1980 Martini MK31

In the early 1960s, Tico Martini built his first race car. A short time later, he worked at the Winfield Racing Drivers School at Magny Cours, where he began building his first cars at a garage at the track. All of the vehicle's that followed were either MW (representing Martini-Winfield) or MK (for Martini-Knight. The Knight brothers owned the Winfield school).

The first Martini Formula 3 car was the MW1 built for the Winfield school. It was followed by the MW3 which had a spaceframce construction with a conventional suspension setup and powered by a Ford powerplant. For 1969, the company introduced the MK4, also with a spaceframe chassis. Both the MW3 and MK4 showed promise. The MK4 was able to secure two 3rd place finishes at Magny Cours.

Improving upon the MW3, the Martini Company introduced the MK5 for 1970. It had small bulges for the fuel tanks on the side of the car, a spaceframe chassis, and wishbone suspension. The fuel tank bulges on the side of the car would become a hallmark for the Martini Company over the years to follow.

The MK5 in the hands of Jean-Pierre Jaussaud scored the company's first win. The victory was at Nogaro, followed by a second at Cadwell Park. Jean-Luc Salomon also scored a second place victory, at Paul Ricard and Montlhéry.

Having had a rather successful season, and proven they could build a competitive car, the company's MK7 was rather popular, with a total of 11 examples built for customers. The MK7 scored good results.

The MK9 of 1972 was powered by Holbay engines. The chassis remained the spaceframe setup, but the exterior bodyshell changed pretty drastically, now having a full-wide nose cone along with engine covers. Both of these changes were meant to aide in the vehicle's aerodynamics. More updates were made to the body for 1973, resulting in the MK12. The engine cover was now gone, and the front nose was tweaked even further.

Having played second fiddle for several years to the Alpine cars, Martini was able to finally have a very successful season, winning the French Championship. Jacques Laffite drove his MK12 to a victory at Monaco.

At the close of the 1973 season, France (and thus, Martini) turned to Formule Renault. After several years away from the series, Martini returned in 1977 with a new car, the MK21. It had a conventional monocoque setup and the hallmark bulging fuel tanks. The cars were fast, earning another victory at Monaco with Didier Pironi driving in his Toyota Novamotor MK21.

For the 1978 season, only minor changes were made to the Mk21, resulting in the MK21B. In total, there were 4 examples constructed.

The following year, the company introduced the MK27. It had a monocoque design and weighed a mere 443kg. The Works cars received Renault engines with several of the customer cars receiving Toyota engine. For 1980, Renault withdrew support so the factory cars were powered by Toyota engines. The car for 1980 was the MK31. Similar to the car it replaced, it had mild improvements to the aerodynamics. They were fast, dominating the early part of the season. By seasons end, Alain Ferte had won the French Championship with his MK27/31.

Further improvements brought about the MK34 for 1981. Unfortunately, they were not as quick as the competition on the straight tracks. Nevertheless, Ferte was able to win at Monaco and close-out the season as the runner-up in the European standings. Though he had won only one race, several second place finishes help him earn enough points.

For 1982, the company introduced an all-new car, the MK37. It had a lightweight aluminum monocoque and a very narrow footprint, with ground-effect sidepods on either side of the car. In the back of the car, the suspension was comprised of parallel links with the dampers mounted on brackets above the gearbox. In the front, there were top rockers and lower wishbones.

With a new design and new technology, hopes were high for the MK37. Unfortunately, it still was not as quick as the competition. Work continued throughout the year on improving the suspension and the bodywork. Alain Ferté again won at Monaco, as well as at Magny Cours. Alliot won at La Chatre.

The MK39 brought with it improvements to the Mk37. Martini switched their attention to the French Championship instead of the European Championship. The plan was successful and Michel Ferte won the Championship after winning five rounds during the year. He beat-out Francois Hesnault driving a Renault by just two points. Hesnault had also won five rounds that year.

For 1984, the Martini car was the MK42. Ivan Capelli captured the European Championship after winning three races. In the French Championship, the MK42 was also successful, winning the first five places.

Martini continued to build F3 cars through the 1990s and beyond.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2012
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