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Sunday, 9 August 2015

Mmm....Matra Museum Musings

Matra MS650 and other classic Matra sports racing cars in the Musée Matra at Romarantin.
I’ll be honest and admit that I find most museums, even motor museums, boring.  I’d rather have a walk or cycle in the countryside or just sit down and have a nice drink or a meal with some friends or go to the smallest motoring event than see cars indoors out of context.  For me museums are something to do on your own very quickly and then get out and do something more interesting.   I actually prefer to do museums on my own for fear that anyone I am accompanying will want to spend hours looking at everything in great detail. 

So how does the Matra Museum at Romarantin in France appeal to someone who doesn’t like museums?

ANYTHING NOT TO BE MISSED?  Matras are not something you see that often, even at historic race meetings, so there is bound to be something here that you haven’t seen before or at least not for a very long time.  For me the special car was the road going Matra MS650 Tour De France Auto winner as I hadn’t seen it before.

CONTENT?  I would have preferred it to have had just the racing cars and a bit of extra space between each one.   For me in museums less is often more.  In terms of the racing cars there was nothing really major missing.   Frankly, I found most of the road cars and most of the downstairs area boring.   The special Ferrari exhibition which concentrated on Ferraris that had been in films was good on the whole and added some variety even if there wasn’t any Ferrari I found particularly interesting.   I liked the large number of Matra and Ferrari model cars they had around the museum.

PRESENTATION?  I didn’t like the dummies they put in some of the cars and many of the cars were very close together and couldn’t be accessed from all sides.  However, they had made some effort in terms of presentation.   It was quite a nice building with some natural light except downstairs.

INFORMATIVE?  Perhaps, didn't bring out how successful Matra were during their ten seasons of racing.  However, they did have a reasonable bilingual sign for each exhibit and some film shows.

INTERACTIVE?  I didn’t find anything very interactive in the museum or anything you could touch or play with.  Not even a chance for a selfie in a replica Matra, or being able to push a button and hear the sound of each Matra engine.   Come on guys this is the 21st century where we have lower boredom thresholds every year.

Beautiful Matra Sports V12 Engine from 1968
ENTERTAINMENT?  For an hour or so this is a reasonable place to go to see a few old Matras, bring back memories and learn a few things perhaps you didn't know or had forgotten. It was a pity that the room with the engines wasn’t a lot noisier!

PERMISSION TO TAKE PHOTOS?  Ten out of ten as they allow you to take photos of everything.   I hate motor museums that don’t allow this.  A big plus to me as it adds to my entertainment.

STAFF/CROWDS?  No bossy officials telling you what not to do and not so crowded that you couldn’t get to see the popular exhibits so good in this respect.  Heard quite a few English voices so Brits are obviously attracted to this place.

PRICE/VALUE?  Only €6 to get in so pretty good value.

CAFÉ/GIFT SHOP? Didn’t notice any opportunity for refreshments but they had a reasonable gift shop although tellingly I didn’t buy anything but then I am stingy with myself.

Overall?  A nice little museum definitely worth a visit.

Some of the earlier Le Mans Matras including this MS630 from 1968
For those who didn’t live through the Matra era, here is what they achieved in terms of motor racing success:

MATRA SPORTS timeline –

1964 – The Matra car company came into existence after they buy the ailing car company of René Bonnet which produces the pretty D-Jet small sports car. At the end of the year they decide to form Matra Sports and go racing.

1965 – The first F3 car, the MS1 with a Ford engine tuned by Cosworth,  achieves some wins with Jean-Pierre Beltoise at the wheel including at Reims against Piers Courage in the all conquering Brabham.  Beltoise won the French F3 championship that year in a Matra.  The longer wheelbase MS2 F3 car also ran this year.
The Formula Three car leads the way for Matra to progress to winning in F2 and F1
1966- The first F2 car and the first sports racing car were produced.  The F3 car was refined into the MS5 and took some more wins win Johnny Servoz-Gavin winning three times in his second year of single seater competition and winning the French F3 championship.  At Le Mans for their first 24 hours race all Matra MS620-BRM 1.9L cars retired.

1967- Jacky Ickx wins the European F2 Championship in Ken Tyrell’s Matra and also creates a sensation by qualifying third fastest for the F1 German GP in the same MS7 car.   In F3 the car was further developed to become the MS6 although the MS5 continued to race.  Jean-Pierre Beltoise won the F3 Temporada series early season in Argentina and Henri Pescarolo won numerous European F3 races and the French F3 Championship.  Later in the year Matra began to dabble in Grand Prix racing using a ballasted MS7F2 car and Jean-Pierre Beltoise came seventh in the US and Mexican GPs.  In the Le Mans 24 hours both Matra MS630-BRM 2 litre cars retired.

1968- Jackie Stewart finishes second in the F1 World Championship and wins three Grand Prix in Ken Tyrrell’s Matra-Ford Cosworth MS10 F1 car.  This was a great achievement for their first year in Formula One for Matra.  The works Matra team campaigned a Matra F1 car with a V12 Matra engine and Jean-Pierre Beltoise came second in the Dutch GP in this MS11 car.   The F2 programme continued and Jean-Pierre Beltoise became European F2 Champion in a Matra with three wins and Henri Pescarolo becoming runner up in the championship.  Jackie Stewart also won some F2 races in the Ken Tyrrell Matra.  The F3 programme finished and the cars were sold off to French privateers.  Jean-Pierre Jabouille was the most successful Matra F3 driver in 1968 scoring a number of wins.  At Le Mans Henri Pescarolo had the first of his many stunning 24 hour drives and had the MS630 up to second place in the rain before it eventually retired during a late pit stop.

1969- Jackie Stewart and Ken Tyrrell win the World F1 Championship for Matra-Ford in a season they dominate with the MS80 and in which Jackie Stewart scores five Grand prix wins. Jean-Pierre Beltoise came second in the French GP making it a memorable 1-2 in their home GP for Matra.  In Formula Two the wins also continued with Johnny-Servoz-Gavin winning the European F2 Championship for Matra and Jackie Stewart and Jean-Pierre Beltoise also scoring victories.  At the end of the year Matra is sold to Simca which precludes future use of Ford engines.  Along with Lotus and McLaren, Matra try out four wheel drive with the MS84 car and its best result was sixth in the Canadian GP with Johnny-Servoz Gavin driving but I think with the front drive disconnected.  At Le Mans for the 24 hour race they came fourth with a MS650 driven by Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Piers Courage, fifth with a MS630 driven by Jean Guichet and Nino Vaccarella and seventh with a MS630/650 driven by Nanni Galli and Robin Widdows.  An impressive feat of reliability that saw just the Servoz-Gavin/Muller MS630/650 retire.

1969 World Championship winning car, shame about the dummy.
1970- The works team contest the F1 Championship with the MS120 chassis and a V12 Matra engine using Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo as the drivers.  They finish seventh in the constructors’ championship and Beltoise finishes ninth in the drivers championship with third places in the Belgian and Italian GPs.   Henri Pescarolo came third in the prestigious Monaco GP for Matra.  At Le Mans they entered three cars (2 Space frame MS650s and 1 Monocoque MS650) for the 24 hours but they all retired early in the race.  However, Matra did win the Tour de France Auto with a Matra MS650 driven by Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Patrick Depailler and navigated by Jean Todt.

1971- For 1971 Matra updated the car to MS120B spec and added Chris Amon to line up with Jean-Pierre Beltoise on the F1 grids.  Their was some early promise when Chris Amon won the non-championship Argentine GP for Matra at the end of January but there were no championship GP wins and Matra again came seventh in the Constructors’ Championship.  Best result was Chris Amon’s third place in the Spanish GP but Jean-Pierre Beltoise’s best result was sixth in the same race.  At Le Mans Matra entered one MS660 but it did not finish.  Matra again won the Tour de France Auto with the MS650, this time driven by Gérard Larrousse and co-driven by Johnny Rives.

1972- For the 1972 F1 season Matra ran a single car for Chris Amon in MS120C and MS120D spec.  The car had its moments but the team finished in eighth place in the constructors championship. Best race of the year was the French GP on the challenging Charade circuit where Chris Amon was on pole and took fastest lap in the race but could only finish third.  Chris Amon also took fastest lap in the Belgian GP and finished tenth in the drivers’ championship.   After this disappointing season Matra withdrew from F1.   However, the sport car programme was more successful and Matra at last won the Le Mans 24 hours with the MS670 V12 driven by Henri Pescarolo and Graham Hill.  They also took second place in the same race with a car driven by Francois Cevert and Howden Ganley.

1973- In 1973 Matra repeated their Le Mans 24 hours triumph with a MS670B driven by Henri Pescarolo and Gérard Larrousse winning and the one driven by Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Jean-Pierre Jabouille coming third.  Importantly, Matra also beat Ferrari and Porsche to win the World Championship for Makes and as well as winning at Le Mans there were victories at Vallelunga, Dijon-Prenois, Osterreichring and Watkins Glen. The winning drivers were always Henri Pescarolo and Gérard Larrousse.

1974- The hat trick of Le Mans victories was completed for Matra, now in Gitanes livery, when Henri Pescarolo and Gérard Larrousse won the 1974 24 hours in a MS670C.  Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Francois Migault came third in a similar car.   Matra also dominated the World Championship of Makes beating the Gulf team, Porsche and Alfa Romeo and winning nine of the ten rounds.  Jean-Pierre Jarier and Jacky Ickx won at Spa; Jarier and Jean-Pierre Beltoise won at the Nurburgring, Paul Ricard, Watkins Glen and Brands Hatch; Pescarolo and Larrousse won at Imola, Le Mans, Ostereichring and Kyalami.   Then after all of this success Matra Sports withdrew from racing after ten seasons. 

A hat trick of Le Mans 24 hour wins from 1972 to 1974 (part of the model; collection)
Matra continued to supply V12 Matra engines to other teams in F1, mainly Ligier, until 1982.  Jacques Laffite won the 1977 French GP and 1981 Austrian and Canadian GPs driving a Ligier-Matra V12.

I remember Matra well from my regular attendance at Brands Hatch.  At my first F1 race Jackie Stewart won the 1969 Race Of Champions in a F1 Matra.  ! also saw the Matra V12 F1 car in 1972 at the British GP where Chris Amon recovered from a lowly grid position to finish fourth.  My other Matra memories are at the Brands Hatch 1,000km in 1974 when they scored a 1-2 victory with the MS670C.  Like everyone I loved the sound of the V12s and to hear the sound as they accelerated out of Druids in a tail slide was magnificent. It was also nice to see them retain the French racing blue colours throughout the whole ten years of racing.  Great memories.

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John Etherton affirme son droit d'auteur à l'ensemble des photos sur ce billet de blog. Cependant, vous pouvez poster des photos ailleurs sur le web aussi longtemps que vous créditez le photographe, John Etherton, et ce blog, et fournissez un lien vers cette page.