December 9th, 2010

Livery and let die

In the weird world that we live in, where a nanny state is constantly wrestling with a society obsessed with branding and the virality of a marketing campaign, motorsport sponsorship has taken a weird turn.

Do you remember the days when racing cars were stickered up to go with the macho, rock ‘n’ roll, lifestyle which drivers left in their wake? If there wasn’t a cigarette logo, there would be an advert for alcohol, or even a condom manufacturer painted down the side of the car.

It seems that the only companies that can get on the side of race cars these days make drinks that contain a mixture of bull semen and glucuronolactone. Now there is nothing rock ‘n’ roll about a caffeine headache, is there?

So with that in mind we have chosen some of the best liveries to wrap themselves around a race car. If you have a favourite livery, let us know in the comment or send us a tweet.

Gulf Oil

The now-famous (and much imitated) powder-blue and orange Gulf Oil racing livery was on a 24 Hours of Le Mans winner for the first time in 1968 when Pedro Rodriguez and Lucien Bianchi piloted the #9 Ford GT40 to overall victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe. It has subsequently been worn by a variety of other racers at Le Mans, most notably the Porsche 917.

Here is a little bonus fact for you, the classic blue and orange colour combo actually comes from a Wiltshire Fuel company which Gulf had purchased.

Alitalia Airlines

When you think Lancia Stratos the image that instantly pops into your head is of the Alitalia rally car. The Stratos wasn’t the only car to carry the white with “A”-shaped green-white-red symbols as the Fiat 131 also slapped them on its panels.

John Player Special

One of the coolest and most iconic images of Formula One racing is Ayrton Senna in a John Player Special Lotus. John Player’s sponsorship of Team Lotus began with the Lotus 49 in Gold Leaf colours at the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix. It was originally red with gold leaf but when the Lotus 72 came along it changed to the legendary black and gold John Player Special colours. The JPS livery was also used by BMW in touring car racing in Australia during the 1980s. In 1984, BMW released a limited-edition road version of its 323i touring car in JPS colours to the Australian market - lucky sods.

Castrol Oil

If you are a fan of the early games in the Gran Turismo series, this livery will need know introduction. Castrol had a long relationship with Toyota and the Tom’s Castrol Supra and Castol Celica are probably the most interesting and exciting Toyota’s ever. Since Toyota have ditched their links with Castrol the green, red and white can be seen on a number of the Australian Touring Cars in the V8 Supercar series.


Jägermeister is more than a German 70-proofdigestif made with herbs and spices that you mix with red bull to make a ‘Jägerbomb’, it is also an epic livery. The distinctive orange paint work has been seen on some of the maddest german cars, especially from the crazy turbo era. Since the 1970s, the Jägermeister brand has sponsored various BMWs and Porsches, most notably the Porsche 935 and Group 5 style BMW E21.


Mention Martini to most of the public and they will come out with some cringy “shaken not stirred” James Bond quote. Say Martini to a petrolhead and they will close their eyes and think of fast Porsche’s with big bits bolted on to them. Martini were one of the first sponsors in Motorsport at the end of the 60s. Before the days of spons0rship, cars ran in national colours but then Martini came in and shook it up a bit with their race cars marked with distinctive dark blue, light blue and red stripes on (most often) white or silver cars.


Marlboro are generally credited as being among the most important of sponsors to the world of Formula 1 (and motor racing in general) in terms of the amount of financial backing given to various competitors.Back in the day they had strong ties to McLaren but when they started losing they jumped shipped to Ferrari. Outside the mad world of F1, Marlboro’s cancer stick stickers have been seen on many rally cars including Lancer Evolutions and various Lancias.

Mobil 1

Mobil 1 + Porsche GT1 = Win. Simple.

Renown Clothing

It wasn’t hard for Mazda to stand out with the 787s, as they were the last Wankel rotary-powered racing cars to compete in the World and Japanese championships. But to add an extra bit of icing to their cake the covered them in a bright orange and green scheme in honour of a main sponsor, Renown. Renown were a Japanese clothing manufacturer who had been supporting the team since 1988 by providing all their clothing for the events. The livery made a fashionable return in 1995, when a rotary powered Kudzu competed in IMSA’s world sports car series.

Silk Cut

Silk Cut cigarettes have a lot to answer for as many young Group C and sports car fans fell for the branding on the successful Jaguar XJR sportscars and started smoking. But that was in the good ol’ days when smoking was the done thing. Nowadays kid see Ken Block’s Monster Energy plastered Fiesta and cry for a can of carbonated caffeine. I say give me a XJR-12 and a cigarette any day of the week.

Porsche 917-20 ‘Pink Pig’

When aerodynamics became a big thing in sports car racing Porsche needed to revise the 917. The 917/20 was built as test-bed for future Can-Am parts and aerodynamic “low-drag” concepts. The 917/20 which had won the test race at Le Mans in white bodywork reminded journalists of a Pig with its relatively small feet. With this in mind, Porsche painted the car pink for the 24 hours race, with names of cuts of meat written in German across it in a similar fashion to a butcher’s carcass diagram, earning it the nickname “Der Truffeljäger von Zuffenhausen” (The Truffelhunter of Zuffenhausen) or the “Pink Pig”.

Words: Rowan Horncastle

Features . News