The 2018 edition of Tour Auto Optic 2000, set for April 23-28 between Paris and Nice — by way of Besancon, Megève, Avignon and Aix en Provence — will revive one of the greatest moments in French motorsports history as a Matra 650 will be taking part in the event, recalling the victory of this extraordinary car in the Tour de France Automobile in 1970 and 1971.
In 1970, Jean-Luc Lagardère decided to enter two Matras for the Tour de France Automobile. The Le Mans prototypes were driven by the best French drivers of the era, — Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Patrick Depailler, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Gérard Larrousse and Henri Pescarolo — and what seemed like a completely crazy gamble came good as all of France thrilled to the glorious sound of the Matra V12 engines as the MS650s won the nine-day event two years in succession.
Almost half-a-century later, a Matra 650 will bring this feat back to life as it takes to the road in the Tour Optic 2000. The open two-seater driven by Mr. John of B will be one of the major attractions along the 2125-kilometer route as well as on the Dijon-Prenois, Bresse, Lédenon and Paul Ricard circuits.
The Matra MS 650 was designed in 1969 to race in the Sports Car World Championship, and was the first open car built by the French manufacturer. It had a tubular chassis, fiberglass bodywork and weighed a total of 861 kilograms, a bit heavier than its rivals of the time, but its 470 bhp V12 engine more than compensated for this handicap. To race on French roads the car underwent a number of modifications including a seat for the co-driver, additional lights and tweaks to the cooling system, suspension and so forth.