I am a motorsport fan. I have been nuts about all forms of racing since about the time I could say vroom-vroom. I think that any real petrolhead should have an appreciation for racing if they claim to have an interest in cars. Imagine some guy that says he loves rugby but doesn’t follow the intercontinental Super 15 tournament.
Over the years I have followed all forms of racing, usually on telly, from rallying to Formula One, drag racing to DTM, even ice-racing and NASCAR feature on my list. During this time several cars have stuck in my mind for no other reason than how they look. Here then, in no particular order, are just some of my favourite racecar liveries.
Marlboro McLaren MP4-4
My interest in Formula was sparked in the mid-1980s and the bug really bit at the end of that decade as the famous rivalry between Senna and Prost was at its height. The McLaren MP4-4 is the most memorable car of that era for me. Simple in design and execution the McLaren was instantly recognisable and with that signature yellow helmet poking out of the cockpit it was usually the quickest car on track and netted several victories, too.
Gulf Oil Ford GT40
This in arguably one of the most famous colour combinations to have graced (and still does) a racetrack. Baby blue and orange of oil company Gulf provided a stark contrast to each other when first seen on the Ford GT40s that took part at Le Mans. This famous scheme has spawned hundreds if not thousands of racecar look alikes, not just Fords, around the world over the past few decades; even Aston Martin raced in these colours a few years ago. Gulf-branded clothing is both extremely expensive and highly desirable.
Rothmans Porsche 956/962
Another Le Mans-winning car that etched itself into my mind for various reasons is the Rothmans Porsche. Not only did it win overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on several occasions but it dominated Sportscar racing all over the world for the better part of the 1980s.
Martini Lancia Delta Integrale
Alcohol brand Martini had a strong association with motorsport through the 1980s and ’90s. There were several memorable Porsches and Lancia Sportscars that were covered in the famous blue and red of the Italian vermouth brand. The most iconic for me is the Lancia Delta Integrale that dominated world rallying after the mad Group B monsters were banned. Given the chance I’d have my own roadgoing Delta in the same colours.
555 Subaru WRX
Another rally car’s design that symbolises its era was the 555 Subaru. In those distinctive colours Colin McRae and co took the Subaru from rally stages all over the world straight to the bedroom walls of millions of adoring fans. Later the colour scheme would be the basis for thousands of customised Scoobys running rampant on the streets. A Scoob WRX that wasn’t electric blue and wearing gold wheels didn’t have much street cred.
Alitalia Lancia Stratos
Another rally car getting in on the act is the Lancia Stratos. The Alitalia branding was well suited and designed to fit the compact dimensions of the wedgey little rally car. It helped that the Stratos was both spectacular and successful on the international rally stage.
Castrol Mustang funny car
I used to be an ardent fan of the NHRA US national drag racing series and still admire the single-minded quest to bend the laws of physics. I followed several seasons religiously as the quickest accelerating machines on the planet were piloted by brave men in their pursuit to be the best over the quarter mile. Though the full-blown Top-Dragsters may have been quicker (just) the one car that I always think back to is the Castrol-liveried “Mustang” of John Force. Again, simple design and striking colours work well to create a lasting impression.
Lucky Strike Suzuki
Er, you may have noticed that this isn’t a racecar but I am sure you’ll forgive me. I was always a fan of Kevin Schwantz. Despite the plucky American’s long career at the top of the two-wheel competition ladder Schwantz has just one title to his name, earned when he was crowned 1993 500 cm3 champ. Always riding the No. 34 Suzuki (this pic was taken in 1994) the Lucky Strike colours will forever more be associated with the Texan.
BMW Art Car M3
This is the newest cars on this list (I’m not sure what this says about current racecar livery). The Jeff Koons designed M3 was created for the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans. It is the most recent car in the BMW Art Car series which dates back 35 years. It isn’t the first Art Car – and probably won’t be the last – to be seen at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Whether barreling down the Mulsanne straight or refueling in the pits the M3 GT2 always looked as if it was going 300 km/h.
Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow
Strictly speaking this isn’t a livery. After entering the World Sportscar Championship with Sauber a few years earlier Mercedes-Benz chose to run the C11 model under official works team auspices. As a result the car was run in Germany’s national racing colours, silver. Not only was this a winning car but it announced the arrival of several young, talented pilots onto the world stage not least of all my favourite, seven-time Formula One World Champion, Michael Schumacher.
Here are more of my favourites: