The car that completed Graham Hill’s triple crown

01st February 2023
Simon Ostler

When you think of the most incredible achievements in motorsport history, the inimitably versatile Graham Hill and his Triple Crown remains a legendary and unique accomplishment. In more recent times, Michael Schumacher won seven Formula 1 world championships, a feat matched by Lewis Hamilton. Valentino Rossi won seven top-level motorcycle world championships in MotoGP, and Sébastien Loeb won nine WRC drivers’ titles. But while all of those achievements are scarcely believable, they were all accrued in a single category of racing. The Triple Crown, if you didn’t know, is made up of what many consider to be the three greatest motor races (from three different disciplines) in the world – the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours.


Graham Hill’s status as a winner soul wearer of the Triple Crown of Motorsport is difficult to comprehend today, and the fact he remains the only driver to claim it says it all. Several other drivers have come close to joining the so far entirely exclusive club. Fernando Alonso made it his mission to do so, but he fell short at his third and final jewel, the Indy 500.

This week at Retromobile, we were reminded of Hill’s almost mythical achievement by the presence of this Matra Simca MS670, the exact car that he drove to victory at the 1972 Le Mans 24 Hours. Yes, it's the car that sealed the final piece of the Triple Crown, cementing his all-time legend status.

Photography by Joe Harding

By 1972, Hill’s career was winding down to a close. At 43 years old, he was considered beyond his best days. Following his second F1 championship win in 1968, his results began to soften and his attention began to turn to forming his own team. But he remained an active driver and looked to return to Le Mans for the first time since 1966 for one more attempt at winning the great race. It was his tenth outing at Le Mans, but it is said that Henri Pescarolo, the young driver he was partnered with at Matra, was less than impressed with a team-mate he considered was just along for a good time.

The 1972 World Sportscar Championship season was the first of an all-new formula for endurance racing. The 5.0-litre sportscars were replaced by a 3.0-litre class and the MS670 had been painstakingly engineered to perfect the Circuit de la Sarthe. Matra had sat out the rest of the season to focus its preparation on Le Mans, a contrast to Ferrari who had already dominated the World Championship for Makes. Ferrari had won all of the first eight races up to that point and elected not to compete at the greatest race of them all, citing concerns about the durability of its engine. It was powered by arguably one of the best-sounding engines of all time – a 3.0-litre, naturally-aspirated V12 producing 457PS (336kW) and capable of speeds up to 195mph, which it would routinely reach along the then-uninterrupted Mulsanne Straight.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images

Expectations were high, and in the face of frivolous French fanfare, Matra pulled out all the stops to field four cars at the event, with several big names behind the wheel, including Hill, Francois Cevert and Jean-Pierre Beltoise. Matras lined up on the front three positions for the start of the 24-hour race, and through several periods of rain, it was Hill and Pescarolo that surpassed all and took the victory by 11 laps to Cevert and Howden Ganley in what was a dominant 1-2 for Matra.

It was a great win for Matra, Hill and Pescarolo. The latter would go on to become a four-time Le Mans winner. But that 1972 race will always be remembered as Hill's great moment, to this day the only man to win at Monaco, Indianapolis and Le Mans. It's a club that remains exclusive to one great man, a fact that doesn't look set to change for the time being at least.

  • Matra

  • Simca

  • MS670

  • Graham Hill

  • Le Mans

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