Jack Brabham and Francois Cevert ecstatic after winning the 1970 1000 Km of Paris at Montlhery on 18 October, Matra MS660…
Its interesting to look at the absolute delight they have and reflect on their relative careers right then and there; for Jack it was his last ‘International’ win before his ‘retirement’. Yes he did have a few appearances in touring cars in Oz in the 1970’s, not to forget his works Porsche 956B drive at Sandown’s World Endurance Championship race in 1984 but in reality 1970 was ‘it’ after a long, vastly successful career.
For Francois it was the year he broke into F1, Johnny Servoz-Gavin’s premature retirement with an eye injury gave Francois his opportunity in Ken Tyrrell’s March 701, one he embraced with both hands and capitalised upon. The world was at the talented Frenchman’s feet.
I wrote articles about Jack’s 1969/70 seasons and Francois’ early years, click on these links to read the articles which remain amongst my ‘most read’; https://primotipo.com/2014/09/01/easter-bathurst-1969-jack-brabham-1970-et-al/ and; https://primotipo.com/2014/11/07/francois-cevert-formative-years/
I don’t think of Jack as a sportscar driver although he started his professional sportscar career with a bang really; first in the 1958 Nurburgring 1000Km with Stirling Moss and second in the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood with Roy Salvadori in works Aston Martin DBR1’s.
But he was such a busy boy in the 1960’s he simply didn’t have the time for sporties; driving and testing Coopers, then forming Motor Racing Developments with Ron Tauranac. Brabham Racing Organisation entered and raced the F1 cars, he had garage and conversion businesses, ghosted magazine articles and depending upon the season raced in F1, F2, Indy not to forget the 7 or 8 Internationals/Tasman Series events he did in Australasia in January/February. Commercially it also made sense, other than the BT8, MRD didn’t build sportscars, so why not focus on what you sell?
So, his events in two seaters are relatively rare in the pantheon of his long career, a good obscure topic for an article actually!
1970 was his ‘last racing season’ though. He had promised his wife Betty he would retire at the end of 1969 and having got the ‘leave pass’ which was pretty much forced upon him when Jochen Rindt decided to stay at Lotus, had one of his busiest season in ’70.
Jochen told Jack he was returning to Brabham but changed his mind when Colin Chapman made him an offer too good to refuse. So Jack raced on, a rethink forced upon him as by that stage no other number 1 drivers were available. So Jack made every post a winner; he raced F1, F2, Indy and most of the endurance events Equipe Matra Elf contested in 1970.
It wasn’t a ‘cruise and collect’ year for Jack though, he was still razor sharp, famously winning the season opening South African GP in Tauranac’s first monocoque F1 car, the Brabham BT33. He lost Monaco to Rindt after a last lap fumble under pressure from Jochen and the British GP to Jochen again, when, leading and driving away from the Austrian’s Lotus 72, he ran light on fuel, an error ‘credited’ to Ron Dennis, then his mechanic.
Brabham spoke about the pleasure of just ‘rocking up to drive for Matra’ in the biography he wrote with Doug Nye; ‘…to drive a car someone else had to develop and prepare was a rare luxury, which i really enjoyed’.
In 1970 Matra contested the Daytona 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours in America, then in Europe the Brands Hatch and Monza 1000Km events and of course the Le Mans 24 Hours in June. They elected not to race Targa, the Spa and Nurburgring 1000Km events and the championship season ending Watkins Glen 6 Hour back in North America on 18 October.
The endurance championship that year was dominated by the 5 litre, 12 cylinder Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512S, the dominant ‘small car’, the 3 litre Porsche 908/3 which mopped up the events on circuits so suited; Targa and Nurburgring.
Matra’s primary 1970 tool was an updated 1969 Matra MS650, the new MS660 made its debut in the hands of Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo at Le Mans. The car raced at the Sarthe by Brabham and and Francois Cevert was the earlier MS650, both cars retired with engine failure within 3 laps of each other (laps 79 and 76 respectively)
Brabham was paired with Cevert at Daytona, the duo bringing the V12 engined car home in 10th place, the race run on 31 January/1 February 1970. Brabham didn’t contest the next round at Sebring, ‘his car’ paired Dan Gurney with Francois in a one-off drive. Henri Pesccarolo and Johnny Servoz Gavin achived the best championship Matra result for the season in 4th place, the race won by the Ferrari 512S of Ignzio Giunti, Nino Vaccarella and Mario Andretti.
The Brands Hatch 1000Km on April 12 was a famous demonstration of driving mastery by Pedro Rodriguez, the Mexican sportscar ace flinging his demanding, fidgety 5 litre Porsche 917K in the wet as though it were a Merlyn Formula Ford from one of the support races. Jack was paired with JPB, the duo were 12th.
At Monza later in the month the duo were 5th in the race won by the Rodriguez/Kinnunen JW Automotive Porsche 917K.
With the Manufacturers Championship decided in Porsche’s favour from Ferrari and Alfa Romeo the Montlhery race was a chance for Matra to win in front of its home crowd.
The annual enduro wasn’t a Manufacturers’ Championship round, as stated above, but always had a good amateur entry. Matra entered two cars, the Linas-Montlhéry circuit only a few miles from its Velizy home base. Both cars were MS660’s, Beltoise and Pescarolo, drove a ‘sprinter’ variant, lightened a lot compared to Le Mans spec. The weight loss was achieved by deletion of lights, the charging system and the use of a Hewland gearbox rather than heavier, stronger ZF unit. The engine was the GP variant of the V12, able to use 11,000 r.p.m. against the normal 10,500 r.p.m. endurance limit. The other heavier ‘Le Mans spec’ car was driven by Jack and Francois.
There was no factory opposition to Matra but the Martini International Racing Team/Team AAW, had a 917 Porsche driven by Gerard Larrousse and Gijs van Lennep, as well as their Porsche 908’s, piloted by Rudy Lins/Helmut Marko and Claude Ballot-Lena/ Guy Chasseuil, the other 29 cars were private entries.
‘MotorSport’s’ race report said; ‘A circuit of 7.821 kilometres long was used, comprising half of the banked track, with chicanes at each end of the banking, and part of the road course, and the race was over 128 laps and was run in warm and fine weather. Beltoise set the pace with the lightened Matra 660 and only van Lennep proved to be any sort of challenge, but the 917 engine broke early in the race leaving the Beltoise/Pescarolo car unchallenged. Robbed of his drive in the 917, Larrousse took over the 908 of Ballot-Lena/Chasseuil, and after a slow start Brabham and Cevert moved up into second place.
The leading Matra ran into trouble with its Hewland gearbox, due to the oil breather system not being right, and after some delays at the pits the car was forced out of the race by horrid noises in its transmission, this letting the second Matra take command. In second place was the carefully driven, privately-owned Ferrari 512S of the Spaniard José Juncadella, with the young French driver Jabouille as his partner. In spite of retiring, the lightweight Matra was classified in fourth position’.
The MS630/650 had multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, the 660 one of Velizy’s famed aluminium monocoques clothed in a very sexy, swoopy aerodynamically clean and efficient Spyder body.
The 2993cc 60 degree, all aluminium, quad cam, 4 valve, Lucas injected V12, ever evolving in detail spec, engine was a common element of both cars and gave circa 400bhp. The ZF 5 DS25 5 speed gearbox was also a common element although the Hewland FG400 unit was also used.
Ventilated brakes used ATE calipers, steering was Matra rack and pinion, the suspension period typical; upper and lower wishbones and coil spring/shocks at the front and single top link, twin parallel lower links, two radius rods and coil spring/shocks at the rear. Adjustable roll bars front and rear. Weight was circa 700Kg dependent upon spec.
MotorSport December 1970, Patrick Jarnoux, Rainer Schlegelmilch
Tailpiece: Francois Cevert caressses the sleek, swoopy MS660 around Montlhery, 1970…