Posts Tagged ‘Matra MS120’

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Chris Amon is not a driver one readily associates with the very successful 1970 Ferrari 312B and even then only in a ‘lost opportunity’ kind of way…

As he drove from his digs in Maranello the 20km to the Modena circuit Ferrari used for testing each time in mid 1969 he did so with an increasingly heavy heart.

Chris had motor racings dream job; Ferrari’s ‘number one’ driver and the considerable resources of the famed Scuderia at his disposal. He tested and raced F2 and Tasman Dino’s, Sports Prototypes, big CanAm Group 7 cars and of course GP cars. The company car was not to be sneezed at. Ferrari’s drivers were only marginally less popular than the Pope. He loved living in Italy, enjoyed the food, people, the vibe in Maranello and testing the cars, Mauro Forghieri rated him one of the teams greatest test drivers, and of course his racing of them.

But in his terms, as one of the five best drivers in the world at the time, he was not achieving the grand prix winning success he deserved. So many times he had lead races in 1968 and early in 1969 only to have the car fail beneath him.

And now, a car he thought looked fabulous and was testing well had an engine which consistently ‘grenaded’ behind him at Modena in the most spectacular fashion.

What should he do?; stay with Ferrari in the belief the engineering problem would be solved or move to another team with a Ford Cosworth powered car was the decision which tortured him…

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Amon, Monaco 1967 in the awful race in which his teammate Lorenzo Bandini died the most gruesome, fiery death. Denny Hulme’s Brabham BT20 Repco won from Hill’s Lotus 33 BRM and Amon  (unattributed)

 

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The partnership between Amon and Mauro Forghieri was a fruitful one based on great mutual respect, which is not to say they always agreed! Here with 312 at Zandvoort in 1967. How young does he look?! Ferrari team-leader at 24 by the end of 1967 (unattributed)

He joined Ferrari in 1967 as one of four drivers; Lorenzo Bandini, Mike Parkes, Ludovico Scarfiotti and himself. The ‘pudgy’, heavy 312 of 1966 evolved into the 1967 car, quite the sexiest looking of any GP car. After the end of the sports car season it became a very fast car; fitted with a lightweight block and F2 derived gearbox and from Monza with 4-valve heads the car flew. Amon believed the 390bhp claimed for it and described the (’67 and ’68) chassis as ‘an absolute dream to drive’. Amon should have won at Watkins Glen in front of the two Lotus 49’s but the engine blew 12 laps from the end. In Mexico Chris qualified well in 2nd but pitted for fuel.

A road accident early in the season put him out for a while. His speed had been demonstrated in all types of car, his place in the team cemented despite an awful season for Ferrari. The tragic death of Bandini at Monaco and the effective end of Mike Parkes’ career in a huge, high speed Belgian GP, Spa shunt.

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Amon with Ferrari 312 in the Monza pits, Italian GP 1967. Q4 and 7th in the race won by John Surtees Honda RA300 (Schlegelmilch)

For 1968 his teammate was Belgian ‘Wunderkind’ Jacky Ickx.

One of the ‘crosses Ferrari F1 drivers sometimes bore’ was Enzo Ferrari’s obsession with sports car racing, particularly Le Mans. Whilst the team had better resources than most the impact of the sports car program on F1 was great or little depending upon the competitiveness of said GP cars at the time! In mid-season, the focus was on the Sports Cars, after that F1 was re-prioritised.

In 1968 Ferrari ‘spat the dummy’ at  CSI rule changes (ending unlimited cars and changing to 5 litre Sports Cars and 3 litre Prototypes) not building a car for the season with a consequent focus on F1 and development of a car which could have won both ’68 world titles.

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1968 Spanish Grand Prix. Ferrari 312/68 Q1 and led until fuel pump failure on lap 58. Hills Lotus 49 Ford won (unattributed)

The 48 valve V12 was developed to give circa 410bhp at a time the Ford Cosworth DFV gave much the same, albeit the Fazz lacked the mid-range punch of the DFV, Amon quipped that ‘there was nothing at home below 9800rpm’. The engine also had high water and oil temperatures with consequent power loss. The Ferrari’s went to the grid carrying 8-10 gallons more ‘juice’ than the Cosworth cars, a weight penalty of 55-70 pounds. Despite all of that the 312/68 was a very competitive, if unreliable beast.

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In amongst the damp North Sea dunes at Zandvoort in 1968. Dutch GP Q1 and 6th, the race won by Stewart’s Matra MS10 Ford  (Schlegelmilch)

 

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French GP, Rouen 1968. Q5 and 10th in the race won by teammate Ickx, the ‘rainmaster’ who started the damp race on full wets and drove away in the early laps when, again, a driver, Jo Schlesser, died in another fiery accident in the Honda RA302. These accidents accelerated changes to circuit and car safety, not that they were the last horrible fiery deaths in the period. Amazing Rainer Schlegelmilch shot of Rouen and the butt of Amons 312; look at the hay bales, tyre distortion and the presence of wings which grew thru ’68 (Schlegelmilch)

In 1968 the grid was ‘awash’ with Ford Cosworth DFV’s; Lotus, McLaren and Ken Tyrrell’s Matra’s were fitted with them. Colin Chapman waived his exclusivity agreement to the engines upon Ford’s Walter Hayes request that he do so ‘for the good of GP racing’ such was Hayes fear of Lotus dominance. Not that Ford’s position was diminished by more DFV powered cars on the grid than less!

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Amon in the Oulton Park Gold Cup 17 August 1968. I had this shot on my bedroom wall for years as a scho0l kid! Wings are growing…Amon 2nd to Stewart’s Matra MS10 Ford (unattributed)

For Ferrari, BRM, Weslake and Honda the impact of the Ford engine was great. The DFV was built on modern, tape controlled equipment bought for the purpose which meant the quality of the product was consistent, parts made would fit all engines. Prior to that some GP engines were to an extent hand fettled and bits needed to be modified to fit each engine, which was effectively bespoke. Cosworth’s quality control and the pressure on them to rebuild the engines in a timely consistent way for all took a while to get sorted. But the writing was well and truly on the wall. The Ford engine a considerable F1 weapon of course right into the eighties and beyond in F3000 guise.

None of this was lost on Amon of course, the competitiveness of his compatriot Bruce McLaren’s cars in 1968 was something he observed and discussed with both Bruce and Denny Hulme.

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Italian GP, Monza 9 August 1968. Giulio Borsari makes some adjustments to Ickx’ 312. Forghieri devised this ‘movable aerodynamic device’ operated by oil pressure. The wing went to hi-angle mode in 1/2/3rd gears but feathered for low drag with the throttle open in 4/5th gears. It returned to download position in those gears when the brakes were applied. An override switch was fitted which Chris liked and Ickx had removed (Klemantaski)

 

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Amon putting the movable wing to good effect at Monza in 1968. Q3 and DNF after an accident, Hulme won in a McLaren M7A Ford  (unattributed)

But Chris was ‘on fire’ in 1968. Ferrari were on the front row 9 times, 8 to Amon and took 4 poles, 3 to Amon. Unreliability robbed them, and Chris of  3 probable wins. Ickx took the only race win at Reims during the tragic French GP in which Jo Schlesser died in the Honda RA302.

At Monza Chris lead until an oil leak onto a rear tyre caused an almighty accident which destroyed the car. Amon dominated in Canada despite clutchless gear changes from lap 12 but of course the gearbox broke under the strain, the clutch should not have failed.

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Chris on the way to a 1969 Australian GP victory at Lakeside, Queensland on 2 February. He won the Tasman Series beating the Team Lotus Rindt/Hill duo and others. Left front of the Dino 246T off the deck thru the very fast kink opposite the pits (Rod MacKenzie)

1969 started well. Chris tested his 246 Dino Tasman cars thoroughly at Modena before shipping the cars home to New Zealand. He convincingly won the series in 300bhp, 24 valve cars he helped develop and a team he put together. He collaborated with David McKay’s Sydney based Scuderia Veloce who provided on ground back-up for the mix of speed and reliability needed for this championship of intensity; 8 races in 8 weeks.

He beat the factory Lotus 49’s of Hill and new-signing and probable ‘fastest guy on the planet’ Jochen Rindt taking 4 wins including the NZ GP at Pukekohe and AGP at Lakeside. The series of depth also included Derek Bell (in the other Dino), Frank Gardner (Mildren Alfa T33 V8) and Piers Courage (Brabham BT24 Ford DFW).

Back at Maranello the finishing touches were being made to the 312P, Ferrari were back in endurance racing that year, and the latest evolution of the 312 GP car.

Strategically the future for Ferrari was bright despite the financial difficulties the team were in early in the year. Discussions underway with Fiat were consummated in June; Enzo Ferrari had effective control of the racing department for his lifetime whilst Fiat took over the development of the road cars. And a considerable amount of cash changed hands.

The injection of working capital allowed Ferrari to build the 25 512S Sports Cars required for homologation into Group 5 for 1970 and to develop Ferrari’s first ‘clean sheet’ 3 litre F1 car, the flat-12 312B.

Ferrari authorised Forghieri to start this program  early in the year well before the Fiat deal was done. The Fiorano test facility, opened in 1972 is another example of the sort of investment which would not have been possible without Fiat’s investment in Ferrari.

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Monaco 1969 Amon beside Jackie Stewart’s Matra MS80 Ford which won the title that year . Q2 anf a failed diff. Note the lack of wings, banned overnight by the CSI. Hill won in a Lotus 49 Ford (Yves Debraine)

From Amon’s perspective then, he was potentially in the right place.

He was esconced in one of the sports greatest teams, he had won the Tasman, Ferrari was in the process of doing a deal with a partner with deep pockets. A new car was underway for 1970 but 1969 could be a challenge with an evolution of the ’68 cars and more Cosworth powered cars on GP grids! It was critical to Chris the 312B tested well.

Whilst Mauro Forghieri worked on the design of the 312B Ing Stefano Jacoponi was responsible to do what he could with the obsolescent V12. The chassis was much the same although the cars appearance was different with a flatter nose and evolution of wings, partially at the whim of the (CSI) rulemakers who banned, rightly, high-wings during the Monaco GP weekend.

The V12 was changed with heads which reversed the porting, returning the exhausts to outside the Vee lowering the cars centre of gravity and reducing turbulence around the rear wing. Inlets were in the Vee, more radical cams were developed and disastrous efforts made to reduce frictional losses and release power, by reducing main bearing area…

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Amon, Q2 DNF engine, Spanish GP, Montjuic Park, Barcelona 1969. Stewart won in a Matra MS80 Ford. Look at that oil cooler trying to do just that (unattributed)

 

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Forghieri with the 312/69 in the Silverstone, British GP paddock. V12 cooling issues clear by the ‘orrible oil cooler/duct incorporated into the rear wing. Amon Q5 and DNF lap 45 with gearbox failure. Stewart’s Matra won after a titanic battle with Rindt’s Lotus. 3 Ferrari’s were entered #32 the spare (unattributed)

Early in the season Ferrari entered only one car for Amon. He was 2nd on the Spanish GP grid and inherited the lead after the two Lotus 49’s crashed with wing failure, with a lead of over 30 seconds the engine seized. At Monaco he was 2nd when the diff failed and at Silverstone, joined by Pedro Rodriguez both retired with ‘box and engine failures.

To add to these frustrations and be in no doubt elite sport is as much mental as physical his erstwhile teammate Ickx, Amon had been demonstrably the quicker of the two in 1968 was winning races in Brabham’s year old spaceframe chassis BT26. That car was now as consistently fast and reliable with a DFV in 1969 as it was consistently fast and unreliable with a Repco ‘RB760 Series’ V8 in 1968. Amons disappointment with his situation was immense, he was a race-winner in a reliable Ferrari or another car.

Such were their problems Ferrari withdrew from the German GP on 3 August, Ickx won there, to prepare the new 312B for Monza, it simply was not worth racing the fast but unreliable 312/69.

Amon had great hopes for Mauro Forghieri’s new for 1970 car, the ‘clean-sheet, Flat-12 engined 312B…

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Amon readies himself for the off, Modena, exact date unknown (GP Library)

Mauro Forghieri’s Ferrari 312B was one of the most beautifully integrated Ferrari’s ever built, whilst much is made of the engine the success of the car was about far more. Doug Nye; ‘The 312B…was quite the best integrated 3 litre F1 package yet created. It would remain the best packaged of all Ferrari’s until the Postlethwaite 156 appeared in 1985’ he said writing in 1986. I always thought the 312T/T2 were pretty handy bits of integrated kit, but the point is, the car was a beautifully designed and executed car!

The talented Modenese born engineer saw at close hand as an at thecircuit race-engineer the success of the Lotus 49 and its imitators, the engine beautifully integrated with the chassis and the powerful, torquey, compact, relatively frugal and reliable nature of the Cosworth DFV itself. The engines basic dimensions and valve angles gave instruction to a whole generation of engine designers.

The suspension of the competition were all period conventional; wishbones/wishbones or rocker/wishbones at the front and single top-link, lower wishbones and radius rods for fore and aft location. The 312B followed that course.

Aerodynamics were still a black art but the CSI’s mandated lower wings meant airflow to the critical rear wing needed thought as the wing could no longer be mounted high in ‘clean air’. Remember, at the time traction was important, the cars had a wonderful surplus of power over grip.In the end that problem solved as much by tyre alchemy as wings let alone the 1969 4WD blind-alley of which Ferrari was not a part.

A 12 cylinder engine was a ‘Ferrari given’. Forghieri’s challenge was to unlock sufficient power to combat the DFV despite the inherent packaging issues of the longer engine and frictional losses and other bottom end shortcomings which were such problems in the existing V12.

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Ferrari 312B 1970 showing the chassis structure and rear ‘boom or beam’ to which the engine attaches (Nye)

Forghieri’s chassis was another of Ferrari’s ‘aero constructions’. They were not monocoques in the British sense but rather a tubular internal frame stiffened by riveted on ‘ally panels. Not a problem, Ron Tauranac’s old-fashioned spaceframe BT26’s were race winning GP cars in 1969 until effectively outlawed by the ‘bag tank’ rules of 1970.

The clever bit, ‘praps learning from the DFV’s simple chassis mounts mandated by Lotus designer Colin Chapman to Cosworth’s Keith Duckworth was the use of a ‘beam’ aft of the usual drivers bulkhead to which the engine mounted. This provided a very stiff structure but also very good, better than all other cars in 1970, airflow to the rear wing. It promised more downforce and therefore grip for less angle, drag, than the other cars.

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Note the rivets on the rear beam which is part of the cars chassis to which the engine attaches, it also biolts to the bulkhead behind the driver. Low nature of engine and good airflow onto the wing. Oil cooler ducts also in shot (GP Library)

 

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Ferrari factory drawing of the Flat-12 312B engine showing its deep base chamber, roller bearing mains, narrow included valve angle, induction tracts above the heads, exhausts below and extensive cross-bolting of the split crankcase castings (Nye)

Engineers Forghieri, Rocchi and Bussi’s 3 litre Flat-12 engine was conceived in that horizontally opposed configuration to get the cars centre of gravity low and get the engine out of the airstream to the wing. The need for lower frictional losses was met by the use of just 4, the old V12 had 7, main bearings. The design used  2 plain bearings in its centre and ball bearing races at each end.

Bore and stroke were 78.5mm x 51.5mm, vastly oversquare, for a capacity of 2991cc. Four overhead camshafts and 4 valves per cylinder were used, the heads evolved from ’69 V12 practice. Lucas fuel injection was carried over onto the new engine. The cams were driven by gears  from the crank’s nose.

Doug Nye; ‘The light alloy block was cast in 2 parts and united on a crankshaft centreline bolted flange…Light alloy cylinder liners were used, cooled by water circulation at their upper ends, by oil circulation down below. The crankshaft was machined from a steel forging, each of its six crankpins carrying two con-rods. The crankshaft nose gear drove alternator, ignition distributor and and fuel metering unit via gears and pinions. The crank tail drove the valvegear train. A tiny flywheel assembly incorporated a rubber vibration damper. Forged titanium con-rods were used…and Mahle forged aluminium pistons…a single oil pressure pump was driven off the rear of the RH cylinder timing gear fed the oil filter mounted behind the fuel metering unit.’

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Side on flat-12 engine detail, DOHC, 4 valve, Lucas injected, single plug, how low do they take the CofG with this approach?! See rad header tank and extinguished bomb, the latter messy in terms of flow to the wing and exposed! Check out the very clever roll bar brace; it triangulates and stiffens the rear beam structure as well as providing a neat, faired mount for the wing itself (GP Library)

 

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312B front end detail. Suspension top rocker actuating coil springs and Koni shocks and lower wide based wishbone. Note ally ducting behind rad to exhuast hot air via ducts in the fibre-glass nose (GP Library)

 

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Butt shot of the 312B as it heads out onto Modena Autodrome with Amon saying a few silent ‘Hail Marys’ as to engine life no doubt! Ducting to oil coolers, rear mounted battery and outboard brake discs/suspension all clear (GP Library)

Amon watched the jewel of a car evolve at Maranello, it was with a great deal of optimism that he approached his early tests at Modena.

Right from the start he and Forghieri were happy with the chassis, the sort of balance they achieved with the earlier V12’s was still present. The car was lighter, was good under brakes had good traction and top speed for as long as the new, powerful engine lasted…

With Chris in the car the 312B had a series of monumental, catastrophic engine failures due to piston, crankshaft and lubrication problems. Amon; ‘I could feel that it was tremendously strong and powerful during those early tests, but it kept flying apart, i thought hell i can’t stand any more of this…’

After one of these sessions in August Chris said ‘enough’ and decided to leave the team.

Its ironic that Amon made the decision to leave due to the early failures of an engine which became a paragon of powerful reliability for a decade winning 3 drivers, 4 manufacturers and 1 sportscar championship for the Scuderia. Its performance was only compromised by its low/bulky architecture, a strength but an impediment in the ‘wing car ‘ era when the engine took space needed for ground-effect tunnels.

The engines bottom end failings were resolved by building a tilting dyno-bed at Maranello  to reproduce oil surge in corners. The crank torsional issues were sorted by the addition of a Pirelli cushion coupling between the crank and flywheel. In this form the 1970 spec engine developed 460bhp from 11500-11700 rpm rising to 510bhp@12000 rpm in 1979/80.

But for Chris it was all too much, he could see another season of Ferrari DNF’s caused by the repeated engine failures which had cost him victory or good placings on so many occasions. He saw his immediate future best served by driving a Ford Cosworth DFV powered car, the dominant engine of the time, so off to the nascent March concern he went.

He hadn’t burned his Ferrari bridges though, he was invited to be a member of the teams 512S sportscar squad in 1970…but Enzo Ferrari did say to the Kiwi that he, Ferrari, would win a race before Chris did!

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Ickx, having made a smart move to Brabham in 1969 came back to Maranello for 1970 as ‘numero uno’ and was unlucky in some ways, in a season of great cars, not to win the title in the 312B!

The 312B came on strong, all issues solved in the second half of the season, the car won in Austria, Mexico and Canada for Ickx and at Monza for Regazzoni. Had the car started the season as well as it finished, noting Rindt’s death at Monza took out the seasons fastest combination, Ickx would have won the title. Mind you, there are plenty of new cars down the years that if they had reliability from the start of the season would have taken the title.

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This group of shots (the one above and those at Modena below, all are undated sadly) are included for the sake of completeness; they are all of the same session. They show the beauty of this incredibly good, important for Ferrari car.

The photos convey a certain sense of calm as well, despite the problems which were apparent with the engine from the start. Apart from Chris of course, i am sure he felt far from calm trying to best assess his short and longer term options!

Driving careers are fickle things; he felt he had to seize the moment having in his mind stayed at Ferrari a season too long. Hindsight is brilliant of course, in fact he stayed a season too little, his testing skills may well have meant the car started the season better prepared than it did. Ickx wasn’t a noted test driver and new-boys to F1 Regazzoni and Giunti weren’t in a position to make the contribution Chris could and had made since 1967…

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Another view of the roll bar/wing mount covered earlier (GP Library)

 

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Forghieri with the pad, sans rear wing in this shot (GP Library)

 

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Who is the belle of the ball!? Lotus 72 was ‘the radical’ of 1970: side rads, rear weight distbn, torsion bar suspension but all the other race winners that year were ‘conventional’ front rad cars; 312B, BRM P153, Brabham BT33, March 701. Best aero direction not clear at this point in GP history nor would it be until the Lotus 78 started the ‘wing car’ trend (GP Library)

 

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Chris Amon, Modena June/July 1969. He lost many races due to bad luck, the decision to leave Ferrari tho wasn’t so much bad luck as a judgement call which time proved was the wrong one. Wonderful hindsight i know (GP Library)

 

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(GP Library)

 

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Amon lost in his thoughts, Modena 1969 (GP Library)

Amon Post Ferrari…

This article is not about Amon’s career, rather Ferrari elements of it. What follows is not a full summary of the balance of his wonderful career.

For Chris 1970 was frustrating!

The March 701 was not the best car of the season but both he and Jackie Stewart in Ken Tyrrell’s car ‘made it sing’. Stewart took a Spanish GP win and Chris the BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone, an F1 win but not the GP win he sought.

He came close to that in a titanic battle with Pedro Rodriguez’ BRM P153 at Spa in a test of the brave, bold, skilful and precise, just coming second.

He proved as quick as anyone in 1970, again. His record head to head in the 10 Championship GP’s he and Stewart raced the 701, the Scot in a Dunlop rather than Firestone shod car was 8/2 in Stewart’s favour. In all but 2 occasions Chris was only 1 or 2 grid slots behind Stewart who was arguably the best driver in the world at the time if not its fastest. Until his death most would argue that was Jochen Rindt. There is little doubt the Tyrrell 701 was a better prepared car than Amon’s March works car. The point to take here is that Amon was ‘right thereabouts’ with the best driver in the world at the time.

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Amons March 701 being tended by the cars designer Robin Herd at Monaco 1970, Q2, DNF suspension failure,Ronnie Peterson’s customer, Colin Crabbe owned yellow March 701 behind. Rindt won in a Lotus 49C Ford (unattributed)

If the departure from Ferrari was not strategically the right one for all the reasons outlined earlier in the article, the departure to the new March outfit was a ‘leap of faith’ largely i suspect in designer Robin Herd which provided a competitive Cosworth powered car if not the quickest one. Amon knew Herd from their March days, Robin designed the first McLaren F1 car, the M2B and the ’67 CanAm Championship winning M6A Chev.

March were a company whose very successful raison d’etre was the construction and sale of production racing cars, its works teams secondary considerations. Its not hard in that context to work out what Max Mosley and Robin Herd’s prime focus was in 1970; to win in FF, F3 and F2 to flog cars for the coming year. Chris signed relatively early for March, before he knew they were selling 701′ s to ‘every man and his dog’ including the 1969 world champion for 1970. In 1970 Amon, Siffert, Stewart, Servoz-Gavin, Cevert, Peterson, Andretti and others raced 701’s. Works drivers Amon and Siffert didn’t have the cars to themselves.

Brabham, McLaren and BRM would have been better places to be in 1970 than March. Not that BRM was an attractive option in 1969.

Chris joined Matra who made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, back to a V12 for 1971 and 1972, taking a Non-Championship GP win in Argentina in 1971 and again lead races more than once only to experience car failures or punctures.

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1971 Argentinian GP placegetters; Henri Pescarolo March 701 Ford, Amon 1st where he belongs! Matra Ms120 and Carlos Reutemann McLaren M7C Ford Ford (GP Library)

During 1972 Matra were mainly a single-car entry for Amon its focus increasingly on Endurance Racing success.

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German GP 1972. Amon Matra MS120D Q8/15. Ickx won in a Ferrari 312B2 (unattributed)

Tecno in 1973 was a disaster but Chris raced a third Tyrrell in Canada (Q11 2 slots behind Stewart in the unfamiliar car and 10th in the race) and the US (Q12 at the time the team withdrew from the race) for Tyrrell but not converting that into a 1974 drive after the death of Francois Cevert and retirement of Jackie Stewart at Watkins Glen.

His own Amon F1 car was also a disaster in 1974, a project commenced after a return to March in ’74 ‘evaporated’ over the Christmas New Year period seemingly after a failure in communication between Max Mosley and Chris. An engine development business with ex-BRM engineer Aubrey Woods also cost the Kiwi a lot of money. Looking at Chris’ career and some of the decisions suggests he needed a decent business manager, or a better one if he had one!

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In Tyrrell 005 in the Kendall Centre, Watkins Glen. Note the inboard front brakes of Derek Gardner’s design. Tragic weekend with teammate Francois Cevert’s high speed, fatal practice crash in an 006 chassis. Both remaining cars withdrawn and Jackie Stewart didn’t get the chance to race in his last, planned GP (Mike Glynn)

 

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Amon in Tyrrell 005 Ford, Watkins Glen, USGP practice, 6 October 1973 (unattributed)

In 1975 he raced  the Talon MR1 Chev F5000 (nee McRae GM2) in the Tasman Series and in the US showing he had lost none of his skill despite a car not as good as the ubiquitous, highly developed Lola T332’s.

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Amon enters the Sandown paddock, Saturday 22 February 1975. 5th in the race, Talon MR1 Chev, car behind is John McCormack’s 2nd placed Elfin MR6 Repco. John Goss won in a Matich A53 Repco (M Bisset)

The only time i saw Chris race was in the final round of the ’75 Tasman at Sandown in February, he did the full series in one of Jack McCormack’s Talons, not the ‘fastest tool in the shed’ but Chris made the car sizzle despite junk engines which failed 3 times. He took a win at Teretonga, the final Kiwi round and was quick everywhere whilst the car stayed together.

I was a starstruck teenager who didn’t stray too far from his pit the whole weekend. On circuit what was impressive was his speed which was deceptive. He drove the car in a very ‘neutral’ fashion through the slow/medium corners where so many others were ‘tail out’. Across the top of ‘Marlboro Country’ a fast entry quicker corner his carrying speed and control was a joy to watch as was his precision under brakes into ‘Dandy Road’. I still recall the toe/heel too; on the brakes late and a change down late as well, a short/few revs blip at the throttle, easy on the DG300 box. A pro.

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‘Auto Actions’ Paul Harrington gets the gen from Amon, Sandown Tasman ’75 practice Saturday, looks like its tough going! McRae GM2/Talon MR1 clones lovely cars (M Bisset)

Late in 1975 he had some drives of Mo Nunn’s Ensign GP cars, he and Nunn developed these pretty, effective cars into machines which shaded many of the big budget teams in 1976.

He was 10th on the Spanish GP grid, finishing 5th, 8th on the Zolder grid but lost a wheel and flipped the car emerging unscathed in the race. At Monaco he was Q12 and 13th. At Anderstorp he was a terrific 3rd on the grid but crashed out of 4th on lap 39 when the cars suspension failed.

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Swedish GP, Anderstorp 1976; Amon Ensign N176 Ford in between Patrick Depailler’s Tyrrell P34 Ford and Gunnar Nilsson’s Lotus 76 Ford. Scheckter won in the other P34, Amon an amazing Q3 and accident caused by suspension failure (unattributed)

Chris missed the French GP injured after Sweden, Patrick Neve qualified the car 26th, perhaps more indicative of the machines pace without an ‘ace’ at the wheel…

At Silverstone for the British GP, Chris qualified 6th, this time a water leak the cause of a DNF.

The problems of a low budget team in terms of design and preparation were clear, Chris decided he had ‘had enough’ of GP racing in this way and elected not to take the re-start of the German GP after Niki Lauda’s accident. The risk of something breaking on that circuit in that car was simply too great.

1976 showed he had lost none of his sublime, deceptively fast skill, speed and testing ability. He was still only 33 despite having his first Championship GP drive in 1963.

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Amon’s last pro drive. Mont Tremblant CanAm 12 June 1977 in Walter Wolf’s Wolf Dallara WD1 Chev, grid 2 and DNF. Race won by Klauser’s Schkee Chev (Bob Harmeyer)

Amon’s last race was in Walter Wolf’s single-seat Can Am car in 1977 before saying ‘enough’, recommending Gilles Villeneuve for the ride before returning to his native New Zealand and farming at Bulls in the ‘Land of The Long White Clouds’ North Island. He sold the property some years ago but is not too far from the local racing scene and maintains a long-standing commercial relationship with Toyota.

Chris Amon had a career most of us can only dream about, life is all about the decisions we take, perhaps the decision to leave Ferrari in 1969 was the worst he ever made but in the same circumstances i suspect many of us would have made the same call.

To me though he should be remembered for what he achieved rather than what he didn’t: wins at Le Mans, Daytona 24 Hours, Monza 1000Km, a Tasman Championship, NZ (2) and Australian GP wins against some of the best drivers in the world, two non-championship F1 races and many individual race wins and the respect and fear of his peers. From 1967 to 1972 he was in the top 10 drivers in the world, for some of those years top 5.

Bot wow, Amon in a 312B in 1970, if only…

Etcetera…

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Ferrari 312B cutaway (unattributed)

 

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Bleeding the brakes with Dave Ramsay, F5000 Talon MR1A Chev during the Long Beach GP weekend in September 1975. Amon 4th, race won by Brian Redman’s Lola T332 Chev (D Ramsay)

Bibliography…

Automobile Year 16, 17 and 18, Doug Nye ‘History of The GP Car 1965-85’, GP Encyclopaedia, MotorSport March ’84 Amon article by Alan Henry

oldracingcars.com is one of my standard, always reference sources- checkout Allen Brown’s piece on the cars and each chassis built here; https://www.oldracingcars.com/ferrari/312b/

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, Rainer Schlegelmilch, Mike Glynn, Klemantaski Collection, GP Library, Rod MacKenzie, D Ramsay, Bob Harmeyer, Yves Debraine

Tailpiece: ‘This thing is a Jet if only they could keep it together for more than 10 laps?!’ …

modena tailpiece

Finito…

venetia

(J Wilds/Getty Images)

Venetia Day adorns the Matra MS120 at London’s Racing Car Show at Olympia on January 6 1971…

She is quite the most beautiful young lady with all of the ‘bibs n bobs’ we fellas tend to like. With the compound curvature of a Maserati 250F she is hard to beat.

I get a lot of metrics as part of this WordPress website, it always amuses me that the seventh most popular article i have done is the MS120 Matra piece i wrote a while back featuring Venetia’s ‘rear suspension’. Here to complete the set is her ‘front suspension’ which is as firmly set and finely proportioned as the rear…

Its certainly not the best piece i have written, so i guess it has something else going for it, page one or two of a Matra MS120 Google search !

All very politically incorrect these days of course, but political correctness is so ‘ferkin boring!

Here’s the original article if you’ve not read it;

https://primotipo.com/2014/07/06/venetia-day-and-the-1970-matra-ms120/

Tailpiece…

venetia 2

(J Wilds)

jpj monaco ms11

French racing champion and Monaco Grand Prix winner Jean-Pierre Beltoise died last week at 77 as a result of two strokes…this shot is JPB in his F1 Matra MS11 V12 at Spa 1968…

JPB commenced his racing career on bikes, winning 11 French titles and competing internationally from 1962-4 and ‘progressed’ to cars overcoming a bad crash in the 1963 Reims 12 Hour which gave him limited mobility in one arm.

He recovered from the setback and was soon part of Matras’ racing project growing and developing with the team as it progressed from F3 to F1 in addition to the aerospace companies beloved endurance program.

jpb german gp 1966 ms5

JPB and Jacky Ickx were both very fast in their Matra MS5 Ford F2 cars at the ‘Ring, German GP 1966. JPB 8th and first of the F2’s in the race won by Jack Brabhams Brabham BT19 Repco.(Bernard Cahier)

He was the French F3 Champion and Monaco F3 race winner in 1965 and 1966 respectively in a Matra MS5 Ford, also winning the European F2 Championship in 1968 in a Matra MS7 Ford FVA.

jpj mexico 67 ms7

JPB competing in the 1967 Mexican GP in his little F2 210bhp Ford FVA powered Matra MS7, the little car finished 7th in a race won by Jim Clarks’ Lotus 49 Ford. Useful circuit knowledge for JPB with Matra entering GP racing with their 3 litre V12 engined contender in 1968.(Bernard Cahier)

French drivers came to the fore with the support of the national fuel company Elf, Matra and others in the 60’s. When I think of JPB his compatriots of that era and the influence they had on racing also spring to mind; Henri Pescarolo, Johnny Servoz-Gavin, JPB’s brother in law Francois Cevert, Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, Gerard Larrousse, Bob Wollek, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Patrick Depailler and a little later the Jabouille, Tambay, Arnoux, Prost generation.

But it was Beltoise and Pescarolo who lead the way for the others.

jpb monaco 68 ms11

Matra made their F1 debut at Monaco 1968, their 3 litre V12 engined Matra MS11 driven by JPB. He qualified the car 11th, DNF after ‘kerbing’ the car and damaging its suspension. Note the ‘snub’ Monaco nose and exotic exhausts, cak looks like a ‘big banger’ from this angle. Race won by Hills’ Lotus 49 Ford. (Unattributed)

jpb monaco kerb

‘Kerbing’ his MS11 at Monaco 1968 referred to above…(Unattributed)

jpj matra ms84 silverstone 1969

Beltoise in the 4WD Matra MS84 Ford at the 1969 British GP at Silverstone. Not a successful experiment for Matra, Lotus, Cosworth and McLaren who all built 4WD cars which raced, or in the Cosworths’ case, tested in 1969. JPB Q17 and 9th in the race won by teammate Stewarts’ conventional Matra MS80. (Unattributed)

Matra MS120…

Matra withdrew their own team from F1 in 1969 to further develop their V12, Matra International, was the name given to Ken Tyrrells’ team who won the world championship in Ford Cosworth powered MS80’s in 1969. The MS120 was covered in an earlier article.

https://primotipo.com/2014/07/06/venetia-day-and-the-1970-matra-ms120/

daytona 1970

Workshop at Daytona 1970. JPB on the right, Henri Pescarolo, Francois Cevert and Jacqueline JPB wife and Cevert’ sister. Cevert soon to be an F1 driver with Tyrrell from the 1970 Dutch GP, Pesca and JPB Matra F1 drivers that year. Cevert shared a Matra MS 650 at Daytona with Jack Brabham to 10th, JPB and Pesca 18th. Race won by the Porsche 917K of Rodriguez/Kinnunen/Siffert. (Unattributed)

jpb dutch gp 1970 ms120

Dutch GP 1970. JPB in the Matra MS120 ahead of ’69 teammate Jackie Stewarts’ March 701 Ford…both cars inferior to their 1969 Matra MS80 Ford. JPB 5th in the first race win for Rindts’ Lotus 72 Ford but all unimportant in the context of Piers Courage’ death during the race. (Cahier Archive)

jpb spanish gp

Unusual low level shot of JPB in his Matra MS120B 6th at Montjuich Park Barcelona 1971 Spanish GP. Stewart won in a Tyrrell 003 Ford. (Unattributed)

Whilst many enthusiasts rightly think of him as a Matra driver, it was at the wheel of a BRM P160 that Beltoise won the 1972 Monaco GP driving the V12 engined car with a deftness of touch in streaming wet conditions and winning the race from ‘rain master’ Jacky Ickx’ Ferrari 312B.

BRM’s best days were behind them but JPB soldiered on with the British team retiring from GP racing at the end of 1974 to a successful career in touring cars, winning the French Touring Car Championship in 1976 and 1977.

jpj monaco brm 1972

Jean-Pierre drove his year old BRM P160B to a well earned victory in the wet 1972 Monaco GP. The smooth power delivery of the V12 complemented Tony Southgates great chassis, but JPJ drove with great skill that day, beating established wet weather ace Jacky Ickx into 2nd place. Stewart, Regazzoni, and many other drivers spun or had accidents. It was quite a drive. (Unattributed)

jpb tdf ms 650

Only in Italy or France, bless em! 1970 Tour de France Auto placegetters; JPB and Jean Todt in his rally co-driver days 1st, Pescarolo and Johnny Rives both in road registered Matra MS650’s from third placed Gerard Larrousse/Gelin Porsche 911ST cruising thru Parisian traffic. Even at circa 800kg and 2.4 litres the 911 was no match for the 3 litre V12, marginally detuned Matra Sports Prototypes. Oh what a sight and sound. (Unattributed)

JPB was a mainstay of Matras’ endurance program winning and placing well in many events but not getting the elusive Le Mans win he cherished.

His most successful endurance season was in 1974 winning four events in the Matra Simca MS670C together with Jean-Pierre Jarier; Nurburgring 750Km, Watkins Glen 6 Hour, Paul Ricard 750Km and Brands Hatch 1000Km playing a key role in Matras’ World Championship of Makes victory in 1973 and 1974.

jpb matra ms660 paris

Aviating in the Matra MS660 he shared with Henri Pescarolo in the 1970 Paris 1000Km, Monthlery. (Unattributed)

Etcetera…

jpj dutch gp 1968 ms11

2nd in the 1968 Dutch GP, the team having made its GP debut at Monaco in May. Matra MS11. JPB qualified 16th but drove a great wet weather race recovering from a couple of spins finishing only a second behind Stewarts’ victorious Ford engined Matra MS10. (Unattributed)

jpj spain 1969 ms80

Spanish GP, Montjuich Park Barcelona 1969. Matra withdrew its own team to develop its V12 in 1969. JPB joined Ken Tyrrells’ team who ran the Matra MS 80 powered by the Ford DFV V8, winning the title for Jackie Stewart in a car which was one of his favourites. JPB finished3rd in the race won by Stewarts’ sister car, the MS80 making its GP debut at this event. High wings banned at the next race, Monaco after the wing failures to the Lotus 49’s in Spain was the ‘straw which broke the camels back’.(Unattributed)

jpj ms 80 1969

‘I want it there!’. Mirror location with the Tyrrell Team mechanics 1969…high wing, so early in the season. Spain in all probability upon car debut. Matra MS80 Ford.(Robin Townsend)

french gp 1969

JPB on the way to a hard won 2nd place at Clermont-Ferrand in the 1969 French GP. Stewart won the race but JPB drove hard pressuring Ickx into a mistake on the last lap. Matra MS80 Ford. What a circuit this was! (FlickrZantafio56)

jpb and amon french gp 1971

JPB ahead of his teammate Chris Amon, French GP 1971. Amon was usually the quicker. Amon 5th and JPB 7th Matra MS120B. Stewart won in a Tyrrrell 003 Ford. (motorsport.com)

brm p160

On the Spanish GP grid in the BRM P160B 1972, like his old Matra V12, a 48 valve 60 degree quad cam V12…and also like the Matra not as competitive as the 32 valve 90 degree quad cam Ford Cosworth DFV V8! DNF after a gear linkage failure, Q7. Fittipaldi won, Lotus 72D Ford.(Unattributed)

71 lemans jpb

Matra MS660 Le Mans 1971 with Chris Amon. Race detail in the below caption…tough for the 3 litre prototypes against the 5 litre Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512S/M! (Unattributed)

jpb le mans 1971

JPB and Chris Amon Matra MS 660 Le Mans 1971. DNF fuel injection dramas in their 3 litre prototype, the race won by the 5 litre Porsche 917K sportscar of Marko/VanLennep. (Unattributed)

Photo Credits…

Cahier Archive, Robin Townsend, motorsport.com, Flickr

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Olympia Racing Car Show…

Model Venetia Day tries to get comfy atop the monocoque of Matra’s 1970 F1 challenger, the MS120.This famous shot was taken on the preview day of Londons ‘Racing Car Show’ at Olympia in January 1971.

The compound curvature of the Matra is more than matched by Venetia’s lissom lines- the raincoats of the ‘snappers seem apt, all struggling with the correct focal length of their shot.

matra badge 2

Matra MS120…

Jackie Stewart won the Drivers and Constructors World Championships for Matra in 1969 with the Tyrrell Teams Ford Cosworth powered MS80. Matra entered F1 with Ken Tyrrell’s team in 1968, his cars Ford powered. In addition their own V12 engined MS11 cars made their debut.

monaco

Matra make their GP debut at Monaco ’68. Beltoise Matra MS11 with ‘MS9’,  induction between the cams V12. Q8 & DNF after an accident. Short ‘snub’ Monaco nose fitted (The Cahier Archive)

In 1969 Matra focussed on developing their V12, the MS80 was designed for the Ford DFV only, the strategy was successful, few new teams have won a World Championship so soon.

ms 80

Jackie Stewart in his ’69 championship winning Matra MS80 Ford. French GP, Clermont Ferrand.(unattributed)

 

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Monaco GP 1970. Henri Pescarolo ahead of Pedro Rodriguez’ BRM P153, the Matra V12 powered car finished 3rd , Pedro finished 6th in his car, also V12 powered. Rindt’s Lotus 49 achieved a great victory having pressured Jack Brabham into a last lap error (unattributed)

Commercial Considerations…

For 1970 Matra ‘went it alone’ running cars powered  by the French aerospace company’s own V12. Matras boss, Jean Luc Lagarde, did a deal to sell his Matra 530 sports car through the Simca dealer network. Simca were owned by Chrysler, who were not about to have a Ford engine powering ‘their racing car’.

Tyrrell was offered the  MS120 for 1970, Stewart  tested the car at Albi, but felt the DFV the more competitive engine and after most of  1970 running a customer March 701, Tyrrells own Ford DFV powered cars made its debut, Stewart taking two more titles in 1971 and 1973. Tyrrell and Stewart were correct in their assessment, Tyrrell’s first Derek Gardner designed ‘001’ was similar in many ways to the MS80 which was always one of Stewart’s favourite cars.

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Equipe Matra, British Grand Prix ’70 , Brands Hatch . DNF for both Beltoise & Pescarolo . Rindts Lotus 72 won the race after Brabham’s BT33 ran short of fuel . These paddock shots clearly show the different aerodynamic approach adopted by Matras’ Bernard Boyer (unattributed)

MS120 Design…

Chassis Designer Bernard Boyer created a new monocoque with  cockpit sides and upper surfaces shaped to use the airflow over the car to develop downforce. New approaches to aerodynamics in 1970 by the March 701 , the stunning wedge shaped Lotus 72 and MS120 were stark contrasts to  the ‘cigar shapes’ of the ’60’s. The other aero approach was the ‘pregnant coke bottle’ adopted by the BRM P153 (see picture of Rodriguez in Monaco) to get the fuel load as low as possible in the car.

Front suspension geometry was developed directly from the MS80 but the wheelbase was 10cm longer due to the difference in length of Matras V12 relative to the DFV.

Matra’s 48 valve, 3 litre V12 was further developed by Gerard Martin’s team with a new block, which, DFV style, allowed the engine to be attached directly to the rear bulkhead of the monocoque to  carry the loads of the rear suspension and Hewland FG400 5 speed transaxle.

The engine developed around 435bhp @ 11000 rpm , about the same power as the DFV which had the benefit of being lighter and more fuel efficient.

The DFV was ‘the engine’ of the 3 litre formula, Ferrari’s flat 12 its only true competitor over the longer term and even then it was hamstrung by the chassis which sometimes carried it…the DFV had no such problem as so many teams used the ubiquitous engine.

matra engine

Matra ‘MS12’ 3 litre, 60 degree, 48 valve, Lucas fuel injected V12. Developed circa 435 bhp @ 11000 rpm from 2993cc. Engine used as a stressed member, suspension mounts bolting directly to the engine. ‘Aeroquip’ brake lines running along top radius rod, Lucas fuel injection & metering unit in shot.(unattributed)

Drivers and Results…

The MS120’s were driven by Frenchmen Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo in 1970, finishing 9th & 12th respectively in the Drivers Championship . Whilst both were fast, neither was an ‘ace’, Matra finishing 7th in the Manufacturers Championship , Jochen Rindt won the Drivers Title posthumously and Lotus the Constructors Title for points gained by both it’s old 49 and ‘revolutionary’ 72.

1970 was a very competitive season with the Brabham BT33, BRM P153, Ferrari 312B, Lotus 49 and 72 and March 701 all winning  Grands’ Prix. The MS120 was a little heavy, was thirsty and lacked the reliability of much of its competition, JPB had 5 retirements out of 13 rounds and 6 top 6 finishes whilst  Pesca had 3 retirements and 4 top 6 finishes.

The team lacked  an ace behind the wheel and someone with real depth of F1 testing and race experience to be able to fully develop the car. French Car, French Engine, French Sponsors and French Drivers all sounds great and made political sense given the Government funds involved but in reality, in 1970, they needed Ickx, Amon, Rodriguez, Rindt or Stewart. Of course this analysis excluding drivers ‘rusted on’ to their own teams.

french gp start

Clermont Ferrand, start of the ’70 French GP. Stewart March 701, Rindt Lotus 72, Pesca MS120,Rodriguez BRM P153 obscured, Jack Brabham Brabham BT33, Denny Hulme McLaren McLaren M14A, Ronnie Petersen March 701, Ignazio Giunti Ferrari 312B, Francois Cevert March 701…talent aplenty in 1970…(unattributed)

 

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French Grand Prix 1970, Pescarolo 5th in his MS120 at Clermont Ferrand , Beltiose 13 th in the race won by Rindts Lotus 72 (The Cahier Archive)

Withdrawal from F1…

Matra withdrew from F1 as a chassis constructor at the end of 1972, despite blinding speed shown on occasion by Chris Amon in 1971 and 1972. They eventually won Grands’ Prix as an engine supplier in Ligier chassis in the late 70’s and into the 80’s.

The 3 litre V12 was  fabulous, its screaming note one of racings most evocative, shrill best . It also achieved endurance success, the French company winning Le Mans in 1972/3/4 with its ‘670’ series of cars.

Matra’s were superbly designed, distinctively different and exquisitely built racing cars, the aeronautic background of the company obvious in the execution of the cars construction. The Grand Prix scene was the poorer for their absence but from  a commercial perspective it was ‘mission accomplished’ for Matra with an F1 Constructors Championship and 3 Le Mans victories on the trot.

The other car behind Venetia is a Surtees TS9 by the way, or perhaps you didn’t notice…

jpb from rear

JPB MS 120 1970…the more you look the more you see! Just a beautifully engineered and built car

 

boof

Beltiose all ‘cocked up’ at Monaco ’68, this kiss of the kerb causing his retirement. MS11.(unattributed)

 

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Matra MS120 family : top to bottom 1970 MS120, 1971 MS120B & 1972 MS120C (Pinterest)

 

matra cutaway

‘MS12’ cutaway…3 litre, 60 degree, 48 valve V12. Lucas fuel injection.Designed to be used as a stressed member, bolted directly to the monocoque rear bulkhead.matra badge

 

 

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(Matra)

 

boys

The 1969 Matra Squad: Matra’s Henri Pescarolo and Jean-Pierre Beltoise, and the Tyrrell duo of Johnny Servoz-Gavin & Jackie Stewart. (unattributed)

Short History of Matra Sports…

http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/con-matra.html

Photo Credits…

The Cahier Archive, Getty Images

Finito…