CONSTRUCTORS: MATRA SPORTS SARL
Name: Matra Sports SARL
Before the Second World War, French aviation engineer Marcel Chassagny established the CAPRA aeronautical engineering company. In 1942 he changed the name to Engins Mecanique Aviation-Traction (MATRA) and after the war won many defense contracts from the French government. In the 1950s Chassagny helped to fund the activities of a friend Rene Bonnet, who, with his partner Charles Deutsch, was building minor formula racing cars and sportscars from premises in Champigny . They used the name Deutsch-Bonnet - or DB - and used Panhard engines.
The DB partnership broke up in 1961 but Bonnet continued to build cars with Renault engines under the name Rene Bonnet Djet and in 1962 it folded. The assets of the company were bought by Matra and the Djet sportscar became a Matra Djet. Sales were slow and Chassagny concluded that he needed to use motor sport to advertise his products. In October 1964 he set one of his young managers Jean-Luc Lagardere to work to establish Matra Sports, as a satellite of the main Matra company.
Paul Carillo designed the first Matra F3 car in 1965, using an old Rene Bonnet design and, fitted with Cosworth engines, the cars debuted at Monaco in the hands of Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Eric Offenstadt. Soon afterwards Jean-Pierre Beltoise joined the team and he scored the company's first win at Reims in July. Beltoise and Jaussaud finished 1-2 in the French F3 championship that year. In addition to the F3 project Matra Sports ran a sportscar program with the Djet 5, driven by Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo. In addition another sportscar - designated MS3 - was built for the Tour de France.
In 1966 Matra entered F2 with BRM-engined MS5 chassis for Beltoise and Jo Schlesser. In addition Ken Tyrrell entered similar cars under the Matra International banner for Jackie Stewart and Jacky Ickx. In August Beltoise won the F2 class in the German GP at the Nurburgring.
In F3 Matra signed Jaussaud and Pescarolo were joined by Johnny Servoz-Gavin and while Pescarolo won at Montlhery, Magny-Cours, Mont Ventoux and at the hillclimb in Faucille and Beltoise won Monaco, it was the young Servoz-Gavin who took the French F3 title with a string of victories. Ken Tyrrell also ran an F3 car for John Fenning and he won at Reims.
In January 1967 Lagardere met Elf boss Jean Prada at Monaco and it was agreed that Elf would finance the construction of a Matra 3-liter V12 F1 engine, to be designed by former Simca engineer Georges Martin at premises in Velizy. That year Matra Sport ran Beltoise and Servoz-Gavin in F2 in Cosworth-engined MS5s (later to be replaced by the MS7). Tyrrell continued with Ickx and Stewart and Ickx won races at Crystal Palace, Zandvoort and at Vallelunga. Stewart won Karlskoga, Enna and Albi while the factory team won only French national events. Ickx won the European F2 title with Beltoise third.
There was more success in F3 with Beltoise winning the Temporada F3 series in South America and Jaussaud and Pescarolo being joined by Roby Weber in the French series. There were also privateer cars for Ecurie Crio (Philippe Vidal and Robert Challoy) and Mas du Clos Racing (Jean-Claude Guenard).
The sportscar program began with a disaster when Weber crashed a new MS630 (MS8) on the Le Mans test weekend and was killed but Pescarolo won races at Magny-Cours and Montlhery and youngster Jimmy Mieusset did well in hillclimb events.
The Matra V12 engine was ready for the 1968 F1 season and Matra entered Beltoise in a Matra-engined MS11 while Tyrrell ran Stewart in a Ford-engined MS10. Servoz-Gavin drove occasionally for Tyrrell and Pescarolo had a run in the works cars. Beltoise finished second in Holland and Servoz-Gavin did likewise in Italy. Stewart won three races and finished second in the World Championship. Beltoise won the European F2 Championship with Pescarolo finishing runner-up and in French F3 Jabouille ran a private Matra to finish second to Francois Cevert.
Matra's main thrust of development that year was in sportscar racing with the MS630M. This won six events in the hands of Mieusset and Servoz-Gavin.
In 1969 Matra supplied chassis to Tyrrell's Matra International which ran with Cosworth engines for Stewart and Beltoise. The Scotsman won six races and the World Championship while Beltoise was fifth. Matra won the Constructors' title. In F2 Beltoise, Pescarolo, Stewart and Servoz-Gavin all raced MS7s and Servoz-Gavin won the series. The Formula 3 effort had faded away but the Matra V12-powered sportscars proved to be very successful despite the new Robert Choulet-designed 640 being destroyed by Pescarolo at the Le Mans test day. The team used updated 630s, known as 630/650s but it was not until the end of the year that Beltoise and Pescarolo won the 1000kms of Paris, leading home Rodriguez and Redman in a similar car.
At the end of that year Matra's automotive division was sold to Chrysler France and from then on the cars became known as Matra-Simcas.
Matra's insistence on using the V12 in F1 meant that Tyrrell became a March customer in 1970 before beginning work on its own F1 car, while Beltoise and Pescarolo raced the V12-engined MS120s. They won a few hillclimbs but in F1 racing the only decent results were two third places for Beltoise at Spa and Monza and a third for Pescarolo at Monaco.
The sportscar program saw the two drivers winning the Buenos Aires 1000 in January but the new Matra 650 was not very successful until September when Beltoise, Patrick Depailler and Jean Todt teamed up to win the Tour de France ahead of Pescarolo, Jabouille and Johnny Rives. At the end of the year Jack Brabham and Francois Cevert used a 660 to win the Paris 1000km.
The 1971 season saw the F1 team running Chris Amon and Beltoise with Amon winning the non-championship Argentine GP in January in an MS120. Apart from that the New Zealander scored only one podium finish, in Spain. The sportscar program featured the MS660 which won the Tour de France with Gerard Larrousse and Johnny Rives but was otherwise very disappointing.
Chris Amon stayed on for 1972 but the team was winding down and ran only one car. Amon finished third in France and the team disappeared at the end of the year.
The development of the sportscars continued in 1973 with the workshops moving from Velizy to Le Castellet where Bernard Boyer and Gerard Ducarouge developed the MS670. The engine department remained at Velizy under Martin and Jean-Francois Robin.
Pescarolo and Gerard Larrousse won at Le Mans, Vallelunga (with Cevert), Dijon, Austria and at Watkins Glen to give Matra the sportscar constructors' title. Both Pescarolo and Larrousse were awarded the Legion d'Honneur for their exploits.
In 1974 with sponsorship from Gitanes, Matra dominated sportscars after Ferrari withdrew and Pescarolo and Larrousse won a second Le Mans victory and Matra took a second constructors' title with nine wins in 10 races. At the end of the year the company announced it was quitting the sport and Ducarouge took most of the Matra staff with him to the new Ligier team, which took over the Matra V12 engines.