Matra MS80, the first French car to World Championship with Jackie Stewart



Apart from some sporadic previous attempts, in 1969 several top houses lined up four-wheel drive cars using Ferguson components: the Matra MS84, the McLaren M9A and the Lotus 63.


If for the Lotus 63 the tuning will never be refined and the car will never prove to be competitive, surprisingly the Matra MS80 manages to be competitive and winning immediately. Mécanique Aviation Traction, a French industry operating in the aeronautical and armaments sectors since its birth date of 1941, repeatedly expressed its interest in entering the world of motor racing, and in 1961 first joined, and a few years later absorbed, the small manufacturer of road sports cars René Bonet, giving life to a new company that takes the name of Matra Sports.


In 1969 the official Formula 1 team came to a halt, and the whole burden fell on Ken Tyrrell, Jackie Stewart, the Ford Cosworth and the MS80.



To conceive the Matra MS80, the configuration was chosen characterized by a large rear wing linked to the hub carriers, and by the wings next to the nose that take the name of mustache, with the designer Boyer opting for the fixed incidence of the profile, equipping the hub-holders of connecting rods to half-height rollbar. A solution conceived with the aim of controlling both the oscillations of the wing and the stresses in the fixing point of the support to the hub holder.


The first wing experiments, however, turned out to be dangerous, and subsequently at the Spanish Grand Prix, in which the drama is touched due to several wing failures, the Federation sets stringent and imperative limits in favor of safety, determining the integral fixing to the frame, a maximum width of 1100 millimeters, and a maximum height of 800 millimeters calculated from the lowest point of the car.


The French manufacturer adopts a wing with an asymmetrical biconvex profile, to which is added a flap without an aluminium slot that increases the length of the chord by about ten centimeters. By intervening on the latter, by not mounting it or by varying its inclination, the load carrying can be adjusted. In the center, however, there is the air intake for the oil radiator, with an integrated system with the hood and the wing itself.


As for the car body, the fairing follows the spindle design widely used in the 1960s, with front air intake for the water radiator and a bulge of the side bulkheads in the middle of the car. At the front, you can also see two vertical fins on the nose, which have the task of channeling the air centrally by increasing the pressure on the large flat surface, producing an additional aerodynamic load.



Returning to the front air intake, there is a channeling inside the nose with a divergent shape which, starting from the leading edge of the front mouth, with perfect connections and without dispersions, conveys the air to the radiator thus increasing its efficiency. thermal and reducing the aerodynamic resistance to advancement. In this way the car would have been fast on the straight while keeping the wings loaded, generating downforce in the corners.


At the front, moreover, at the head of the brackets that bind the upper triangles, there are two small air intakes then also replicated laterally at the height of the rider's shoulders which, observing the internal duct, have the purpose of blowing the flow to the shoulders of the pilot, in order to shield him from the heat radiated by the oil tank which is located a few centimeters from the backrest.


As for the frame, the French team exploits its aeronautical knowledge, creating for the MS80 a monocoque frame made of light alloy, formed by flat or shaped sheets connected to each other, or on the transverse ribs, by means of riveting. A first difference compared to other manufacturers is distinguished by the ribs, made of light alloy sheet metal and arranged at a close distance near the most critical points and subjected to greater stress, while for the suspension and engine attachment points Matra technicians use sheet steel handkerchiefs as reinforcement.

In addition, having chosen to stow the petrol directly inside the boxed sides in contact with the sheets, it is possible to abound with the ribs and reinforcement currents, thus obtaining extremely rigid structures.



The internal volumes are used as tanks and made watertight thanks to the use of a specific sealing mousse with exclusive use, thus being able to count on a lower overall weight of the car, more rigidity for the freedom to position ribs and currents, and also a section reduced transversal for the complete exploitation of the volumes for the petrol hold.


For this purpose, in fact, we note the presence of many plastic tubes with the function of evacuating possible air pockets, which would have prevented the complete filling of the tank.


For the construction of the frame, the previous MS10 is inspired by, however, bringing several improvements and modifications mainly concerning the centralization of the masses towards the center of gravity to improve responsiveness in changes of direction, obtaining the maximum possible rigidity to enhance the functioning of the suspension.


This objective is achieved by increasing the central volume of the fuel tank through the use of pronounced bulges of the sides. In addition, the engine and cockpit are moved to a more central position, followed by the oil tank, battery and other accessories such as electric petrol pumps.


For all these movements, at Matra Sports they have created the last arch-shaped rib to leave maximum space inside, the so-called flame arrester, to which they subsequently fixed the rollbar and constrained the entire rear end of the car, given the use of the motor with carrier function.


As for the torsional rigidity of the frame, the technicians focused more on the front part, effectively giving up the rocker suspension that guaranteed a better Cx, in order to create a completely closed structure with double skin of sheet metal: the external one to act from the bodywork and the internal one around the pedals connected to each other with longitudinal currents.


The suspension layout, on the other hand, is completely traditional, with the use of a deformable quadrilateral architecture both at the front and at the rear, with the addition of some conceptually interesting changes, including the adoption of a shelf at the front. to anchor the upper triangle that allows the achievement of a couple of objectives, such as the realization of a fairly short triangle, in order to have a rather pronounced camber recovery curve, and at the same time a fairly wide track.


Another very interesting aspect concerns the design of the hub carrier, which incorporates the bearings and has the hollow rotating pin of generous dimensions, much more rigid and also lighter than traditional versions; all housed inside the rim, effectively drawing significant aerodynamic advantages.


As for the rear of the Matra MS80, parallel lower arms are adopted in place of the more traditional inverted triangle, a new solution for Formula 1 and copied by the designer Len Terry, who built it for Shelby CanAm several years earlier. This configuration has the advantage of maintaining the convergence during the excursion of the suspension regardless of the anchoring points of the longitudinal tie rods-struts.


As for the engine, there is little to add, given that the French manufacturer's car features the eight-cylinder V-shaped engine built by the Ford Cosworth DFV, much praised by both Ken Tyrrell and Stewart himself.


Sir Jackie's premiere


Jackie Stewart easily wins the championship with the new Matra MS80, which has been significantly improved by correcting the weaknesses of the previous Matra MS10. The title won by Stewart marks the first and only triumph for a frame built entirely in France. This is a surprising result for a team that had only made its Formula 1 debut the previous year.


In 1969 Jackie Stewart found himself behind the wheel of an extremely manageable car, which allowed him to obtain five victories in the first six races of the championship, crossing the finish line first in the Grand Prix of South Africa, Spain, Holland, France and Great Britain. The English driver's winning streak was interrupted in Germany, where he still finished in second place, while in the following Italian Grand Prix Stewart returned to victory.



In the remaining three races of the season, the English driver is slowed down by two consecutive retirements in Canada and the United States, while in the final race in Mexico he wins a fourth place finish that allows him to conquer the world drivers title with 63 points; while his teammate, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Beltoise, won two third places in Spain and Italy, and a second place in his home Grand Prix in France.


In total, Matra won 85 world championship points, winning the constructors' title at the end of the 1969 season, thanks to six wins, four podiums and two pole positions.


Andrea Rasponi

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