The Phillip Island Classic is a yearly highlight for car and motorsport enthusiasts. The 2013 edition showcased some historically significant cars that competed at Le Mans, Formula 1 and the Australian Touring Car Championship. There were two cars that caught my eye that year and they were built by French car manufacturer Matra-Simca, to compete in the FIA World Sportscar Championship. These were Matra-Simca MS 670’s that entered and won at Le Mans throughout the early 1970’s.
Matra achieved its goal of winning the Formula 1 Championship in 1969, with Jackie Stewart at the wheel of the MS80. Its next task was to build cars that would be successful at Le Mans. They certainly achieved this goal with the MS 670, MS 670B and later MS 670C winning Le Mans three times in succession in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Henri Pescarolo and two-time Formula 1 Champion Graham Hill won Le Mans in 1972 in a MS 670. Pescarolo won again with Gerard Larrousse in 1973 in a MS 670B and the same driver line up also won the event in 1974, this time in a MS 670C.
Engine specification was a three litre naturally aspirated V12 that made up to 450hp (335kW) and revved to 10,500rpm. The high revving engine sounded wonderful heading around the Phillip Island circuit. It’s what a race car should sound like and reminded me of the old days of Formula 1 and sports car racing, before the onslaught of turbo and electric powered race cars. It would’ve been amazing to hear the screaming V12 heading down Mulsanne straight at 200 miles per hour back in the 70’s.
Cars weighed anywhere between 675-700 kg and featured fibreglass body panels on an aluminium monocoque. The MS 670B featured 13 inch diameter wheels, inboard rear brake discs and were equipped with a Porsche built, Matra specified five speed manual gearbox that was strong enough for 24 hours of racing.
Matra might not be as well known in racing circles as Ferrari and Porsche but their success in Formula 1 and Le Mans certainly should be celebrated.