional connection with a man who meant so much to us all."
He added: "Chris was a key figure in the Manfeild story. That is why we say 'with us from the start. With us always.' He was instrumental in our track's design, he spent countless hours here developing Toyota road cars for New Zealand conditions and he was such a powerful figure in Toyota New Zealand's motorsport programmes, especially the Toyota Racing Series that currently contests NZGP at our venue.
"Chris was also a steadfast friend of Manfeild –he loved the track and never failed to champion its qualities, often on our behalf.
"We were deeply honoured when Tish and the children agreed to our request to rename the circuit in his memory."
James and Georgie Amon have joined a working group to create a special celebration of their father's life and connection to the circuit, which will take place during February's visit of the Toyota Racing Series for the annual New Zealand Grand Prix.
Also attending the ceremony Bruce Wilson, who together with son Rolf recently published a book documenting Wilson snr's time as a mechanic for Amon during his early competition years.
Manfeild is the second New Zealand circuit to honour local racing royalty, after the Taupo circuit was renamed Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park last year.
All pictures courtesy Manfeild: Circuit Chris Amon