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Grand Palais Sale, Bonhams (7 February 2013)

During the early 1960s, the French Engins Matra company made its name amongst world-leading armaments manufacturers, most particularly for its air-launched guided missiles. The company had been founded pre-war by Marcel Chassagny, under the name CAPRA, as an aeronautical engineering sub-contractor based in what would become Vichy France. In 1942, Chassagny changed its name to M�canique Aviation-Traction, which was quickly abbreviated to 'Matra'. Postwar, Engins Matra prospered. Chassagny was friendly with an engineer named Ren� Bonnet who from as early as 1938 had built small-capacity competition cars in conjunction with talented aerodynamicist Charles Deutsch. By 1960, their Panhard-engined Deutsch-Bonnet ('DB') marque was one of the last survivors of the struggling French motor racing industry. Deutsch withdrew from the partnership in 1961 to create his own marque using Renault engines, while Chassagny helped Bonnet by investing in continuing production of 'Ren� Bonnet' cars, which would also convert from Panhard power to Renault. For the Le Mans 24-Hours race in 1962, Bonnet entered three prototypes  an open barquette accompanied by two coup�s using the 'Djet' model name. At the 1962 Paris Salon, Bonnet then launched a trio of new road cars topping the new range was the world's first mid-engined production sports car, the Ren� Bonnet Djet. Meanwhile, a major shareholding in Chassagny's core company, EnginsMatra, had been taken by financier Sylvain Floirat. Chassagny could not guarantee Bonnet continued backing. Regardless, Bonnet pressed ahead with development of a new monocoque-chassised Formula 3 racing car. The money ran out, and Ren� Bonnet sold  late in 1964  to Chassagny, and EnginsMatra suddenly found itself owning the former Bonnet enterprise at Champigny-sur Marne. An engaging and dynamic young executive named Jean-Luc Lagard�re was made general manager of this new division, which was named 'Matra Sports'. He promoted an energetic competition programme appealing to the emergent new youth market to sell what had become the new MatraDjet road car. Consequently, through 1965 the first Formula 3 Matramonoplace racing car appeared, based upon Bonnet's exploratory monocoque experience, but now crafted to aerospace manufacturing standards. When they chose their new car's wheelbase and track dimensions Matra's embryo design team simply averaged those of every British F3 car displayed at the London Racing Car Show... On July 1, 1965, 28-year old ex-racing motor-cyclist and works driver Jean-Pierre Beltoise beat a top-class Formula 3 field to win the Coup� de Vitesse international at Reims-Gueux - Matra's first significant race victory. He would win again at Cognac and with three second-place finishes became that year's Champion de France de Formule 3. For Matra Sports this capped a highly successful first season of racing  an initial ambition accomplished. It fuelled further ambition, to advance internationally through 1966. This meant not only continuing development in Formula 3, but also progressing into Formula 2. The 1965 Formula 2 Troph�es de France prize-giving was held at BP France's headquarters in Paris. There, Lagard�re explained to Ken Tyrrell that he wanted his company to progress into Formula 2, but that he needed a star driver to make such an expensive step worthwhile. Ken Tyrrell had that driver. Having abandoned hope of Cooper producing a competitive chassis, Ken was seeking a promising replacement. Could Matra supply? Over dinner at Orly, Lagard�re agreed with Tyrrell to provide a prototype Formula 3 monocoque Matra chassis fitted with a BRM Formula 2 engine for Jackie's evaluation at Goodwood circuit in Sussex. The hastily assembled Matra-BRM prototype single-seater would be flown to England in the hold of a Bristol Freighter which Sylvain Floirat used to zoom his string of race horses to events around Europe! Jackie Stewart was immensely impressed by its sheer traction so Ken Tyrrell agreed to run Matra-BRM F2 cars throughout that forthcoming season, while the factory ran its own in-house team. Matra Sport and its aerospace-technology single-seater racing cars will always be honoured, justifiably, for its wonderful victory in the 1969 Formula 1 World Championship when the Drivers' title fell to Jackie Stewart driving the Matra-Cosworth MS80 in the Equipe Matra International team organised and managed by great British sportsman Ken Tyrrell. Matra Sport's road towards the World Championship had been pioneered by its MS-prefixed series of single-seater racing cars campaigned from 1965 in 1-litre Formula 2 and Formula 3 competition. This exquisitely well-made, uncompromisingly functional F2/F3 car offered here is understood to be Matra MS5 chassis '03', which began life as a 4-cylinder BRM P80-engined factory team car campaigned by Jo Schlesser during the 1966 European Formula 2 Championship season and after a crash at Syracuse in July of that year was never repaired in period  all of this information is documented in a letter by MATRA service competition dated March 1992. Evidence of the monocoque chassis's original BRM P80 engine is found by the presence of a supplementary space on the bottom left of the engine area of the chassis  only the rare Matra chassis produced to fit the BRM engines had this. As advised by several veteran members of the contemporary Matra Sports team, a subsequent owner had the car restored to running order in 1967 1.6-litre Formula 2 configuration, powered by a 1600cc 4-cylinder Cosworth FVA twin-cam engine driving to the rear wheels via a Hewland FT200 transaxle. The car was campaigned by Patrick Jamin in the European Historic Formula 2 Championship series of 1992-1993 with its best finish being a third at Montlh�ry and fifth overall in the 1993 Championship table. Following these two seasons, the contemporary owner lacked the necessary finance to continue racing, and indeed had to offer both the engine and gearbox for sale, while retaining the Matra's chassis and running gear for the following fourteen years. Finally, in 2006, he began a second restoration, replacing all parts, hoses, cooling system etc as required. Historically, the MS5 and later MS7 models bridged the change in Formula 2 regulations between 1966 1-litre form and 1967 1.6-litre limitation. A configuration was chosen matching the Matra factory's inter-season 1966-67 works development car  chassis MS5-014  which was powered pending delivery of the first of the new season's 1.6-litre Cosworth FVA engines by a 1600cc Lotus-Ford Twin-Cam power unit, driving through a Hewland Mark 8 transaxle. The car was then deployed for the first time in many years, running in a Matra demonstration during the 2009 Angoul�me Historic Meeting and again at the Troph�es de Gascogne event that same year. The car is now offered here in this form. It subsequently participated in the 2010 Reims WE de l'Excellence and the Brussels GP in the hands of the current vendor. This well-presented Matra promises a new owner some distinctive and immensely enjoyable Historic single-seater racing. It is, above all, an immensely attractive car for the organisers of such globally-respected events as the Goodwood Festival of Speed or the Monterey Historics, since it is a survivor of the era through which French racing blue regained its true place within the top tier of International motor racing.

Lot Details
Auction Grand Palais Sale
Bonhams, Paris, France
Lot Number569
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating0
Registration number
Chassis numberMS5-03
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors