7. Matra MS80

18S066 Matra MS80 No.2 Winner French GP 1969 – Jackie Stewart

In the end of the 1960ies Formula 1 cars had spring travels as we know them today for SUVs. Therefore the torsional stiffness was extremely important for the vehicle construction. But the technologies were limited. Many cars of this period were really difficult to drive at the limit. But not the Matra MS80 with which Jackie Stewart could win his first world championship in 1969.

The Scotsman remembers: “Matra was a company that was specialized in aerospace. This knowhow the French people also used for the Formula 1. There was an exact calculation for the quantity and the arrangement of the rivets which were needed to mount together the monocoque and the aluminum plates. A similar procedure only existed for the construction of airplanes at that time. That is the reason why the MS80 was more rigid than all other cars. I think it was the best car, I had ever driven. It excused a lot.” But it was not only the “skin” of the MS80 that was responsible for the stiffness of the car. The placement and arrangement of the petrol tanks played an important role, too. They were located on the left and the right side of the cockpit which gave the characteristic convex form to the worldchampion Matra.

“I was sitting in the middle of the petrol tanks”, Stewart recalled, what was really dangerous in times when the cars were like ticking time bombs. “But the advantage was that the handling of the car didn’t change a lot with a decreasing fuel quantity, because the center of gravity was lowering constantly”, Stewart explained. Apart from this the Matra MS80 was a very sophisticated car. There even existed a wooden model of it which was put in a wind tunnel from time to time; what was extremely atypical for the Formula 1 at that time. But to name the MS80 as first Formula 1 car which was developed out of the wind tunnel would be entirely presumptuous. It was only about details that were tested in the tunnel. Two of them are typical for the MS80: on the one hand the partly covered suspension elements on the other hand the vertical fins on the nose which improved the air stream to the rear. Even in this point Matra invested a lot more than the competitors like Ferrari, Lotus and Brabham. Already in the winter time the “blue ones” tested some different versions of rear wings. “We even drove without a rear wing”, Stewart remembers. The loss of grip was enormous. “It felt like another car”, Sir Jackie told, “but after there was an official prohibition to use the big rear wings because of the accidents of Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt at the Spain GP it didn’t hit us badly. We were well prepared and could obtain the maximum of grip even with a smaller rear wing.” Three races before the end of the season, in Monza, Stewart could already get the world-champion title with a big head start.

And something else was really special on the MS80: There were only built two chassis!!! One chassis for Stewart and one chassis for his team colleague Jean-Pierre Beltoise. On the one hand it showed how careful both drivers were with the material, but on the other hand it showed how superior and thoughtful the concept of Matra had been.

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