Jackie Stewart jumps his Ken Tyrrell ‘Equipe Matra International’ MS80 Ford during the German Grand Prix on August 3 1969…
In a marvellous GP season Jackie triumphed over friends and rivals Jochen Rindt, Lotus 49, Jacky Ickx and Piers Courages’s Brabham BT26’s, the Kiwi McLaren twins Hulme and McLaren and Chris Amons fast but unreliable Ferrari.
Matra had raced in the the ‘junior’ F3 and F2 formulae as well as in endurance racing since 1965. From the very start the single-seaters used sophisticated monocoque chassis with technology borrowed from Matra’s aerospace arm in having its fuel contained directly in box section pontoons which were sealed with a polymer resin.
The competition used bag tanks, the advantage of the Matra approach was that that each pontoon had lateral bulkheads greatly improving both the strength and torsional rigidity of the tubs. Results weren’t initially great but soon the French crowd had blue coloured cars to cheer, Jean Pierre Beltoise taking a notable first win at Reims.
Jabby Crombac, the famed French racing journalist introduced Matra boss Jean Luc Lagardere to Ken Tyrrell. After Jackie Stewart test drove a modified F3 Matra fitted with a 1 litre BRM F2 engine and was blown away with its traction, he raced the cars in 1966, the year Jack Brabham swept the board in F2 with his Honda powered cars.
For 1967, the new 1.6 litre F2 formula commenced. Matra Ford FVA powered cars won many races driven by Stewart, Jacky Ickx in the other Tyrrell entered car and the works Matras driven by JPB, Henri Pescarolo and ‘Johnny’ Servoz Gavin. Ickx won the title driving both MS5 and the later MS7 chassis.
Matra’s Grand Prix program was the result of a happy confluence of events… Race success meant it was ready and keen to step up and in reality it could afford to do so from its own group resources. The French government had just created a state owned oil company ‘Essence et Lubrificants Francaise’ or ELF. The marketing decision was taken that motor racing sponsorship and success would be the best way to promote the company rather than traditional mass media advertising. Further, the French Government, aware of Matra’s success to date saw GP racing success via Matra as a means of restoring French national prestige.
And so Elf agreed to support Matra (and an amazingly successful driver support program over the decades to come), the government kicked in about £800,000. Doug Nye wryly noted that the nominated engineer, former Simca technician Georges Martin saw a racing car for the first time at that years 1967 London Racing Car Show! He proved to be a fast learner mind you!
Over at Ockham in Surrey Ken Tyrrell was evolving his own Grand Prix Racing plans which in essence evolved around several factors. His own team infrastructure, based at his timber yard were ‘up for it’ having raced successfully in the junior classes for over a decade. Jackie Stewart had tired of BRM with whom he entered F1 in 1965, but ’65 was his best season, the teams H16 was uncompetitive despite every effort to squeeze pace and reliability from the spectacular, ambitious, heavy beast. Stewart himself had absolute confidence in Ken and his team and was looking for a new ’68 drive.
Walter Hayes confirmed to Ken that Cosworth would sell Ford DFV’s engines to him for the ’68 season, Colin Chapmans exclusivity agreement being broken by Hayes with Colin’s reluctant agreement.
Matra agreed to sell Ken a variant of their V12 chassis designed around the DFV’s compact dimensions. This was an incredibly smart decision by Matra and perhaps the government, a lot of expectation had been created around the Matra V12 program in the media, to the extent the V12 took a while to be competitive, and it did, another car with a proven engine/driver would help ease the pressure. Finally Ken secured Dunlop and Matra support to fund his ambitious program, and so was created a combination which won the World Drivers and Manufacturers titles within 2 years.
Matra’s first F1 cars were the Ford powered MS9 and 10 raced by Stewart in 1968, from Monaco the Velizy outfit entered the MS11 powered by their own 3 litre V12. The evolution of these V12 F1 cars I wrote about a while back, click on this link here to read about them, the focus of this article is the Ford engined cars;
The prototype of the 1968 MS9 was a modified ’67 F2 MS7 chassis to which a DFV was bolted directly to the monocoques rear bulkhead. The difference between this prototype and the MS9 was that the latter car had a lightweight frame extending from the monocoques rear bulkhead to a fabricated suspension pickup diaphragm fitting around the gearbox.
The structure wasn’t designed to take suspension loads but rather to keep the suspension settings in place when engine changes were effected. Chassis designer Bernard Boyers’s approach was practical, in the case of the Lotus 49 and all of its ‘copyists’ the car had to be wheel aligned and brakes bled after a ‘Cossie engine change.
The cars monocoque was as described earlier, rocker arm top and lower wishbone suspension with coil spring/damper units were used at the front and single top link, inverted lower wishbone, twin radius rods and coil spring shocks again at the rear. In short all ‘period typical’. Uprights and hubs were donated by the MS630 endurance racer, the gearbox the robust Hewland DG300 5 speed transaxle.
This hybrid was tested and raced in South Africa, JYS popped it on the front row and lead Clark before it’s DFV swallowed a valve. The car, short of tankage given it’s F2 derivation, would have needed a quick stop prior to the races conclusion.
The definitive 1969 MS10 had an extra fuel cell between the driver and engine made its debut in the Brands ‘Race of Champions’. Whilst fast the cars issues were around the weight of its endurance derived suspension and wheel hardware which affected the cars sprung/unsprung ratio. There were then some problems of durability in lightened components. Stewart lost the Spa lead when the fuel pumps didn’t pick up the ELF he needed to complete the race.
A lighter FG400 Hewland box was fitted at Rouen but the car, despite its aerospace parent was behind in the evolution of wings realtive to some other teams.
But at the Nurburgring in streaming wet conditions it all came together; Stewart’s wrist damaged in an F2 Matra at Jarama was ok, the midships mounted wing worked as did the Dunlop wets and Jackie drove superbly taking Matra’s first GP win.
Stewart won again at Oulton Park and at Watkins Glen and was in with a title shot in Mexico, tank sealing polymer detached and jammed his DFV’s fuel pump with Graham Hill taking the ’68 drivers, and Lotus the manufacturers championship. By any objective assessment 1968 was an amazing season for GP ‘newbees’ Tyrrell and Matra, the experienced Stewart delivering in spades.
For 1969 some insightful decisions were taken by Matra with a view to winning the title…
They redesigned the V12, the new ‘MS12’ appeared in the MS120 chassis in 1970. Whilst the V12’s were raced in their ’69 endurance program they were withdrawn from F1, the focus of the ’69 program the Ford powered cars.
Tyrrell would therefore race 2 cars in ’69 driven by JYS and JPB, the conventional rear drive MS80, a new car designed by Bernard Boyer. In addition an ‘MS84’ Cosworth powered Matra 4WD using the British Ferguson transmission was designed and built. Stewart wanted the cars available for wet races of which there were several in 1968. It’s a story for another time but the belief at the time was that the tyres of the day even with the growing downforce provided by wings would not provide sufficient grip/traction given the potency of the 3 litre engines and in particular the punch of the DFV. 4WD was being used successfully at Indy at the time, whilst duly noting the particular nature of that circuit. The Ferguson GP car and its system is described in this article;
Boyers’s starting point for his new car were the deficiencies of the MS10. These were its mid-ship fuel tank which was inadequately stressed compromising the chassis’ overall stiffness. There was too much front suspension camber change for tyres growing in width, this resulted in lots of understeer and instability under braking. The inboard front suspension mount caused the shocks to overheat and finally at the rear inadequate toe control caused toe steer as the wheel prescribed its arc as the suspension moved up and down.
Boyer applied the same monocoque fuel tank construction system even though it would be outlawed by mandated bag tanks from 1970. His ‘one season’ car had its tanks ‘Coke Bottle’ style in bellied tanks getting the fuel load around the cars centre of gravity. The fuel tanks were baffled by the addition of polyurethane foam. The tub was a ‘full monocoque’ in that the scuttle was fully stressed (not open like the MS10) , the oil tank was moved from its MS9/10 forward mounting to a spot between the drivers shoulders and the DFV.
Front suspension went to conventional if slightly less aerodynamic upper and lower wishbones rather than the top rocker deployed in 1968. The suspension geometry was and always is determined by the needs of the tyres. The Dunlops for 1969 were 13/15 inches in diameter front/rear. Parallel lower links first used by LenTerry/BRM were used at the rear to get better toe control, brakes at the rear were mounted inboard next to the Hewland FG ‘box reducing unsprung weight.
In terms of the cars aero, and their would be much change in 1969, broad front wings either side of the nose would trim the front/rear balance of a tall strut upright mounted rear wing. The DFV at the time developed about 430bhp @ 9500rpm, when first tested at Montlhery the car weighed 535Kg, 15 less than the MS10.
1969 GP Season depth…Ickx Brabham BT26A 1st with Stewart 2nd and Rindt DNF in Matra MS80 and Lotus 49B and Denny Hulme’s papaya yellow McLaren M7A DNF, all of those cars Ford Cosworth DFV powered (unattributed)
The most competitive packages of 1969 were Stewart’s Matra MS80 Ford and the similarly powered Brabham BT26 of Jacky Ickx and the Rindt/Hill Lotus 49 twins, especially Jochen…
Rindt left Brabham after a year of BT26 speed and Repco ‘860 Series’ quad cam V8 unreliability. Ickx won 2 1969 GP’s (Germany and Canada) with the mildly updated, but Cosworth powered BT26, a car in which Jochen may well have taken the ’69 title had he stayed. Not that his Lotus 49 lacked speed, he finally won his first GP late in the season at Watkins Glen but the prodigiously fast Austrian wasn’t easy on a car and it’s preparation let him down. The surprise of the season was Piers Courage’ speed in the year old, and converted from Repco power ex-works BT26, the BT34 ‘Lobster Claw’ wasn’t a great design but Ron Tauranac never built an F1 dud?! Don’t mention the Trojan I guess!
The McLaren M7A’s were quick all year. Bruce had reliability and consistency, Denny had speed and DNF’s, a bad run of reliability. Bruce took the Can Am drivers title in ’69 in the M8B Chev and Denny won the season ending Mexican GP, which was some sort of reward for the M7, a typically simple, beautifully engineered McLaren.
The ‘other Kiwi’, Chris Amon was consistently top 5’ish on Saturday despite the Ferrari V12 giving away considerable power and torque to the ubiquitous DFV, but the car was way too unreliable to allow a sustained attack on a race let alone the title. He ‘chucked’ Ferrari around the time of Monza after one engine breakage too many. The new Flat-12 failed, again, behind him at Modena, a decision to leave Maranello (in F1, he still drove the factory 512S sporty in 1970) he forever rued as that engine quickly became a GP great of the seventies.
The conclusion to be drawn from the foregoing is that 1969 was a season of great depth, there were plenty of car/driver combinations who were contenders for the ‘69 crowns as the teams set off from Europe for Kyalami at the seasons outset…
The MS80 was tested at Montlhery but didn’t do too many miles so Tyrrell elected to race MS10 to a win in South Africa in Stewart’s hands.
Another victory followed for the MS80 upon its race debut in the ‘Brands Hatch International’ and a championship win at Montjuic Park, Barcelona in the Spanish Grand Prix. This is the famous race in which both Lotus 49 rear wings failed precipitating an instant ‘high wing’ ban by the FIA mid way through the following Monaco GP weekend. Click on this link for an article about those events;
Hill won at Monaco for the final time, both MS80’s retired on the same lap when cracked gearbox universal joints, discovered pre-race failed during the tough on transmissions event.
Jackie won at Zandvoort, the cars evolved aerodynamically with neat wing-cum-engine covers and JPB reinforced his speed in a front running car by running 2nd to JYS in a glorious win for Matra at Clermont Ferrand, a sensational road course.
Jackie then won the British GP at Silverstone after a titanic dice with Jochen and after overcoming a practice crash caused by a bit of loose kerbing puncturing a front Dunlop. Dunlop, Firestone and Goodyear were involved in a war for F1 supremacy at the time, Ickx’ superior Goodyear G20’s a big part of his Nurburgring success.
At Monza Ken Tyrrell counselled JYS to fit an ultra tall 2nd gear to avoid an extra change on the last lap run to the line of a typical Italian slipstreaming battle; in the event that made the difference, JYS narrowly pipping Rindt’s Lotus to take the race and the ’69 titles. The Mosport, Watkins Glen and Mexico City races went to Ickx, Rindt and Hulme.
And so ended the race career of MS80 but not before Ken Tyrrell gave ‘it one last shake’…
Matra’s lack of sales success with its Type 530 road car was largely due to lack of a decent dealer network. Whilst powered by a Ford V4, Lagardere’s attempts to sell the car via Fords network fell on deaf ears. Undeterred, Matra designed a new car powered by a Simca engine, such car would be sold through its dealers but only on the basis that Matra end it’s relationship with Ford in F1 terms. A modified for 1970 MS80 was out despite Tyrrells overtures.
Upon Lagardere’s insistence JYS tested his MS80 DFV against the new for 1970 MS120 V12 at Albi but the canny Scot was convinced the DFV was still the engine to have. And so a series of events unfolded which saw JYS race Tyrrell run March 701 DFV’s until Derek Gardner’s MS80-esque Tyrrell 001 appeared in August 1970, cars which yielded drivers and constructors titles in 1971 and 1973.
Mind you JYS in a Matra MS120 is a tantalising 1970 thought! JPB and Henri Pescarolo raced the MS120 that year, both worthy drivers, JPB a GP winner but that car was definitely a race winner in the little Scots hands in 1970. As it was Matra didn’t win another GP, albeit the V12 did win a race or two in Ligiers some years later, an updated MS80 in 1970 for sure would have given Rindt, Brabham and Ickx a run for their money…
Doug Nye ‘History of The Grand Prix Car’, Profile Publications,
Rainer Schlegelmilch, Getty Images, Patrick Jarnoux, Karl Ludvigsen
Tailpiece: JYS enters the Nurburgring circuit from the paddock, 3 August 1969, MS80 Ford…