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PROFILE: Jean-Michel Matas, head of the Automobile Club de Monaco marshals

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A volunteer member of the Automobile Club of Monaco since 1972, like its President Michel Boeri, Jean-Michel Matas is ‘revving up’ for a new edition of the iconic Rallye Monte-Carlo. We spoke to the legend. 

He dips into his box of souvenirs and pulls out a number. “49,” he says with a smile. “This will be my 49th Monte-Carlo Rally”. Since the downpours of the 1972 edition, Jean-Michel Matas has never missed a Monte-Carlo race. In fact this year would have been his golden anniversary if the 1974 edition had not been cancelled in the aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis.

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A deep-seated love of rallying and motorsport

Rallying has always been a great passion for this lover of the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM), having competed in rallies in his youth at regional level, but his ACM baptism of fire was during the Formula 1 Grand Prix.  “I was a marshal at the exit from the S bends at the swimming pool”, he recalls. “I then came up through the ranks until I became Deputy Marshal General in charge of the Corps of Marshals.”

SEE ALSO: Monte-Carlo Rally 2022: Who are the favourites?

It was a logical rise, since Jean-Michel Matas has always put his heart and soul into the Automobile Club de Monaco.  “He is a volunteer with a capital V, and loyal to his president”, confides Alain Pallanca, race director of the Rallye Monte-Carlo, whose membership of the ACM is due in part to Jean-Michel Matas.  “He’s a lovely person, who has dedicated his life to others, in particular through his involvement in several Monaco charities.”

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I would like to step down, I’m getting on a bit, but I still love it just as much. The fire is still burning.

Jean-Michel Matas

The two men met almost forty years ago, in a professional capacity. Born in Bordeaux, the ‘boss’ of the ACM Marshals moved to Menton at a very young age and followed in his father’s footsteps by working in a property management company.  “A fantastic profession”, which led him to meet Alain Pallanca, who was working as an insurance expert.

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A huge responsibility in the Automobile Club

“One morning, I had scheduled a meeting in the village of Moulinet so I could attend the special stage that was going through there”, says the now race director of the Monte-Carlo Rally and the Formula 1 Grand Prix. “I bumped into Jean-Michel and wondered what he was doing there, because it wasn’t his area. And that was the day I joined the Automobile Club de Monaco.”

Keen on motorsport from an early age, “even before I had my licence, I used to take a moped up to see the Turini stages”, Jean-Michel Matas has seen it all during his long career at the ACM.  “I would like to step down, I’m getting on a bit, but I still love it just as much. The fire is still burning.”

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This year, we might have some electrical issues with the new regulations for hybrid cars

Jean-Michel Matas

So as he prepares to take part in his 49th Monte Carlo Rally, the man who is responsible for no less than 850 marshals at Formula 1 Grand Prix events spoke about what’s new for marshals this year.  “This year, we might have some electrical issues with the new regulations for hybrid cars. So we had to put a lot of emphasis on training in that regard, with the support of the Monaco fire brigade, who are specialists on the subject.”

As is the case every year, the marshals who will be responsible for safety on the Monte Carlo Rally course have completed a refresher course in order to brush up on their skills. “It helps us to get back into it.” But it helps with team building among the marshals. “We have a real esprit de corps. It’s no coincidence we’re called a Corps of Marshals. All these volunteers do extraordinary things in each race. They are to be commended,” Jean-Michel Matas concludes.

SEE ALSO: Monte-Carlo Rally: a new generation of hybrid cars