Perhaps no other color in the history of motorsport was more embraced than the French Blue, most of the automakers from the country proudly adopted it for their race cars.
On this chapter, I will talk about a few of them that in one way or another made History
The company was created by Ettore Bugatti, in 1909, it was born with the sole purpose of producing high-performance cars.
Ettore Bugatti was born in Milan, Italy, and his company was originally founded in Molsheim, located in the Alsace, which was part of the German Empire until 1919 but after World War I the region became part of France.
The Type 35 was one of the most successful race cars in the 1920s, it was developed with the help of master engineer and racing driver Jean Chassagne who also drove the car in its debut in 1924 during the Lyon Grand Prix. Type 35 dominated Targa Florio for five years straight from 1925 through 1929.
In 1937 edition of Le Mans, the drivers Jean Pierre Wimille and Robert Benoist won the race driving the “avant-garde” Type 57, painted in two different shades of blue.
Two years later a supercharged 3.3 liter Type 57 came victorious at Le Mans, Jean Pierre Wimille was once again at the wheel but Robert Benoist was replaced by Pierre Veyron. The odds for Bugatti were dismal in 1939, the company was going through some financial difficulties and they were able to bring only one car to the track, a few spare parts, and not a lot of cash. The 1939 race was the last one before World War II and it wouldn’t happen again for ten years. This emblematic victory will always be the most remembered for the company.
The first supercar unveiled after the brand was bought by Volkswagen in the late 1990s was named after Pierre Veyron. It was the first-ever production car to break the 1000 HP barrier.
The French automaker is one of the most traditional teams in Formula 1 with more than 20 years on the tracks and two World Championship (2005 and 2006) on its belt but they never seemed to embrace the blue color.
Even the 2005 Season champion car was, let’s say, only half blue.
But was the marriage between Renault and Alpine that produced one of the most popular French sports car, the A 110. From the beginning of the production in 1961 to the end in 1977, the car had a legendary career on World Rally Championship.
During its time, the A110 proved to be a formidable Rally car, lightweight, fast and reliable, The Alpine team conquered the 1971 and 1973 World Rally Championship.
The car was also a regular on race tracks around the world as well.
In 2017, to celebrate the 50 years of the A110 victories in WRC, Alpine released a modern interpretation of the classic, equipped with a turbocharged 1.8 liter, 4 cylinder Renault engine. Again, blue is a very popular choice of color.
During the 60s and 70s, Matra enjoyed its pinnacle as a sports car maker and race team. In 1967 the company started competing in Formula 1 and only two years later, Jack Stewart won his first Championship driving the Matra MS80. The team also won the constructor championship.
The only thing missing on this achievement was a French engine because the S80 was equipped with a Ford Cosworth V8.
Without a doubt, the most unforgettable part of a Matra race car is the legendary 3-liter V12 engine, it was born with the sole purpose to compete in Formula 1. The V12 powered most of the Matra F1 cars from 1967 to 1972 and also became the choice of other “Blue” French teams like Ligier, from 1976 to 1979 and Talbot, from 1980 to 1982.
In the 1977 Swedish Gran Prix, Jaques Laffite drove his Ligier JS7 V12 to victory and that race became the first “Triple French” (car, driver, and engine) achievement in Formula 1.
If Matra career in Formula 1 was something less than thrilling, the brand did a lot better in the sports-prototype races.
The V12 MS 670 proved to be an amazing race car and the team won in Le Mans in 1972, 1973, and 1974.
In 1972 the team even managed to finish Le Mans in 1-2 victory with the two cars crossing the finish line almost at the same time, repeating what Ford did in 1966.
The outstanding performance of the MS 670 was enough for Matra to score the Constructors World Championship in 1973 and 1974.
To be fair, race teams like Ligier carried on the “Bleu de France” tradition well into the 1990s but I would like to finish this chapter with this phenomenal campaign of Matra-Simca.
Next chapter we will visit the heritage of the British racing “Moss Green”