Le Mans, 10 czerwca 1972, godz. 16.00. Pogoda tego dnia była zmienna, ale jakby na cześć startu najsłynniejszego wyścigu świata, na torze świeciło słońce. Na trybunach tłumy były niespokojne, ponieważ po raz pierwszy od 1950 roku francuska marka miała wszelkie szanse na zwycięstwo. Wiedział o tym nawet prezydent Francji Georges Pompidou, fanatyk sportów motorowych, który obserwował start po przejechaniu pełnego okrążenia toru w swoim prezydenckim Citroenie SM Chapron. Świadoma ciężaru spoczywającego na jej barkach Matra przygotowała się do bitwy. Kierowcy, wspierani przez zespół ponad 120 osób, mieli zmierzyć się z takimi wspaniałościami, jak: Alfa Romeo 33 TT3, Lola T280 i Porsche 908. To był fantastyczny wyścig i fantastyczny sukces Matry, która ukończyła wyścig na pierwszej (Henri Pescarolo i Graham Hill) oraz drugiej (François Cevert i Howden Ganley) pozycji w klasyfikacji generalnej. Historia Matry zaczęła się osiem lat wcześniej, w 1964 roku, kiedy nowo powstała marka postawiła sobie niezwykle ambitne zadanie. „W F3 będziemy się uczyć, w F2 będziemy walczyć, a w F1 wygrywać”. I dokładnie tak się to potoczyło. Budowa pierwszego prototypu do wyścigów długodystansowych, Matry M 620, rozpoczęła się pod koniec 1965 roku, aby w Le Mans w 1966 roku zakończyć się klęską. Porzucono po tym estetyczne powiązania z modelem drogowym. Stworzono węższy i lżejszy samochód: MS 630, który zabłysnął w sezonie 1968. Wyposażony w 3-litrowy silnik V12, odegrał ważną rolę w promocji marki. Zdolny do wkręcania się do ponad 10 tysięcy obr./min, był za ciężki dla F1, ale okazał się bardzo wytrzymały i konkurencyjny w Le Mans. Kolejne lata to ewolucja, starty i ciężka praca. Od 1972 roku dodano testy przy użyciu tunelu aerodynamicznego. Rezultatem było kolejne arcydzieło: Matra MS 670. To dzieło sztuki pojawiło się w odpowiednim momencie. W 1972 roku zmiana przepisów wykluczyła ponad 5-litrowe Porsche 917 i Ford GT40, dając 3-litrowym prototypom Matra wszelkie szanse na sukces. MS 670 znakomicie sprostał wyzwaniu. Prezentowany egzemplarz wygrał 24-godzinny wyścig Le Mans w 1972 roku. Zmontowany w marcu 1972 roku, był jednocześnie pierwszym zbudowanym MS 670.
Po wyścigu w Le Mans samochód wrócił do fabryki w celu przygotowania do sezonu 1973, który również przebiegł pomyślnie. Pod koniec lipca samochód stał się okazem pokazowym. Został zmodyfikowany tak, aby wyglądał jak MS 670, który wygrał Le Mans w 1973 roku, zachowując każdy aspekt nadwozia z wyjątkiem krótkiego ogona. Od strony mechanicznej wyposażono go w silnik V12 i skrzynię biegów Porsche.
Samochód został wystawiony w muzeum Matra w Romorantin w 1976 roku. W 2002 roku warsztat Matra Automobiles rozpoczął prace renowacyjne, ale zostały one wstrzymane rok później z powodu problemów finansowych przedsiębiorstwa. W 2008 roku podjęto decyzję o wznowieniu prac konserwatorskich, aby niesamowity okaz Matry mógł wziąć udział w jazdach demonstracyjnych na imprezach dla kolekcjonerów. Po zakończeniu prac w 2010 roku samochód był gotowy do jazdy. W tej formie po raz pierwszy od 30 lat pojawił się na torze w 2012 roku, aby świętować 40-lecie Matry w Le Mans.
10 listopada 2020 V12 po raz kolejny odzyskał głos. Dwa tygodnie później, samochód wrócił na tor w Le Mans prowadzony przez Anthony’ego Beltoise’a, syna Jean-Pierre’a, pierwszego zwycięzcy w Matrze (odniesionego w F3). Samochód na nowo odkrył bajeczną symfonię silnika V12.
Dzięki imponującej autentyczności, ta maszyna stała się prawdziwą legendą wyścigów samochodowych. Licytowana 5 lutego w Paryżu osiągnęła cenę prawie 6 milionów euro czyli około 26 milionów złotych.
Photos © Philippe Louzon
Sale Parisienne 2021 – 05 february 2021 /Lot 5 1972 Matra MS 670
1972 Matra MS 670
Estimation 4,000,000 – 7,500,000 €
Sold 6,907,200 €
This lot is sold VAT excluded. VAT, at the current rate of 20%, is added to the hammer price to obtain a price including VAT on which the sales commission is calculated.
The VAT can be refund to a European registered company providing it holds a European VAT registration number and providing a shipping proof to its country of residence. The VAT will be reimbursed to any buyer residing outside the EU, providing he can give evidence of this exportation, such as export papers duly signed and cleared by the French customs or from any other country member of the EU.
Winner of the 1972 Le Mans 24 Hours, Pescarolo/Hill
Chassis n° 670-01
Engine type MS 76 n°20
Gearbox Porsche Type 1983 n°005
Matra is like a shooting star in the motorsport firmament. In the space of just 10 years, this talented constructor won the most highly coveted world titles, in Grand Prix as well as endurance. The car presented is one of the most brilliant representatives of this adventure.
Le Mans, 10 June 1972, 16.00 hours. The weather was changeable, but, as if in salute to the start of the most famous race in the world, the sun was shining down on the track. Packed in the stands, the crowds were restless as, for the first time since 1950 and the victory of Louis Rosier, a French marque had every chance of winning. Even Georges Pompidou, the French President, knew it: a motorsport fanatic, he was there to watch the start having completed a full lap of the circuit in his presidential Citroën SM Chapron. Conscious of the weight of expectation on their shoulders, Matra had prepared for battle. Supported by a team of over 120 people (catering, timing, mechanics…), they had entered four cars, with a French driver in each: a 1971-engined long-tail 660 (Jean-Pierre Jabouille-David Hobbs), a 1971-engined short-tail 670 (Henri Pescarolo-Graham Hill), a 1972-engined long-tail 670 (Jean-Pierre Beltoise-Chris Amon) and a 1972-engined long-tail 670 (François Cevert-Howden Ganley). With Ferrari’s withdrawal (caused by a failure during endurance testing : the Italian constructor’s 312 PBs were adapted to Championship sprint distances rather than longer distance events), the most dangerous rivals for Matra were the Alfa Romeo 33 TT3, the Lola T280 and the Porsche 908, all in the same 3-litre Sport category.
The French cars set the fastest times in practice and after a warm-up lap behind a Porsche 911, they set off in ruthless fashion. Pescarolo took the lead but at the end of the second lap, drama ensued: the engine of Beltoise’s car exploded and he was forced to retire. The French team suffered a moment of doubt, the cars slowed and briefly let the Lola of Jo Bonnier take the lead. The ” blues ” quickly regained their composure and the car of Cevert-Ganley took control, leading Pescarolo-Hill. Despite instructions to go carefully, the two teams kept their pace up and halfway through the race were out in front. They had moved ahead of the Alfas that had proved highly competitive before experiencing mechanical problems. Gijs van Lennep set the fastest lap of the race in the Lola T280 he shared with Gérard Larrousse and Jo Bonnier. Shortly after 9am, however, Bonnier’s fatal accident was a cruel reminder of the risks involved for these modern-day cavaliers.
As rain started to fall, Hill, who had just come out with intermediate tyres on, regained the advantage over Ganley and took the lead. Then, around midday, the no.14 of Ganley was slow to appear and when it finally came into the pits, the rear bodywork was wrecked ! Surprised by the Matra, Marie-Claude Beaumont had hit into the back of the car in her Corvette. It only took 7 minutes for the mechanics to repair it, but subsequent ignition problems forced another stop. The car remained in second place but without hope of regaining the lead. Meanwhile, the 660 of Jabouille and Hobbs, apart from running out of fuel at one point, had been circulating like clockwork until just after 2 pm, when gearbox problems forced it to stop. The crowds held their breath. Would the two remaining Matras last the distance? At 4 pm the no.15 car of Pescarolo and Hill crossed the finish line in first place, ahead of Cevert and Ganley. It was a fantastic one-two result ! Overjoyed by this French victory, the crowds ran onto the track to lift up their heroes in triumph! Graham Hill could also pride himself on being the only driver to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Indianapolis 500 and the Formula 1 World Championship.
Luck had played no part in Matra’s success. It was the result of several years of rigorous development which gained further validation in 1973 and 1974 with two more victories for the French marque in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
An incredible challenge !
The story had begun eight years earlier in 1964. Jean-Luc Lagardère, appointed to run Matra by Marcel Chassagny, set about diversifying a company that specialised in aeronautics and armaments. Energetic, ambitious and a brilliant leader of men, the young boss took the decision to get involved in the automobile industry and, after acquiring René Bonnet, began to develop Matra cars. The marque was hampered by one major handicap: no-one knew who they were. Not a problem : ” I give us ten years to win the Formula 1 World Championship and Le Mans 24 Hours ” claimed Lagardère, setting an incredible challenge. It was a huge task as the constructor had to start with nothing and build everything. He was seen by some as an idle dreamer, while others signed up to join the team he was building. Little by little, with a certain amount of trial and error, the project reached maturity. Bernard Boyer was employed to design the chassis, Georges Martin the engines, Bruno Morin on scientific research, Roland Roy in charge of the bodywork and Gérard Ducarouge became the indefatigable team manager. Added to which, of course, were the talented drivers, featuring a string of well-known French names including Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, François Cevert, Henri Pescarolo, Johnny Servoz-Gavin, Gérard Larrousse, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Jean-Pierre Jarier and Patrick Depailler. And not to mention other nationalities in the line-up : Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, Chris Amon, Howden Ganley and occasionally also Jack Brabham, Piers Courage and Nino Vaccarella.
Recognition in Grand Prix
In his bid to win the Grand Prix World title, Lagardère declared : „It will be F3 to learn, F2 to fight and F1 to win”. Which is exactly how it played out. They started by building a single seater and Matra immediately opted for the use of innovative technology. Instead of the more traditional multi-tubular structure used by their competitors, the Matras were riveted together as a monocoque structure, employing an aeronautical technique the company was adept at. The cars had an unprecedented level of rigidity and performed well from the outset.
On 14 July 1965, Jean-Pierre Beltoise recorded the first ever victory in a Matra, winning an F3 race at Reims in the MS1. He went on to clinch the French Championship.
The performance of the Matras caught the eye of an established name in motor racing, Ken Tyrrell. He began supplying himself with the F2 single-seaters, before getting more involved with the Matra team and taking charge of Matra International in 1968. This was the year that Matra launched into F1. The association with the British team manager and his star driver, Jackie Stewart, proved fruitful and on 23 June, in the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, Stewart gave Matra its first victory in F1. Beltoise came second, followed by Rodriguez (BRM) and Ickx (Ferrari). Two months later, at the Nürburgring, the Scottish driver enjoyed one of the finest victories of his career, finishing 4 minutes ahead of Hill’s Lotus in torrential rain ! ” I don’t think I had ever been more frightened sitting in a racing car. ” he admitted later. ” But the car ran like clockwork. ”
This was just a taste of things to come. After the MS 10 and MS 11 of the 1968 season, Matra produced a masterpiece – the MS 80. With fuel tanks down its sides, the car had a characteristic 'pot-bellied’ appearance. Matched with the V8 Cosworth engine, the MS 80 worked wonders in the hands of Jackie Stewart. Clocking up six victories, he became World Champion in 1969, a long way ahead of Jacky Ickx (Brabham), Bruce McLaren (McLaren) and Jochen Rindt (Lotus). Beltoise was fifth, tied with Denny Hulme (McLaren). It was an outstanding performance. In five years the constructor had managed to win at the highest level of motorsport, pitted against the finest teams of the day. The French marque had fulfilled the first part of the challenge, but a small niggle remained : The V12 Matra engine hadn’t yet proved itself in Formula 1…
The Matra engine would, however, prove itself effectively in endurance racing. It took a bit longer than in F1, but also produced the long-awaited victory. Construction of the first sports prototype Matra, the M 620, began at the end of 1965 and for commercial reasons, Jean-Luc Lagardère wanted its form to suggest the upcoming Matra 530 model. It was constructed with a tubular structure and equipped with a 2-litre V8 BRM engine. The aerodynamics were poor however, it was heavy and the M 620 proved to be no match for the Porsche 906. Matra’s first attempt at Le Mans, in 1966, ended in three retirements. As Bernard Boyer later recognised, ” It was necessary to do it, to know what not to do… ”
He went back to the drawing board and in 1967 abandoned any aesthetic connection to the touring model, creating instead a narrower and lighter car, the MS 630. There were still a few teething problems and the two cars entered for Le Mans in 1967 retired with V8 BRM engine failure.
The 630 was finally given a potential race-winning engine in 1968. This was the 3-litre V12 built by the constructor, and it played an important role in promoting the marque. Why a V12 ? ” I wanted our engine to have a distinctive sound, ” said Jean-Luc Lagardère, ” like some kind of Matra signature (…). The famous sound of our V12 was not down to chance, it was what I asked for ! I also thought that this would be the best architecture for our double objective of Formula 1 and Le Mans. ”
The design of this masterpiece was consigned to Georges Martin, who had come from Simca. It is probable that his calm and meticulous personality was reflected in that of the V12. Capable of revving to over 10 000 rpm, this engine was too heavy for F1 but proved very resilient in endurance. It was competitive from its first outing in the 1968 Le Mans 24 Hours. The engine was fitted to the only 630 M entered, driven by Pescarolo and Servoz-Gavin. Having qualified fifth, by the evening the blue Matra was up into second place, behind the Ford GT40 of the eventual winners. Then heavy rain began to fall, and when the windscreen wipers failed, Servoz didn’t fancy driving headlong into the night. He handed over to Pescarolo, who threw himself into a heroic three-hour stint, driving through the spray and non-stop glare. He maintained the pace, even though he could scarcely make out the track in his headlights through the incessant rain. When he handed over to his team-mate, the car was still in second place, as the fans discovered in the early hours of the morning, their ears glued to the radio. Then, alas, just after 11 am, the Matra drove over debris from Mauro Bianchi’s crashed Alpine, and had a puncture. This was quickly repaired, but was followed by another that caused an electrical problem. The Matra was forced to retire, but had demonstrated what it was capable of. The press was full of praise and claimed ” It’s Matra who has succeeded. ”
The performance generated a sense of expectation and all that remained was to transform this into reality…
It took three years to achieve this. The 650 that followed the 630 also had a tubular framework but this time with an open ” spyder ” body (with several advantages including the lack of windscreen wipers !) In 1969 Matra entered four cars for Le Mans and the results were encouraging. By the seventh hour, the 650 of Beltoise-Courage was in second place behind the Porsche 917 of Elford-Attwood before losing ground with brake problems. Courage then had a crash leading to a long stop in the pits. Out again in seventh place, the 650 made up places and crossed the line in fourth place, on the same lap as the GT40 of Hobbs and Hailwood and in front of the 630 of Guichet-Vaccarella. The following year was a complete disaster. The two 650s and the 660 all retired with failed piston rings within a few laps of each other.
Taking advantage of a change in regulations on flexible fuel tanks, Boyer opted for a monocoque structure, like the single seaters, and it was the 660 that led the way. The initial design was clumsy with poor aerodynamics. Roland Roy helped Boyer rectify the issue, and in doing so made a more efficient car. And so it was a rather solitary 660 that was sent out to defend the Matra colours in the 1971 Le Mans 24 Hours. ” A year of transition ” said Lagardère. The only car entered, and driven by Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Chris Amon, it was running in second place during the early hours of the morning, behind the Porsche 917 K of Helmut Marko-Gijs van Lennep, but was forced to retire when the fuel injection system failed.
The MS 670, the successful outcome
In the meantime, Matra became more professional in its approach, preparing the cars in a more rigorous fashion. Bruno Morin worked from a scientific perspective, establishing regular testing and calculating the resistance of various parts through the use of on-board measuring devices. From 1972, endurance testing was added and larger-scale models monitored in the wind tunnel. The result was another masterpiece : the 670. Like the MS 80 in Formula 1, it was the result of several years of study, tests, successes and failures and, according to José Rosinski, represented ” the successful outcome of superbly mastered advanced technology.” Its riveted tub had a kind of false bottom containing the fuel tank. The V12 was still mated to a ZF gearbox and the spyder body, which was superbly streamlined and undeniably elegant, with a fluid flowing form that stood apart from the upright, angular bodies of other prototypes.
This work of art appeared at exactly the right time. In 1972 a change in regulations excluded the 5-Litre sportscars (Porsche 917 and Ford GT40 notably), giving the 3-litre Matra prototypes every chance of success. And the MS 670 rose to the challenge brilliantly at Le Mans, as described above, claiming first and second places.
After its victory in 1972, development of the MS 670 continued with versions B and C, followed by the 680, and the adventure continued with impressive results. Not only did the car win Le Mans 24 Hours for the next two years, but it achieved even more, as Jean-Luc Lagardère decided to take part in every round of the World Championship for Makes. And so, the constructor won the world title twice : in 1973, beating Ferrari, Porsche and Mirage, and in 1974, ahead of Mirage, Porsche and Alfa Romeo.
This was clear validation of the model’s versatility. It had exceeded the ambitious challenge laid down by Jean-Luc Lagardère ten years earlier, and confirmed his status as a captain of industry and an exceptional leader. The contract had been fulfilled beyond all expectations and Matra bowed out in December 1974. ” For the last ten years, French motorsport has been on the ascendancy and that’s a little bit down to us,” he said in his address to the press in December 1974.
So, had the curtain fallen for good ? …Not completely, as the Matra V12 engine was called back into service by Ligier in its new version MS76 (which gave this engine its first victory in F1, in the Swedish GP in 1977), then the MS 81, with its spectacular howl delighting the fans. The Matra signature that Lagadère wished for…
By Serge Cordey
Car in the sale
Chassis n° 670-01
Engine type MS 76 n°20
Gearbox Porsche Type 1983 n°005
The car we are presenting is the MS 670-01 that won the 1972 Le Mans 24 Hours. Assembled in March 1972, it was also the first MS 670 built. Following testing at Le Castellet and Montlhéry, MS 670-01 was entered for the Le Mans 24 Hour race. It was fitted with a short tail and engine MS12 n°52 which, benefitting from various upgrades, produced 416 bhp at 9 800 rpm, mated to a ZF box. Consigned to Henri Pescarolo and Graham Hill for the race, the only issues experienced were with the brakes. It wore through brake linings quicker than other cars and thus required more frequent stops.
After the race, the car returned to the factory to be prepared for the 1973 season. After taking part in testing at Le Mans in April 1973, it competed successfully in four rounds of the World Championship of Makes. Following a third place at Monza on 25 April, the car finished its career with a victory in the 1000 km race at Zeltweg on 24 June. Driven by Pescarolo and Larrousse, it won ahead of the Matra of Beltoise-Cevert and the Ferrari of Ickx-Redman. MS 670-01 was at that time fitted with type 670 C 1973 tail, an MS 72 engine and a Hewland TL200 gearbox.
At the end of July 1973, for promotional purposes, Jean-Luc Lagardére, who took publicity very seriously, agreed that the car should become a 'show car’. It was modified to look like the 1973 Le Mans-winning MS 670, keeping every aspect of its Zeltweg bodywork apart from the short tail. This was replaced with the long tail that had been a spare for the 1973 Le Mans winning car (chassis 670B-02). On the mechanical side, it was equipped with a V12 engine and Porsche gearbox (like the 1973 Le Mans car), both empty, as well as elements of rear suspension adapted to the same box. The reasons for choosing 670-01 for this mission, rather than a different 670, may be explained by its livery which was the closest to that of the 1973 Le Mans-winning car (n°11, Pescarolo-Larrousse), with Pescarolo’s green trim and the number 11 of Zeltweg. Also, as 670-01 was the oldest, it made sense for this car to take a well-earned retirement !
The car was put on display in the Matra museum in Romorantin in 1976 without further modification. As the premises was unheated, it was partially greased and protected by the museum staff in 1986, and transported during the museum’s move in 2000. In 2002, the workshop at Matra Automobiles started restoration work, but this was stopped in 2003 when Matra Automobiles ceased trading and the car was returned to the museum where it remained on display as it was.
In 2008, the decision was taken to resume restoration work so that this historic Matra could take part in demonstration drives at collectors’ car events. The company EPAF carried out the work and fitted a V12 Matra type MS 76 engine and the Porsche type 1983 n°005 box that had been in the 1973 Le Mans-winning Matra MS 670 #02, both parts coming from the museum’s reserves. The bodywork remained as it was, and once the work was finished in 2010, the car was ready to be driven. In this form, it took to the track in 2012 for the first time in 30 years, to participate in Matra’s 40-year anniversary, at Le Mans. In 2015, the car also took part in Classic Days at Magny-Cours, where it completed several laps in the hands of Henri Pescarolo.
The car then returned to the museum to be displayed in this configuration. However, in January 2020, a court decision caused this situation to be reconsidered. As Thierry Funck-Brentano, co-managing partner of the Lagardère Group explained : ” Our wonderful memories of MATRA’s part in motor racing history are no compensation for the Lagarde?re Group’s obligation to honour the consequences of an unfavourable court ruling in January 2020 in a social law case involving MATRA AUTOMOBILE, 18 years after it closed. Hence the decision to offer at auction, in total transparency, the 1972 Le Mans 24 Hour-winning MATRA.”
The famous blue machine was therefore handed over to EPAF again, to be inspected and recommissioned. On 10 November, the V12 found its voice once more, thanks to the installation of electronic ignition by the specialist Oreca, who came from Magny-Cours for complete this task. Two weeks later, on 23 November, the car returned to the circuit at Le Mans. Driven by Anthony Beltoise, son of Jean-Pierre, the car rediscovered the fabulous symphony of the V12 engine, a distant echo of the roar it made on the Mulsanne Straight on the way to victory in the 24 Hour Race in 1972. A day suspended in time, bringing to mind many thrilling moments for Matra at Le Mans including: in 1973 when the Ferrari of Ickx-Redman tried its utmost – and failed – to catch the 670 of Pescarolo-Larousse, or the following year, when the car, again in the hands of Pescarolo-Larousse, got stuck in the pits, while the crowds held their breath, before setting off three minutes ahead of the Porsche that was behind it…and claiming victory.
In conclusion, it is worth emphasising that this car boasts a combination of remarkable features rarely found together in a race car of this calibre :
– It has never left the Matra factory, never changed hands and still belongs to the constructor who designed and built it from scratch, including the engine.
– It achieved Matra’s first win at Le Mans, the most famous race in the world, and also won a 1000km round of the World Championship. The first MS 670 constructed, the subsequent results for the model confirmed its excellent design and formidable versatility.
– It benefits from advanced aviation technology that had been proven with a title for Jackie Steward in F1 and the MS 80.
– It has played a major role in the fabulous story of a constructor who allowed a whole generation to dream, led by a charismatic boss with a single goal : victory.
– It has its original shell, front axle and body (with front bonnet from the 1973 season and the spare tail from the winning 1973 car), as well as many of its accessories, none of which have been damaged. Its Porsche gearbox is the one from the 1973 victory and its engine is a V12 Matra built by the constructor. All modifications to its initial configuration were carried out at the initiative and with the agreement of the factory.
An extremely detailed inspection, carried out by EPAF, lists all the parts making up the car, with details of their origin and condition. Elements of the running gear and steering have been subjected to crack testing and radiographic inspections. We invite interested parties to consult this thorough report.
With impeccable authenticity, today this machine has become a motor-racing legend. Above and beyond the sum of its parts, it is a symbol of man and the machine in competition and a romantic adventure taken along a path which has witnessed passion, sweat, tears and joy, a path that leads to the finest victories.
The quotes in this article come mainly from Matra, la Saga 1965-1982, by José Rosinski, one of the best-informed motoring journalists of the period, who followed this adventure and its protagonists closely.
Matra, la Saga 1965-1982, José Rosinski, ETAI
24 Heures du Mans, Christian Moity, Jean-Marc Teissèdre, Alain Bienvenu, Le Mans Racing
Endurance, 50 ans d’histoire, 1964-1981, Alain Bienvenu, ETAI
Historique de la course automobile, Edmond Cohin, Larivière
Matra, toutes l’histoire, toutes les courses, Dominique Vincent, L’Autodrome
Un siècle de grands pilotes français, Maurice Louche
Expertise Matra 670-01, Bruno Perrin, EPAF
As calm and composed in the pits as he was courageous, if not fearless behind the wheel, Henri Pescarolo holds a special place in fans’ hearts, being the only French driver to have won the Le Mans 24 Hours four times. The man with the green helmet clocked up a record number of participations there, with 33 starts, the final time in 1999 competing in a Courage liveried in his own team colours. There were 12 further participations as team manager and constructor.
His name is forever linked to Matra, with whom he won Le Mans three times. It is also where ” Pesca ” made his debut, having lost interest and given up on his medical studies, dreaming instead of single seaters. He was excluded by Matra however, despite excellent results with the constructor in F3 and F2 in 1967 and 1968 (French Champion in both) and a third place at Monaco for his third F1 Grand Prix in 1970. The previous year, he had suffered a serious accident while testing the 640 project which kept him away from racing for three months. Before returning to Matra to drive the 670 prototypes between 1972 and 1974 (in a team with Larrousse), he had a short spell at Alfa Romeo in 1971, where he and Andrea De Adamich claimed podium places on several occasions. He went back to Alfa in 1975 driving the 33 TT 12, and won several races with Derek Bell (Spa and Zeltweg 1000km, Watkins Glen 6 Hours) as well as the title of French Circuit Champion. After that, he enjoyed most success at the wheel of a Porsche 935 and 956, including his last victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1984, with Klaus Ludwig.
Passionate about flying and a helicopter pilot, he set several records during the 1980s in microlight and single-engine aircraft. In 2000, he founded his own motor racing team, Pescarolo Sport and developed his own car, initially based on a Courage and subsequently built from scratch. Despite an enviable record (second place in the 2006 Le Mans 24 Hours behind Audi, title holder of the Le Mans Series), the adventure came to an end in 2010 with the dissolution of the company.
Forever passionate about motorsport, Henri Pescarolo has always been an enthusiastic participant in historic events. In 2015, he got back behind the wheel of the 1972 Le Mans Matra at Magny-Cours and, in February 2020, he was spotted signing autographs at Retromobile on the FFSA stand.
Before cars, Graham Hill was passionate about rowing and the eight white vertical stripes on his helmet stood for the eight oars on the dark blue background of the London Rowing Club. He started out on two wheels (during which time he had a serious accident which left him with a shorter left leg) and he didn’t get his driving licence until he was 24 in 1953. He came to motor racing rather by accident, initially becoming a mechanic. Having worked for Dan Margulies, a meeting with Colin Chapman opened up an opportunity to race in Formula 1 from 1958. However, the Lotuses were not yet the brilliant machines they would become and in 1960 he left for BRM. After two shaky seasons, he won the World Title in 1962 in a BRM P57. Determined, with an irrepressible sense of humour and known for his famous pranks and his dashing moustache, he won over the public and became a hugely popular figure.
The next few years saw the steady decline of BRM, which didn’t prevent him from achieving a victory in the Indianapolis 500 in 1966, at the wheel of a Lola. The following year, he returned to Lotus to drive with Jim Clark, who dominated the 1967 season in his famous 49. After the death of the Scottish driver at Hockenheim the following year, Graham Hill fearlessly defended the team colours and won his second World Title. An accident at Watkins Glen in 1969 left him with two broken legs and although he continued in Formula 1 for a few more years, it was without the same level of success.
His final flourish would be the victory at Le Mans in 1972, in the Matra. The following year he launched his own F1 team, Embassy Hill Racing, and hung up his helmet in 1975. This business came to an abrupt halt in November 1975, when his private plane crashed in England, killing the team: Graham Hill, his driver Tony Brise, two mechanics, the team manager and the designer of the cars.
With 176 Grand Prix starts, Graham Hill won the Monaco Grand Prix five times and he remains the only person to hold the mythical „triple crown”, for what is considered to be the three most prestigious victories in the world: The F1 World Championship, Le Mans and Indianapolis.