THE GENERAL AND THE WOODCUTTER

Ken Tyrrellīs Matra International Team 1968 and 1969

Money the company had earned a lot meanwhile, with armaments, when de Gaulle had founded the French nuclear force, but also by selling civilian technology, only a little with their car business, that only took 5 per cent of thei groups turnover. Matra had been a high tech company already in the sixties, being very well prepared for the electronic age, especially for that reason, the company earned their money by a great amount of orders by the state. Franceīs efforts for national independence, also expressed by leaving the military structure of NATO, the same time was shown on the sports and technology sectors. It was not only driven by ambition and the unbentable will for perfectionist development, but also forced by a good portion of chauvinism. The home country of Grand Prix Racing had not won a long time, contrast to the other disciplines in sport. Their last winner had been Maurice Trintignant back in 1958, in a British Cooper Climax and additionally in the pricipality of Monaco, France had a not often problemfree partnership with. For this reason the six million US-$ given by the national government to their old partner Matra for constructing a winning Grand Prix engine, meant an immense pressure for them. While the British teams of those days had financed their activities by the money of the multi-national oil companies, later also by that of the tyre manufacturers, before the commercial sponsors entered the Grand Prix business, the contribution of the government was a subvention in the classical sense, also made for the glory of the country. No daubt, in the lower formulas of 3 and 2 successes had come their way, in most cases using Cosworth engines, to expect more. But the construction of a national grand Prix racing car was a job being a lot harder to do. And of course, they could not resist the challenge of producing a 12 cylinder engine. They thought, they would be on the same level as those of Maranello or Bourne, but this should be a terrible mistake. The Matra V12 was, thanks to exotic materials from space travel, especially titanium, light like a Cosworth DFV, with high revs it was extremely powerful, with itīs screeching like an inferno, it was loved by regular Grand Prix visitor George Harrison, but the unit always had problems with itīs reliability.

All that happened in front of the background, that there had been no adequate chassis available at the beginning of the 1968 season. The models of MS10 or MS11 were only modified Formula 2 chassis. In England meanwhile Ken Tyrrell had put himself on the waiting list for the Ford Cosworth DFV V8, shortly after it had given itīs debut in the Lotus 49s of Clark and Hill during the 1967 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. And Tyrrell was also clever enough, to be the first one to do, before he took away his Matra Formula 2 star Jackie Stewart from the rival B.R.M. Grand Prix team. Jean-Luc Lagardere, the CEO of Matra, a dynamic man of high competence, was looking for additional partners to put his the Grand Prix project being responsible for personally and putting in the whole prestige of his group, on a secure basis. That he would come together with Ken Tyrrell, those days considered the best team manager all over the world, nearly was a logic. self-evident step. In spite of that, the difference between the French enterpreneur and the woodcutter from the English county of Surrey could not been greater. The only passion they shared really, was the love for football, Tyrrell as a shareholder of Tottenham Hotspurs, Lagardere later as the president of Paris St.Germain. To get involved in serious quarrells, it never happened, in spite of the fact, that Tyrrell had to send his mechanics often over the Channel to help with the construction of the Matra chassis, because there were always troubles with itīs quality standard. Very often the parts could not been combined, making Tyrrell sign a contract with Ferguson engineer Derek Gardner to revise a lot of them, while at Matra the career of another world class designer had just begun: That of Gerard Ducarouge.

For this reason they brought a double entry to the grid in the 1968 season.On the one hand there was the MS11 model with the V12 engine on a works base for Jean Pierre Beltoise. On the other there existed the privately owned Matra International team as the first great cooperation project in the history of Grand Prix racing, financed by Dunlop, Ford and oil company elf, that also was owned by the state and had once been founded by de Gaulle. Matra International had got itīs headquarters in that until today existing hut beside Tyrrellīs timber trade, because in this green belt area it was strictly forbidden to construct buildings made of bricks or concrete. This order Tyrrell later disobeyed more illegally than elegantly. The Matra Ford MS10 won for the first time in the wet race of of Zandvoort 1968 and Beltoise in the V12-MS11 came home second to bring such an enthusiasm to France never to be seen before. But very soon it became clear, that the Matra works team was for away from the performance of Matra International, who lost the 1968 worldchampionship only in the last round at Mexico City to Graham Hill and Team Lotus. For this reason Matra intended to give their complete Formula One programme into private hands. Jochen Rindt, near to resignation by the permanetly blown Repco engines at Brabham, and taken away the chance to drive the domestic made Ford Cosworth Grand Prix car entered by the Roy Winkelmann team, had thought of becoming a Formula One entrant in his own rights. In this case he would have been driver and team manager in personal union. Lagardere was very happy about that decision, because Matra also took part in the sportsprototype worldchampionship under the pressure of the public with the natural aim of winning the 24 Hours Race of Le Mans. Rindt had got the Ford Cosworth engines as well as a Dunlop tyre contract, giving him not only the best tyres of that time but also a 50 per centage part of his teamīs budget. Parallel to this, his friend of the old Formula 2 days, Alan Rees was looking for a commercial sponsor for the missing, maybe 80.000 US-$ to be found with London biscuit company Veston. Too late, because Rindt, full of impatience as he ever was, had given his promise to start for Colin Chapmanīs Team Lotus only some hours before that. And he, was hesitated so long with signing his 1969 lotus contract, felt himself tied to this promise.

Meanwhile Lagardere concentrated everything onto his British partners after the collapse of the Rindt project, offered with the conventional MS80 and the four-wheel-drive MS84 professionelly made but not always perfectly built chassis for the use of the Ford Cosworth V8 engine, repaleced fast, but not always reliable Johnny Servoz-Gavin by his works driver Jean-Pierre Beltoise at Tyrrell, and in spite that, he forced the development of the domestic made v12 engine. With the Matra Ford MS80 Jackie Stewart won the 1969 worldchampionship the unbeatable way, when he scored wins in 6 out of 11 rounds also taking the constructorsītitle. But then Matra made the mistake to sign a cooperation contract with Chrysler in winter 1969 & 1970, a step, that made sense under the aspect of the road car market, but making the use of the Ford Cosworth engine impossible. Because this unit came from a direct rival on the automobile market, the project of Matra International came to an end, over night and at the climax of their success.

"Today you are underpayed," Ken Tyrrell had said to his star driver Jackie Stewart before that race, that should become the greatest triumph both in the Scotīs and Matraīs career, because the 1968 European Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring-Nordschleife was considered the worst wet race ever. Stewart won in spite of a spin nearly hitting a marshall ans stalling his engine. The gap to second place driver Graham Hill was 4 minutes. Matraīs Force de Frappe, rational alliance or Entente Cordiale, depending on the individual point of view, has nothing lost of itīs historic meaning also 3 decades later.

Klaus Ewald

 

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Đ 2001 by researchracing

 

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