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  Matra MS11
 

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Country of origin:France
Produced in:1968
Numbers built:3
Designed by:Bernard Boyer for Matra
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:November 07, 2006
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Click here to download printer friendly versionIn the first fifty years of motoring, France had been a prominent player in the international racing world represented by legendary manufacturers like Ballot, Delage and Bugatti. None of them survived the first years after the Second World War and France's mainstream manufacturers showed little interest in entering circuit racing. By the 1960s the premier racing class, Formula 1, was fought out between Ferrari and a host of specialist British manufacturers like Cooper, BRM and Lotus. Originally a manufacturer of aviation products and rockets, Matra was determined to bring France back into international racing after they bought Rene Bonnett's ailing company in 1964.

Using the aerospace expertise an aluminium monocoque was constructed for the 1965 F3 season. Powered by a British Cosworth engine, it was immediately successful with both Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Jean-Pierre Beltoise winning races. Matra clinched the French F3 title in its debut year. For 1966, Matra Sport was joined by British team-manager Ken Tyrrell, who brought along a talented young driver called Jackie Stewart. Together they entered F2, where they encountered stronger competition than in F3. Especially the Honda powered Brabhams were unbeatable, but Beltoise nevertheless managed to win the company's first F2 race, at the Nürburgring. The following year the Matra was the car to beat and Jacky Ickx won the European Championship.

Encouraged by the successes in the 'lesser' classes, Matra now had its eyes strongly set on Formula 1. The ultimate goal was to become a dominant force with a completely French car, so work was started on a suitable engine. Taking a page out of Ferrari's book, the engineers decided to develop a quad-cam, 60 degree V12 engine. Even though the engine was announced early in 1967, it was quickly obvious that it would not be ready for the opening race of 1968. Thanks to Tyrrell's British contacts, the team managed to source the Cosworth DFV V8 engines that had shown great promise in the Lotus 49. Dubbed the MS9, Matra's first Formula 1 car was little more than an upgraded F2 racer and served mainly as a test bed, but also raced in the opening Grand Prix of 1968 where it qualified on the front row.

All the lessons learned were converted into the Matra MS10, which was designed specifically to house the Cosworth engine. However, it did not use the V8 as a fully stressed member as Lotus had done in the 49. Stewart scored the first victory for the debutant in Matra's fifth Grand Prix and added two more to the tally later in the season. While Ken Tyrrell fielded his two MS10s, Matra themselves debuted the V12 engined MS11 in Monaco. Whereas the the MS10 used a subframe to mount the engine, the MS11 featured a monocoque with pontoon extensions for its V12. It produced a claimed 390 bhp, but its performance never justified the claim. With his Cosworth engined MS10, Stewart finished second in the driver's championship behind Graham Hill and Tyrrell's team finished in the same position behind Lotus.

Disappointed with the performance of the V12, Matra did not compete in the 1969 season, but they did supply Tyrrell with a new car to defend the French honours. This MS80 was a further refined version that used the DFV engine as a fully integral part of the chassis. The monocoque chassis had a 'coke-bottle' shape to allow for larger fuel cells on either side of the driver. A wide variety of aerodynamic aids were used throughout the year with the biplane arrangement of a high mounted front and rear wing as the most extravagant. A four wheel drive version was also constructed, but it was not able to match the pace of Stewart in the MS80 and none were any of his competitors. Stewart and Matra/Tyrrell were crowned World Champion at the end of the year.

For a variety of reasons, Matra was not able to provide Cosworth-ready chassis to Tyrrell for the 1970 season and the smart Brit understandably did not want to risk his team's changes by fielding the underpowered and still not very reliable V12 engined Matras. As an interim measure, he bought a March chassis, but before the season was over he had a car bearing his own name ready for his loyal driver Stewart. Matra fielded the new MS120 and its derivatives in the following three seasons, but they could not do any better than third for Beltoise in the 1970 Italian Grand Prix and third for Chris Amon in the 1971 Spanish Grand Prix. Matra left Formula 1 at the end of 1972, although the V12 engines would return later that decade in the back of several Ligiers, which managed to score three victories between 1977 and 1981.

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