10 memorable racing liveries to remind you of faster times

07 April 2020 - 10:00 By Motoring Reporter
Page 3 starlets (left to right) Melinda Messenger, Jordan and Emma Noble help launch the Jordan 198 at the beginning of the 1998 Formula One season.
Page 3 starlets (left to right) Melinda Messenger, Jordan and Emma Noble help launch the Jordan 198 at the beginning of the 1998 Formula One season.
Image: John Stillwell - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

Racing liveries are the epitome of fine art in motion: colourful high-speed design studies that can - if done correctly, of course - make even the slowest of cars appear fast when they line up on the grid.

Here we take a look back at some of the more memorable ones to have flashed through the pages of motorsport's history books. 

Jacques Villeneuve's BAR-Supertec 01 in the Grand Prix of Monaco at Circuit de Monaco on May 16 1999.
Jacques Villeneuve's BAR-Supertec 01 in the Grand Prix of Monaco at Circuit de Monaco on May 16 1999.
Image: Paul-Henri Cahier/Getty Images

1999 BAR 01 | "Zipper"

Primed with an almost limitless supply of tobacco-fuelled spending money, the British American Racing (BAR) team joined the Formula One circus in 1999 with high hopes and expectations.

Unfortunately its challenger, the BAR 01, was plagued by reliability issues and failed to score even a single championship point. Still, at least it looked cool.

BAR had wanted to run two cars with different liveries (555 and Lucky Strike), but the FIA wouldn't allow it. To get around this issue, the team's graphic designers got creative and penned a unique love-it-or-hate-it solution where one side of the car was dedicated to Lucky Strike and the other to 555. Separating them was a zipper than run down the centre of the car.

The Sauber SHS C6/Ford Cosworth of Hans Stuck, Jean-Louis Schlesser and Dieter Quester leads the team car driven by Walter Brun and Siegfried Muller, Jr. during practice for the 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 20 1982 at Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France.
The Sauber SHS C6/Ford Cosworth of Hans Stuck, Jean-Louis Schlesser and Dieter Quester leads the team car driven by Walter Brun and Siegfried Muller, Jr. during practice for the 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 20 1982 at Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France.
Image: Bob Harmeyer/Archive Photos/Getty Images

1982 Sauber C6 | BASF

Driven by the likes of the Hans Stuck and Walter Brun, the Ford Cosworth-powered C6 was probably one of the least successful racing cars to wear the Sauber name. Its silver C9 and C11 successors would overshadow it in every conceivable way.

Still, what it lacked in competitiveness the C6 more than made up for in the aesthetics department, with an utterly hypnotic BASF livery that continues to play tricks with your eyes to this very day.

Juha Kankkunen drives his Toyota through a large puddle during the 1993 Rally of Great Britain.
Juha Kankkunen drives his Toyota through a large puddle during the 1993 Rally of Great Britain.
Image: S&G/PA Images via Getty Images

1993 Toyota Celica GT-Four ST185 | Castrol

Right up there with AOL chatrooms, Seinfeld and the Sony Discman, the pairing of Castrol with Toyota is about as quintessentially 90s as one can ever hope to get.

The green, red and white Celicas expertly driven by Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol thrust Toyota into the World Rally Championship (WRC) limelight and in doing so proved to the globe that this Japanese marque could do more than just churn out millions of dull Corolla sedans.

The Lotus 49 driven by Graham Hill at the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix.
The Lotus 49 driven by Graham Hill at the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix.
Image: National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

1968 Lotus 49 | Gold Leaf

Colin Chapman's Lotus Formula 1 team caused a stir in 1968 when it ditched its traditional British Racing Green paintwork for the red, white and gold livery of Gold Leaf cigarettes: a sea-change moment in the sport's history that not only secured the team a lucrative sponsorship deal but also forever altered the way F1 would operate moving forward.

From this moment on, if you didn't have a sponsor, then you probably wouldn't be going racing. 

Bobby Rahal drives the Porsche 935 K3 009 00030 during the Six Hours of Watkins Glen on July 5 1980 at Watkins Glen International near Watkins Glen, New York.
Bobby Rahal drives the Porsche 935 K3 009 00030 during the Six Hours of Watkins Glen on July 5 1980 at Watkins Glen International near Watkins Glen, New York.
Image: Bob Harmeyer/Archive Photos/Getty Images

1980 Porsche 935 | Apple

Steve Jobs was a big Porsche fan in his younger years - so much so that in 1980 he and his business partner Steve Wozniak decided to sponsor the Garretson Enterprises Porsche 935 K3 that saw action everywhere from Sebring and Watkins Glenn to Le Mans and Road America.

Run by Dick Barbour Racing, the team was complemented by the driving talents of Bobby Rahal and Allan Moffat. On paper the outfit sounded like a recipe for success, but in reality the Apple-branded Porsche failed to impress with a string of DNFs - most notably at Le Mans, where it retired with a melted piston after 13 hours. Still, its striking rainbow livery earned it a cult following - one that's still celebrated to this day.

Ralf Schumacher in the Jordan 198.
Ralf Schumacher in the Jordan 198.
Image: John Marsh/EMPICS via Getty Images

1998 Jordan 198 | Benson & Hedges

Jordan was a larger-than-life Formula One constructor known for putting out consistently great race car liveries during its time spent in the sport: 1991 to 2005.

With many countries in the late 1990s banning cigarette advertising at live sporting events, the Silverstone-based outfit came up with a novel way of making its British American Tobacco sponsorship more palatable to the powers that be. Depending on what mascot was etched across the nose of its car (either a snake, hornet or shark), the team would think up suitable substitutions for the words "Benson" and "Hedges". In the case of the 198 it was "Buzzin Hornets".

It was a subliminal advertising masterstroke: one that probably earned the team - and that aforementioned ciggie brand - more attention than they would have before. 

The March 83G 4/Porsche driven by Sarel van der Merwe, Graham Duxbury and Tony Martin during practice for the 24 Hours of Daytona IMSA GT race at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, on February 5 1984.
The March 83G 4/Porsche driven by Sarel van der Merwe, Graham Duxbury and Tony Martin during practice for the 24 Hours of Daytona IMSA GT race at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, on February 5 1984.
Image: Bob Harmeyer/Archive Photos/Getty Images

1984 March 83G 4-Porsche | Kreepy Krauly

Local pool cleaner manufacturer Kreepy Krauly sponsored an all-South African entry at the 1984 24-hours of Daytona sports car endurance race. This proved a rather savvy marketing  move because thanks to a trio of talented drivers - Sarel van der Merwe, Graham Duxbury and Tony Martin - the blue, white and turquoise March won the race. 

Over the top for Colin McRae as he heads towards a frozen lake during the 1997 Swedish Rally.
Over the top for Colin McRae as he heads towards a frozen lake during the 1997 Swedish Rally.
Image: Steve Etherington/EMPICS via Getty Images

1997 Subaru WRX STI | 555

The late and legendary Colin McRae exploded onto the World Rally Championship (WRC) scene with Subaru back in 1993. Starting out in a Legacy, the young Scottish driver soon switched to the all-new Impreza: a car that would in a few short years become absolutely synonymous with the dirt-slinging sport of rally racing.

While McRae provided the talent (he won the WRC drivers championship in 1995), British American Tobacco bought the unforgettable, searing blue-and-yellow livery provided by its State Express 555 line of cigarettes. 

1976 Harad Ertl driving a Hesketh 308 at Jarama, Spanish GP.
1976 Harad Ertl driving a Hesketh 308 at Jarama, Spanish GP.
Image: GP Library/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

1976 Hesketh 308 | Penthouse

A swashbuckling privateer outfit started in the early 1970s by Lord Alexander Hesketh, Hesketh Racing challenged the F1 establishment with its fun-loving, playboy values. With infamous British driver James Hunt at the wheel, the team experienced its high-water mark in 1975, when it managed to finish a remarkable fourth overall in the constructors' championship. Hunt also managed to win the Dutch Grand Prix. 

Unfortunately it was all downhill from there, as the young Lord ran out of money (he looked down his nose at sponsors) and left the sport for good. What remained of the team limped along until disappearing for good in 1978. It still managed to cause a stir up until that time, however, thanks to a rather risque sponsorship deal with skin mag Penthouse.

Nascar Driver Richard Petty in action in the STP #43 February 15, 1987 during the Nascar Winston Cup Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, FL. Petty finished 3rd in the race.
Nascar Driver Richard Petty in action in the STP #43 February 15, 1987 during the Nascar Winston Cup Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, FL. Petty finished 3rd in the race.
Image: Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Richard Petty | STP

Richard Petty (aka The King) raced in Nascar from 1958 all the way up to his eventual retirement in 1992. He won the Nascar Cup Championship no less than seven times and to this day remains the most successful driver in the sport's history.

While well-known for his love of cowboy hats and cigars, what really helped Petty distinguish himself from rival competitors was his long-lived partnership with American motor oil company STP, which started back in 1972. The sponsorship culminated in a colour scheme that blended the racer's already established "Petty Blue" paintwork with the bright "Day-Glo Red" of STP. No matter what make of car Petty drove, the livery (and his number, 43) remained the same.


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