By the 1960s, French racing pedigree was due a renewal after the successes of Bugatti, Talbot-Lago and Gordini in previous decades. Matra (Mécanique Aviation TRAction), known better for its aeronautics and weapons systems, entered the motorsport fray in earnest when Jean-Pierre Beltoise secured a handsome victory against all the Formula 3 ‘heavy-weights’ at Reims in 1965. Just four years later, Matra was to become the first French marque to win the Formula 1 World Constructors’ Championship.
Bernard Boyer’s bulbous ‘Coke-bottle’ Matra MS-80 – nicknamed due to the fuel tanks being located alongside the cockpit – was the fourth Formula 1 car to come out of the French aerospace company under the authority of Jean-Luc Lagardère, the boss of Matra Sport and an accomplished engineer himself. It was one of the first Formula 1 cars to incorporate wings for downforce to increase high-speed tyre grip. Two MS-80s only were built at Matra Sport’s headquarters at Vélizy-Villacoublay in the south-western suburbs of Paris in 1969: MS 80-01 now resides in the Musée Espaces Automobiles Matra in Romorantin-Lanthenay, a distance south of Paris; Matra MS80-02 is currently presented here.
With the help of Elf (the oil company) and Ford, Ken Tyrrell had achieved his dream of moving from Formula 2 into Formula 1 in 1968. That year he took up the position of Team Principal for Matra International having previously struck up a cordial relationship with Lagardère. That combination — plus the fact that Ken Tyrrell had already secured for his stable the trump card that was Jackie Stewart— facilitated the Tyrrell Team securing the Matra chassis with which they raced the following year.
Jackie Stewart won a total of six Grands Prix in 1969, five in the MS-80 and one in the Matra MS-10 (‘precursor’ to the MS-80). He enjoyed a prestigious victory at Silverstone with an epic battle against Jochen Rindt. And then at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Jackie led for many laps but only beat Rindt’s Lotus 49B to the flag by less than a car’s length; that victory, however, ensured his first world drivers’ championship, with three races of the season to spare.
Driven by Sir Jackie Stewart (knighted 2001) – Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion, 1969
[3-times World Drivers’ Champion, also 1971, 1973]
Displayed courtesy of owner, Bruno Fabre, from Monday 10th June to Sunday 16th June 2019.