For 1969 MATRA CEO Jean-Luc Lagardère took a gamble to try and win the 1969 Drivers and Manufacturers Championships by suspending the entry of MATRA V12 powered cars by the works MATRA team and putting all of the teams efforts behind Ken Tyrrells Ford DFV powered MATRA International team cars.
Even with all the focus being on the MATRA International Team cars the 1969 MS80 was not ready for the start of the season, fortunately the old Ford Powered MATRA MS10 was still good enough for Jackie Stewart to win the championship opening South African Grand Prix.
The MS80 made it’s public debut at the non Championship Race of Champions from the Lotus 49 of Graham Hill. At the Spanish Grand prix run around the streets of Barcelona at Montjuich Park Stewart won again starting from starting from forth on the grid after the faster Lotus 49’s of Rindt and Hill retired at the same spot a few laps apart as a result of crashes caused by wing failures, and Chris Amon who lead Stewart by over 30 seconds retired with a seized motor after half distance.
At Monaco Stewart retired but then went on to win in Holland, France, backed up by team mate Jean Pierre Beltoise who finished second and Great Britain. In the German Grand Prix Stewart finished second to Jacky Ickx driving a Brabham before winning the Itallian Grand Prix at Monza.
Stewart retired from both the Canadian and US Grand Prix by which time Ickx who won in Canada was too far back in the points standings to catch the Scot. Stewart finished 4th in Mexico to round out the season in which he won his first drivers Championship and MATRA International their only World Manufacturers title.
Only two MS80’s were completed for the 1969 season, a Ford Cosworth all wheel drive MS84 was also built but this featured MS80 suspension and a unique space frame chassis and was used originally as a spare car to replace the older MATRA MS10’s.
It is a credit to the determination of MATRA CEO Jean-Luc Lagardère to win both drivers and manufacturers championships that he sanctioned the building of the MS80 which featured fuel tanks that were integral to the monocoque that was reinforced inside by a number of transverse bulkheads, effectively splitting the fuel tank in many small interconnected cells.
It had been announced well before 1969 that for 1970 rubber bag fuel tanks would be mandated that precluded the use of many interconnected fuel cells, so effectively the MS80 was restricted to being a one season challenger at the end of which it was outlawed.
At the end of 1969 Stewart and Tyrrell decided that they wanted to use the Ford Cosworth DFV in 1970 and MATRA who had been taken over by French manufacturer Simca, a French Chrysler subsidiary, were adamant they wanted to return to V12 power for 1970. To date the MATRA MS80 remains the only car built in France to win the World manufacturers championship. Note: the Renault’s driven by Fernando Aonso to Drivers and Manufacturers Championship success in 2005 and 2006 were built in Enstone, UK in the same premises that are now home to the Lotus F1 Team.
Chassis #MS80/3 seen in today’s photographs was built up from an unused spare tub for owner/driver Ray Maydon, who is seen driving the car at a Silverstone Classic test day top and bottom and at a Mallory Park test day in the middle.
Thanks for joining me on this “French Built Championship Winner” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !