ENGINES: MATRA SPORTS

Name: Matra Sports

Engins Mecanique-Aviation-Traction (Matra) was mainly a French aerospace concern which took over the Rene Bonnet racing car company in 1962. At the time Rene Bonnet was building a sportscar called the Djet and Matra took this over. Sales were slow and in October 1964 it was decided by one of Matra's directors, Jean-Luc Lagardere, that the company should use motor sport to advertise its products. In October 1964 he established Matra Sports. Initially Matra used Cosworth and BRM engines but funding from Elf in 1967 enabled Matra to begin work on the construction of a 3-liter V12 engine for Formula 1. An engine department was established at Velizy under former Simca engineer Georges Martin. The V12 was ready in time for Monaco in the 1968 season and one of the engines was fitted into a Matra MS11 chassis for Jean-Pierre Beltoise. In its third race the car finished second in Holland but the company enjoyed much more success as a chassis-builder, Tyrrell's Jackie Stewart finishing second in the World Championship in a Cosworth-powered Matra chassis. The following year he won the World Championship and even the Matra Sports team used Cosworth engines while the V12 began a successful sportscar career.

At the end of 1969, however, Matra's automotive division was sold to Chrysler-Simca and it was decided that development on the F1 engine would go ahead. When Matra insisted that Tyrrell use the engine, the British team switched to March and so in 1970 Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo raced a pair of Matra-Simca MS120s. They scored 23 points, including several podium finishes. For 1971 Chris Amon was hired to replace Pescarolo and the New Zealander won the non-championship Argentine GP. The rest of the year was, however, rather frustrating and in 1972 Beltoise moved to BRM and Matra ran just one car for Amon. That year Matra sportscars finished 1-2 at Le Mans with Pescarolo sharing victory with Graham Hill. At the end of 1972 Matra withdrew from F1 and in 1973 and 1974 concentrated on sportscar racing with the V12. Pescarolo and Gerard Larrousse won at Le Mans 24 Hours in both years and took the World Championship for Makes.

At the end of 1974 Matra-Simca withdrew from racing. In 1975 the Matra V12 engines were supplied to Shadow and raced by Jean-Pierre Jarier in two events but the team could not afford to fund the development program and gave up the idea. The new Ligier team used the engines the following year and Jacques Laffite scored 20 points, including three podium finishes. In 1977 Laffite finally gave Matra its first F1 victory at the Swedish GP. By the end of 1978, however, the engine was becoming less and less competitive. Matra-Simca had been taken over by Peugeot and so in 1979 Ligier switched to Cosworth engines.

It was not quite the end of the Matra V12 story, however, as in mid-1980 Peugeot decided to revive the Talbot name and concluded that Grand Prix racing was the best way to do it. Guy Ligier sold part of his team to Talbot but the plan to use BMW turbo engines failed and so the Matra V12 engine program was revived. The Ligier-Matra JS17 package was quite competitive in 1981 and Laffite won twice and finished fourth in the World Championship. In 1982 the car were not quick enough and, with having decided to merge Talbot into the main Peugeot company, it was decided that the F1 program served no purpose and it was terminated.

Print