Founded as an aircraft manufacturer, Matra soon diversified into supercars, satellites and sailing boats, although it is perhaps as a racing team that it is best known to us. Equipe Matra Sports saw success throughout the 1960s in F3 and F2 racing before entering Formula 1 in 1968.
In its first season the Matra MS10, campaigned by Tyrell and driven by Jackie Stewart, won three Grands Prix, taking him to second place in the championship. The following year the redesigned, Cosworth-powered MS80 – which used Matra aeronautical know-how in the design of its structural fuel tanks – easily carried Stewart to the championship. Matra became the first constructor to win the championship without a works team and made France the third country ever to win, after the UK and Italy.
The Tyrell partnership unfortunately ended the following year due to sponsorship clashes and the Matra V12 found its way into a series of Group 5 sports racers. Making its debut at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1972 the MS670 promptly won with Henri Pescarolo and Graham Hill behind the wheel. The sister car of François Cevert and Howden Ganley finished second.
The following two seasons Matra pretty much wiped the floor with the opposition, winning Le Mans and the drivers’ and constructors’ championships for 1973 and 1974. Matra pulled out of motor racing entirely ahead of the 1975 season. Talk about retiring at the top.