The Camel Trophy

Top photo courtesy of Jochem Aarts. http://www.realizm.nl

The year was 1984, I was coming back home from downtown by bus and on my hands I had something very important, well, it was very important to me anyway, it was the latest issue of the most popular auto magazine in Brazil: “Quatro Rodas” (Four Wheels). As a centerfold of that magazine there was an application for the 1985 edition of the Camel Trophy, the biggest off-road event on the planet.

Obviously I put my name on that form and sent it out by mail, even if I have no chances whatsoever to be chosen. I was just a teenager with no drivers license going against thousands of skilled adventure seekers; all I wanted was, to somehow, be part of it.

1985 was a special year for us, for the first time a Brazilian team was invited to participate, even if the Camel Trophy has deep roots in Brazil from the very beginning.

The event was born as a piece of publicity for the cigarette brand Camel. The tobacco companies around the world came to the conclusion, during the 1970s, their product was losing its appeal to the younger generation. Just like any other tobacco company, R.J. Reynolds, the owner of Camel, was desperately looking for something that could bring the young buyers back.

The joys of the Brazilian “Transamazonica”

The marketing department of Camel in Germany decided to once again take advantage of the traditional link between smoke/booze and motorsport and they came up with this idea of an Off-Road adventure, in some forgotten corner of the world, where man and machine would overcome all the challenges of the inhospitable terrain.

The Ford built 1980 CJs in action.

The first Trophy happened in Brazil, six selected Camel customers were sent to the Amazon Jungle and there they were divided in 3 teams, a driver and a navigator, the task was to cover 1600 Km through the jungle driving on the “Transamazônica” Hwy. To keep the costs as low as possible, the vehicle should be supplied locally, the problem was: at that time, the Brazilian auto market didn’t have access to import cars and the only reasonable off-road vehicle was the “classic” Jeep CJ, produced in Brazil by Ford. The car was equipped with the well known 2.3 liters 4 cylinder Ford engine. The CJs were painted in “Sand Yellow” with the “Camel Trophy” stickers applied on doors and hoods, a very simple livery that became as iconic as any other in motorsport.

At some point of the journey one of the Jeeps caught on fire, the team had one “Jerry can” full of gas strapped on the hood and somehow it leaked and the gas poured on top of the engine, igniting the flames, thankfully nobody got hurt. Besides the accident, the event was a success, the teams performed well and so did the CJs. The Camel Trophy made the headlines in Germany and R.J. Reynolds CEOs were happy.

Not for the faint-hearted.

For the next year, the “Trophy” adopted the off-road vehicle that became synonymous of the event and after a while, it completely overshadowed the “Camel” name brand: “Land Rover”. In 1981, 10 Germans were sent to Sumatra and the chosen vehicle was the V8 powered Range Rover.

At this time the Camel Trophy made headlines not only in Germany but all over the world. The R.J. Reynolds CEOs at the American Headquarters noticed the publicity and they saw the event as a wonderful opportunity to make the brand known worldwide.

Thousands of applications poured in for the next adventure and now there were 4 countries participating with 2 teams each: Holland, Germany, Italy and the United States. Thanks to the excellent performance of the V8 Range Rovers in Sumatra the Camel Trophy didn’t see the need to try other models. In the end, the Italians won the 1982 edition.

As the Camel Trophy was getting bigger and more famous after each edition, the challenges of the adventure grew larger as well, now the teams had to face stretches of thejungle where the path was definitely not intended for motor cars and some stretches had no open path at all. The competitors had not only to fight many horrors of the “road” but also clouds of mosquitos, poisonous snakes, alligators, sleep deprivation, and less than great food.

After 1980, the candidates were selected not only by their resumes but they have to face a week of tests in a “boot camp” were the final members of the teams were chosen.

No, we don’t have a boat!

In the 1980s, the average duration of each event was around 2 weeks to cover 1500Km and it followed the rules of the “regularity rally”, also called time-speed-distance or TSD rally, which is a type of motorsport rally with the object of driving each segment of a Course in a specified time at a specified average speed.

Despite the event being a “competition”, there was a huge sense of camaraderie between the teams, no man, or Rover should be left behind.

In 1985 The Camel Trophy had 16 teams classified for the event, with 3 rookies countries: Japan, Brazil and Canary Islands. The teams were sent to Borneo to face the hardest Trophy to date.

With a little help from my friends.

At some point of the trip, the complete convoy of Land Rover Ninetys became marooned on a low rise within the flooded forest ahead, without any chance of moving forward, the teams had to be airlifted using an old Sikorsky helicopter from the local government.

In 1985 we saw the introduction of the “Team Spirit Award”, presented to the team who embraced the most the fellowship and camaraderie of the event. The first Team Spirit prize was awarded to the likeable Brazilian team of Carlos Probst and Tito Rosenberg.

In 1989 the Trophy was once again back in Brazil and more than one million would-be explorers around the world applied for the adventure. In terms of advertising both companies, Camel and Land Rover, have achieved beyond their goals and for the adventure junkies around the globe, the Camel Trophy motto: “One life, live it” would be forever remembered.

The camel Trophy also helped to bring countries together, the 1990 event was held in Siberia and the Soviet government was strongly committed to cooperate. The Air Force sent 4 massive Antonov cargo planes to airlift 34 land Rovers (23 competitors and 11 support cars) plus all the spare parts, tools and clothing from England to Russia.

During its 20 years, the Camel Trophy went to all corners of the planet, South America, Asia, Africa and since most of the visited countries were (and still are) poor, the organization didn’t forget the social part; R.J. Reynolds and Land Rover in association with many ONGs brought to the local communities food, supplies, medical assistance. They helped either building or repairing schools, bridges, and roads. In Africa, many Land Rovers were given away to National Parks.

Land Rover had the opportunity to test every product in its line-up during those years. It was only on the last event, in 2000 that another brand was allowed to participate.

Toward the end of the 1990s, the event started to focus more on some parallels activities like mountain biking, climbing, and canoeing, putting aside the old school off-road exploring and slowly the popular interest for the event started to fade.

The End

The 2000 edition of the Camel Trophy was the last one and it diverted completely from the original mold, the traditional alliance with Land Rover was broken and Honda supplied 20 CRVs for the event, and even more strange was the fact the cars were no longer the main vehicles, but boats. The idea was to explore a few islands in the Pacific Ocean, between Vavu’a in Northern Tonga and finishing at Malolo Lailai in Fiji, covering some 1,000 nautical miles. In terms of adventure, the 2000 edition was amazing, but for the traditional “gearheads” the Camel Trophy had lost its magic.

One of the main factors that contributed to the end of the Camel Trophy was that sports teams and events sponsored by “controversial” products like alcohol and tobacco came under severe criticism at the time.

The G4 Challenge

In 2004 Land Rover tried to revive the old Camel trophy vibe with the G4 Challenge. This new adventure followed the same core as the “Trophy” but the length of each event was way longer, crossing different countries on different continents, over the course of a month. In order to detach the G4 from the Camel Trophy, the cars were painted in bright orange. Land Rover canceled the program in 2008, victim of the global financial crisis.

The Casual Hero

Tito Rosenberg, probably looking for a gas station.

Back in the 80s surf became a fever in Brazil, after all, the country has 7500 Km of coastline and Tito Rosenberg as a surfer and photographer was a familiar face on the pages of the surf magazines. By the time when he was chosen to part of the Brazilian team to the 1985 edition of the Camel Trophy, he had already traveled around the world in search of the perfect wave and the perfect photo.

Carlos Probst at left and Tito Rosenberg, posing with their prize.

Tito came back home not only with the honor of being part of the first Brazilian team at the Trophy but he and Probst won the “Team Spirit Award”. I immediately eleveted him to the same level of my other heroes, like Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet. The Camel Trophy was never meant for the professional race/rally drivers, it was an amazing event meant for the amateurs and Tito epitomized the image of the typical Trophy contender: an easy going, adventure seeker, always ready to help you.

He wrote a book about his 1985 adventure in Borneo.

The Colors of Racing. Part Four – The British Moss Green: Lotus

In this final chapter, we will take a look at another traditional British sports car company that changed Formula One in many different ways.

Lotus

The company was founded by engineers Colin Chapman and Colin Dare, both graduates of University College, in London, 1952, but had earlier start in 1948 when Chapman built his first racing car in his garage.

1958 Lotus Elite.

Lotus was born during a time when the popularity of British sports cars was at its peak. In the beginning, the company focused on producing race cars for private teams and drivers.

The original factory was situated in old stables behind the Railway Hotel in Hornsey, North London. In 1959, the Lotus Race Team split from the main company, this way the priorities of the competition department wouldn’t get mixed up with the growing production of road cars.

1956 Lotus Eleven

Back in the mid-1950s, the most promising Lotus was the “Eleven”, the car was super light, only 450Kg and equipped with a Coventry- Climax 1.1 liter 4 cylinder engine, producing 140 HP. This combination gave the car a top speed of 230Km/h, a pretty respectful performance back then.

Team Lotus, Le Mans 1956

The car enjoyed some success on the race tracks around Europe, in 1957, the Lotus Eleven won the performance index in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, proving true Colin Chapman’s words: “light is right”.

The cars that came as successors of the Eleven, the “Teen Series” : the 17 and the 19, also had a relatively successful careers on race tracks.

Formula One

If Lotus had a less than brilliant career in the Sports Car arena, it was in Formula One that Colin Chapman could show how talented he was as a race car builder.

Graham Hill at the wheel of his Lotus

By the end of the 1950s, the 4 cylinder Coventry-Climax engines had grown to 2.2 liters and were powerful enough to challenge the other brands at the Grand Prix arena.

The Lotus debut in F1 was in Monte Carlo, 1958, Chapman brought an all British team to Monaco: two model 12, one for Graham Hill and the other for Cliff Allison. In the end, Allison finished in 13st and Hill on 15st.

Lotus 18 at Monte Carlo, 1960

In 1960, Colin Chapman created the car that became the turning point for the company: The Model 18, it was the company’s first mid-engined Lotus and it was a great evolution from the front engine cars, besides the obvious better handling, the model had a much improved front and rear suspensions and the capacity to handle more powerful engine, since the Coventry-Climax reached 2.5 litters and 250 HP.

Sterling Moss at the wheel of his Lotus 18

The first F1 victory for Team Lotus came on April 8, 1960 when a Lotus 18 driven by Innes Ireland won in non-championship Glover Trophy.  Its first World Championship GP win happened six weeks later, on 29 May, Sterling Moss dominated the 1960 Monte Carlo GP, driving for Rob Walker’s private race team. Walker had leased a Lotus 18 from Colin Chapman for the season. Moss also won the USA GP at the end of the season helping Lotus finish second in the constructors’ championship.

The Lotus 18 became the standard design for Formula 1 cars and was copied by numerous race car makers. According to Chapman’s own words: “The Lotus 18 is my real Formula 1 car, the front engines I built before were just rubbish “.

The legendary Jim Clark

The Lotus 18 is also credit as the car in which Jim Clark took his first-ever single-seater victory. The scene of the victory was Brands Hatch on August 1960.

Jim Clark at Monte Carlo, 1964

The cars that came as the evolution of the “18” were equally successful on the race tracks. In 1963 Jim Clark scored 7 wins during the season and won his first World Championship, driving the Lotus 25.

The 1964 title was undecided to the last race in Mexico but problems with Clark’s Lotus gave it to Surtees in his Ferrari.

Clark at the wheel of his Lotus 33, 1965

In 1965, Clark dominated again, winning six races driving the Lotus 33 and claiming his second world title.

Jim Clark power sliding with the power of the Ford V8

In 1967 Lotus adopted the engine that would become the most successful in Formula One history: The Ford Cosworth V8.

Graham Hill and the Lotus 49

The model 49 was basically constructed around the Ford engine and while 1967 season was spent developing the car, in 1968 Graham Hill won the driver’s World Championship as well as the constructor title for Lotus. That season was the last time Lotus were painted in Moss Green; for the most part of the year the cars received the livery of the new sponsor: “Gold Leaf” tobacco company.

The Lotus dominance in the 60s came with a terrible cost, the Chapman’s lightweight mantra resulted in cars with serious structural flaws. The number of top drivers injured or killed in Lotus cars was considerable – notably Stirling Moss, Alan Stacey, Mike Taylor, Jim Clark, Mike Spence, Bobby Marshman, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, and Ronnie Peterson.

In Dave Friedman’s book “Indianapolis Memories 1961–1969”, Dan Gurney is quoted as saying, “Did I think the Lotus way of doing things was good? No. We had several structural failures in those cars [Indianapolis Lotus 34 and 38]. But at the time, I felt it was the price you paid for getting something significantly better.”

The 1972 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, at Monaco.

The amazing performance of the Lotus Formula One cars continued throughout the 1970s, the team won the constructor World Championship in 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1978, always wearing the famous black and gold livery of the sponsor “John Player Special”.

The Team Lotus never won a Championship again after 1978 end its operations were officially terminated in 1994. There were several attempts to bring the brand back to life in Formula One but none of them were successful.

The Colours of Racing. Part Four – The British Moss Green: Aston Martin.

In this chapter, I will talk about another British brand that wore the traditional Green on their cars: Aston Martin.

Aston Martin

The company was founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, and their very first car was produced in 1915 in the newly acquired facility in Kensington District, London. Aston Martin debuted in motorsport at the 1922 French Grand Prix.

1922 TT2 Prototipe

The team raced the TT2, a car equipped with a “state of the art” 1.5 liter, twin-cam 16 valves engine.

Aston Martin was basically born in financial trouble and the company changed ownership several times. Fortunately, all the different owners always had one thing in common, they believed racing was the best advertisement to boost sales. The brand became a traditional sight on the race tracks around Europe, either as an official race team or in the hands of private drivers.

1948 DB 1

In 1947 the industrialist David Brown acquired Aston Martin and during his ownership, the company created a series of coupes that became its trademark: The “DB”.

The DB 3s at Le Mans, 1952.

In 1952 Aston Martin debuted in Le Mans, with a purpose-built sports car, the DB 3S. The car didn’t win but had shown very good potential in other races of the season. The was equipped with a “Lagonda” in-line 6 engine with 205 HP.

The victory at Le Mans finally came in 1959, when the seasoned Aston Martin Team outperformed its major competitors, Ferrari, Jaguar, and Porsche, finishing the race with a 1-2 win.

The Aston Martin DBR1/300.

The winner car was the Aston Martin DBR1/300, equipped with the traditional in-line 6 engine capable to deliver 250 HP.

In the end, the number 5 Aston driven by Carroll Shelby and Roy Salvadori crossed the finish line in first, followed by Aston number 6 driven by Maurice Trintignant and Paul Frère, 25 laps behind the 2 Astons came the third car to finish the race, a Ferrari 250 GT from the Belgium official team. Besides all the difficulties faced by the drivers, Shelby had to deal with dysentery for the whole weekend and he had even driven with a nitroglycerine capsule under his tongue in case he had heart problems (which he omitted from telling his team). Salvadori, who was also ill with flu, drove for 14 hours but the privilege to receive the checkered flag went to Shelby.

The winners at Le Mans, 1959: left to right: Roy Salvadori, David Brown, and Stirling Moss. At the wheel: Carroll Shelby. Photo Stirling Moss collection.

In 1959 Aston Martin not only scored a victory at Le Mans but the team also won the World Sportscar Championship.

Fast forward to 1991, Ford Motor Comp. bought Aston Martin, and just like it did with Jaguar, the Americans reorganized the company and went full-throttle on the Racing Department.

The DB”R”-9.

In 2007 Aston Martin entered Le Mans with three gorgeous DB”R”-9, painted in green and with a big Union Jack on the fenders. The cars received the numbers “006”, “007” and “009”, very possibly to honor the most beloved secret agent from the silver screen, who made Aston Martin famous worldwide. No, it doesn’t get any more British than that.

The DB # 009

In the end, the DB # 009 driven by D. Brabham, R. Rydell, and D. Turner won the GT1 class at Le Mans, 2007.

The DB”R”-9 were equipped with a 6.0 L, naturally aspirated V-12, capable to produce 625 HP.

2007 also was the last year of Ford’s ownership and to keep track of all the benefactors who took over the company over the years would be a rather tedious task. But most of them kept Aston Martin’s racing division busy.

It took another 10 years for the company to be victorious at Le Mans once again. In 2017 the team won the “GTE Pro” class in one of the most thrilling race in recent years. At 45 min to the end of the race, the Vantage number 97 driven by Jony Adam, pulled to the pit at the same time as the yellow Corvette number 63, from the official Chevrolet Team, for their final fuel stop, but he Corvette left the pits in front of the #97.

2017 Le Mans.
World Copyright: JEP/LAT Images

We nearly got the jump on the Corvette at the stop, but we had to pull in behind it.” recalls Adam. “Then my engineer came on the radio and said: ‘to win Le Mans, you have to pass that Corvette.

What followed was an epic battle for the first place, decided within the final 2 laps to the end when Jony Adam secured the victory for the British Team. The GTE Vantage was equipped with an all aluminum, 4.5 L V8 outputting 450 HP, a modified version of the 4.3 L V8 from the production car.

The Aston Martin #98 at the pits, after a crash.
24 hours of Daytona, Jan 2020

The racing tradition of Aston Martin is still going strong, as I am writing these last lines, the Rolex 24 at Daytona 2020 is at 41 minutes to the finish and even if the Aston Martin Team is having a less than great weekend, it is still a satisfaction to see the brand fighting among the most prestigious teams in the world.

But the cars are no longer green.

In the next chapter of this series, I will talk about Lotus Race Team during the time the cars wore green.

The Colors of Racing. Part Four – The British Moss Green.

When the UK joined the Gordon Bennett Cup, all the most popular colors were already taken, even yellow was unavailable since it was given to Belgium. The only option on the table was green and the color actually fit perfectly since the UK was one of the leaders of the industrial revolution in the late 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s and olive green was already a trademark for British trains and farm tractors.

1902 Napier

The Brits proved they were not fooling around, the first year they came to the Cup, in 1902, Selwin Edge drove the green Napier 6.5 liter to victory. Actually, the British car was the only one to survive the race, all others broke down along the way.

According to the rules, the winner nation should host the next year’s race and that means for the first time the Gordon Bennett Cup would happen outside France.

The only problem was England had banished car races and the team had to choose somewhere else in the UK.

1903 Napier 100 HP

Ireland was the chosen location for the 1903 edition of the cup and the Irish people couldn’t be more proud of it. Some historians say this race still holds the record of the biggest sports event in Ireland when more than 150.000 attended to see cars crossing the finish line. Even though the home team was beaten by the Germans, the 1903 Cup was considered a spectacular success, and to honor the hosts the British team decided to paint the cars on a darker shade of green, similar to the national Irish Emerald Green.

As time passed by, the UK became a superpower in motorsports and the unofficial “Home of the Formula 1”. Most of the teams that disputed the 2019 F1 season have their headquarters in England. Since the 1960s, every year dozens of young drivers flock to the old island hoping to climb all the way to the top of the sports pyramid. Pretty ironic for a country that had banished car races in the early 1900s.

Some of the most iconic British automakers, wearing the “Moss Green” on their cars, contributed to build this heritage.

1982 Jaguar XJ-S

These automakers, at some point, went through some serious financial turmoil and were forced to sell the brands to foreign companies. Fortunately, the new owners are trying as much as possible to keep the legacy alive and very often we can have the satisfaction of watching them competing on the most prestigious races around the World.  Here I will try to talk about the achievements of four iconic British automakers.

Bentley

The super luxurious brand was born in 1919, in Cricklewood, North London and it has been racing ever since.

The company’s founder, Walter Owen Bentley, attended Le Mans’s inaugural race in 1923 and he was very skeptical about the idea of endurance competition: “I think the whole thing’s crazy,” he declared. “Nobody will finish. Cars aren’t designed to stand that sort of strain for 24 hours.

The 1924 Le Mans-winning team pose for a photo with WO Bentley in the middle with drivers Frank Clement, left and John Duff and the 3 Litter Bentley
in the background

Nevertheless, just a year later, Bentley had put together a fine race team that leads his car to the podium of the 1924 Le Mans edition. Bentley’s victory turned out to be an epic event considering that the automaker with 1 year in business had beaten the most traditional brands in the most traditional auto race.

The 1930 Le Mans winner, 4.5 litter, supercharger Bentley

The team would win Le Mans again in 1927, 1928, 1929, and 1930. The 1930 edition will always be remembered by the brutal battle against the 7 litter “Kompressor” Mercedes-Benz.

Jumping to modern times, in 1998 the Volkswagen Group acquired Bentley and it didn’t take long for them to push the brand back to the race tracks.

 

The 2003 Le Mans winner team

In 2003, Bentley was once again at Le Mans, with a 1-2 victory. The cars were painted in Moss Green and wearing the same numbers (7 and 8) as the original winners of 1924.

Bentley Speed 8

The new car was powered by a twin-turbo Audi V8 engine, producing 600 HP.

Jaguar

Jaguar is another fairly young British automaker, founded in 1922 in Whitley, Coventry, England and also has a solid tradition in motorsport.

The 1951 XK-120C

Le Mans was and still is the natural target for any brand which wants to “win on Sunday and sell on Monday”. Race still is one of the most important in the world and consequently a fantastic showroom for the automakers. Jaguar won there for the first time in 1951 with the legendary XK-120C (“C” stands for competition),  the car was equipped with a 3.4-liter twin-cam, straight 6  engine producing between 160 and 180 bhp and a more aerodynamic body than the regular production XK-120. In the early 1950s, the competitors were swiftly changing their car at Le Mans, from the modified touring models to a more purpose-built sports car.

1951 XK-120 C at a classic car meeting in Brazil, 2014. Photo by The Classic Machines.

Jaguar won Le Mans again in 1953 with a lighter version of the 1951 car and the team also broke the 100mph average speed barrier at the track. To make 1953 even more memorable, all four factory Jaguars finished the race.

1954 Jaguar D Type.

The replacement for the XK-120c was nothing less than legendary, the “D Type” was Jaguar’s first car to use a monocoque body, it was lighter and more aerodynamic and obviously faster than the XK, even if it was powered by the same inline 6 engine.

The D Type won Le Mans in 1955, 1956 and 1957. It is well known the car was a superb piece of engineering but some facts outside the Jaguar’s reach may have contributed to those victories.

Le mans 1955

This year everything was all set to an epic battle between Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar but this race will be forever remembered by the most horrific crash in the History of motorsport. On lap 35 Mike Hawthorn pulled his Type D to the right and started to brake in order to get into the pit area, right behind him was the Austin-Healey driven by Lance Macklin who swerved avoiding the collision with Hawthorn’s Jaguar but this maneuver put the Austin on the path of the Mercedes-Benz driven by the Frenchman Levegh. With no time to react, Levegh rear-ended Macklin’s car at 200Km/h catapulting the Mercedes towards the crowd. The car flew over the fence and disintegrated when it hit the ground, throwing large pieces of debris into the packed spectator area killing 84 people plus the driver and injuring 180. The race’s director decided to keep it going despite the carnage. Later on, Mercedes-Benz’s team manager Alfred Neubauer decided to withdrawal the remaining cars from the race as a sign of respect for the victims, even if the team was leading the race at that point.

Mercedes-Benz’s chief engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut went to the Jaguar pits to ask the team to also call their cars in, Jaguar team manager, Lofty England, declined. With Mercedes out and all the Ferraris broke down, Jaguar easily won the race.

The Le Mans organization tried to explain the reason they decide to keep the race going on: They said if the event was finished, thousands of fans leaving the race track would have clogged the streets, making it impossible for the emergency vehicles to move around.

The 1955 Le Mans winner D Type driven by Hawtorn and Bueb

The tragedy also prompted Mercedes-Benz to completely retire from motorsport until 1989.

Ecurie Ecosse jumps into the D Type #4, towards the victory in 1956.

With the Germans out of the competition, Jaguar scored two more victories in Le Mans with the D Type, in 1956 and 1957.

Raul Boesel at the wheel of the unbeatable XJR 8

Jaguar wouldn’t strike another series of victories again until 1987 when the Brazilian driver Raul Boesel won the Sports Car World Championship driving the V-12 powered XJR 8. That year Jaguar lost Le Mans to Porsche but they won 8 out of 10 races of the season, easily securing the constructor title as well.

Jaguar also won Le Mans in 1988 and 1990. This performance was a gigantic achievement considering the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. During this time Jaguar had to rely on money from sponsors and the cars could no longer wear green.

The Formula 1 years

In 1990 Ford Motor Comp. bought Jaguar and the company went through a major reorganization. In the late 1990s as part of its global marketing operations to promote the British brand, Ford decided to appeal to Jaguar’s rich racing heritage.

In 1999 the Jackie Stewart’s Formula 1 team, “Stewart Grand Prix” was bought and rebranded “Jaguar”. The name and the green color were back on a stunning livery but that was pretty much it, the car was powered by the Ford Cosworth V8 engine and there was not a bit of Jaguar engineering there.

After 4 disappointing seasons (2000 – 2004) Ford pulled the plug and the program was shut down.

E – Formula.

In 2008 Jaguar was sold to Tata Motors and once again the new owners are using racing as a way to promote sales. Since 2016 the brand has been consistently competing in the E – Formula and the green color is (kind of) back, in a pale, turquoise shade.

In the next part of this series, I will talk about two more British brands, Aston Martin and Lotus.

The Colours of Racing. Part Three – Bleu de France.

Bleu Bugatti

Perhaps no other color in the history of motorsport was more embraced than the French Blue, most of the automakers from the country proudly adopted it for their race cars.

On this chapter, I will talk about a few of them that in one way or another made History

Bugatti

The company was created by Ettore Bugatti, in 1909, it was born with the sole purpose of producing high-performance cars.

Ettore Bugatti was born in Milan, Italy, and his company was originally founded in Molsheim, located in the Alsace, which was part of the German Empire until 1919 but after World War I the region became part of France.

1929 Bugatti type 35

The Type 35 was one of the most successful race cars in the 1920s, it was developed with the help of master engineer and racing driver Jean Chassagne who also drove the car in its debut in 1924 during the Lyon Grand Prix. Type 35 dominated Targa Florio for five years straight from 1925 through 1929. 

2019 Bugatti Chiron

The race driver Louis Chiron held the most podiums for the team during that time and he was rightfully honored when Bugatti named its second generation of modern supercar after him.

1937 Bugatti Type 57

In 1937 edition of Le Mans, the drivers Jean Pierre Wimille and Robert Benoist won the race driving the “avant-garde” Type 57, painted in two different shades of blue.

Veyron and Wimille pose for photos after winning the 1939 Le Mans.

Two years later a supercharged 3.3 liter Type 57 came victorious at Le Mans, Jean Pierre Wimille was once again at the wheel but Robert Benoist was replaced by Pierre Veyron. The odds for Bugatti were dismal in 1939, the company was going through some financial difficulties and they were able to bring only one car to the track, a few spare parts, and not a lot of cash. The 1939 race was the last one before World War II and it wouldn’t happen again for ten years. This emblematic victory will always be the most remembered for the company.

2007 Veyron

The first supercar unveiled after the brand was bought by Volkswagen in the late 1990s was named after Pierre Veyron. It was the first-ever production car to break the 1000 HP barrier.

Renault

The French automaker is one of the most traditional teams in Formula 1 with more than 20 years on the tracks and two World Championship (2005 and 2006) on its belt but they never seemed to embrace the blue color.

The 2005 R25.
(Photo credit PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Even the 2005 Season champion car was, let’s say, only half blue.

1971 Alpine A110

But was the marriage between Renault and Alpine that produced one of the most popular French sports car, the A 110. From the beginning of the production in 1961 to the end in 1977, the car had a legendary career on World Rally Championship.

A 110 in action during Monte Carlo Rally, 1973

During its time, the A110 proved to be a formidable Rally car, lightweight, fast and reliable, The Alpine team conquered the 1971 and 1973 World Rally Championship.

A 110 at Le Mans, 1968.

The car was also a regular on race tracks around the world as well.

2017 Alpine A 110

In 2017, to celebrate the 50 years of the A110 victories in WRC, Alpine released a modern interpretation of the classic, equipped with a turbocharged 1.8 liter, 4 cylinder Renault engine. Again, blue is a very popular choice of color.

Matra

During the 60s and 70s, Matra enjoyed its pinnacle as a sports car maker and race team. In 1967 the company started competing in Formula 1 and only two years later, Jack Stewart won his first Championship driving the Matra MS80. The team also won the constructor championship.

The “Flying Scot” Jack Stewart at the wheel of 1969 Matra S80.

The only thing missing on this achievement was a French engine because the S80 was equipped with a Ford Cosworth V8.

Without a doubt, the most unforgettable part of a Matra race car is the legendary 3-liter V12 engine, it was born with the sole purpose to compete in Formula 1. The V12 powered most of the Matra F1 cars from 1967 to 1972 and also became the choice of other “Blue” French teams like Ligier, from 1976 to 1979 and Talbot, from 1980 to 1982.

Ligier JS7

In the 1977 Swedish Gran Prix, Jaques Laffite drove his Ligier JS7 V12 to victory and that race became the first “Triple French” (car, driver, and engine) achievement in Formula 1.

If Matra career in Formula 1 was something less than thrilling, the brand did a lot better in the sports-prototype races.

The Matra-Simca MS670

The V12 MS 670 proved to be an amazing race car and the team won in Le Mans in 1972, 1973, and 1974.

The winning duo at Le Mans, 1972

In 1972 the team even managed to finish Le Mans in 1-2 victory with the two cars crossing the finish line almost at the same time, repeating what Ford did in 1966.

The outstanding performance of the MS 670 was enough for Matra to score the Constructors World Championship in 1973 and 1974.

To be fair, race teams like Ligier carried on the “Bleu de France” tradition well into the 1990s but I would like to finish this chapter with this phenomenal campaign of Matra-Simca.

“Absolument fantastique”

Next chapter we will visit the heritage of the British racing “Moss Green”

The Colours of Racing. Part Two – The Germans

As you can see in the previous post, some of the national racing colors actually changed hands before becoming traditional, but Germany is the only one to have two choices.

The Silver Arrow or the Simple White?

1910 “Blitzen” Benz GP car.

The color given to German racing teams was white, pure and simple. The traditional powerhouse brands, Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union (which later became Audi) followed the trend, and later on, Porsche and BMW did the same.

But around the early 1930s, the Germans pushed for a second choice of color, Silver. This option came not as a paint per se but actually as a lack of it. Around this time, some of the official Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union cars started to show up at the tracks completely stripped of paint, proudly showing the bare, polished aluminum body. There are a few theories for the real reason the German teams adopted this “no paint required” procedure.

1939 Auto Union Type D – Silver Arrow

The most accepted theory goes like this, in the early 1930s, German engineering was able to come up with very powerful engines allied with streamlined, aerodynamic bodies and that made the Mercedes Benz and Auto-Union terrifyingly fast. The International Grand Prix Racing Organization had to put some limits on the speed of those cars and they came up with a clever way to do so; instead of putting limitations on the size of the engines, they decided to put a severe weight limit of 750 kg on all race cars.

The 595 hp, W125 Mercedes-Benz

With new rules in place, all the players had to build new cars format. At the debut race for the new W-125 Mercedes, in Nurburgring, the car weighed exactly 751Kg, the team had no idea what to remove from it since, as we know, a race car only has what is absolutely essential for its performance. The chief engineer decided to remove the only unnecessary equipment, the white paint, and the primer. The decision brought the W 125 to the allowed 750 Kg and also gave it a menacing, high-tech look. It didn’t take long for Auto-Union to adopt the same idea.

For some people, this story is absolutely true and among them, we have Mr. Alfred Neubauer, Mercedes’ racing program principal during those years, he even wrote about it in his 1958 memoirs. Mercedes Benz itself assures it is the true version of how the German racing cars became Silver.

But for some historians, this is nothing more than a colorful make up a story that became true after being told over and over again throughout the years. There are evidences of German cars in either bare metal body or even painted in silver even before 1934.

For those people, the idea of the cars racing in bare metal bodies was nothing more than the Germans showing off their superiority in the aluminum manufacturing.

Hitler always saw the races as a perfect way to show the world all the technological advances in the German industry in peacetime and the Nazi party became a sponsorship for the teams. Mussolini did the same with Alfa Romeo and Maserati.

 

1955 Mercedes Benz w196

In one way or another, the Silver became a tradition for the German race cars.

1939 Porsche Type 64.

Porsche also wasn’t ashamed to present his first-ever car in shinning bare aluminum.

1949 BMW Rannsport.

And even BMW, which came a big latter to the racing playground, adopted the color.

1979 BMW M1

But as years passed, BMW tried to distance itself from the other German brands on the race track and the white color became the standard for their official cars.

A powerful statement.

For the old school aficionados, like myself, the first picture that comes to mind when we think about the McLaren F1 team is a car in the red and white Marlboro livery. Under those colors legends like Fittipaldi, Hunt, Lauda e Senna became World Champions.

The 1984 World Champion Niki Lauda at the wheel of the Porsche powered McLaren.

In 1995 Mercedes Benz started to supply engines to McLaren and since day one, this partnership was meant to be more than just commercial agreement, the British team became a “semi-official” team for Mercedes, paving the way for their full Formula 1 team in a near future.

1997 McLaren Mercedes F1

In 1997 McLaren replaced its main sponsor, Marlboro, for another tobacco brand, West, and for the first time in 23 years, their cars would be racing in different colors.

The Silver was the color of West tobacco but we all know who the Brits were really pleasing.

2010 W01 Mercedes

In 2010 was the year Mercedes Benz officially came back to Formula 1 as a team and this new generation of the “Silver Arrows” started what is now almost a decade of dominance in the sport.

The Colours of Racing. Part One

The modern universe of motorsports holds most of its original core: The talent of the drivers mixed with the technology of the cars and the ancient human need to dare themselves and compete against each other. But there is one key ingredient that came along a little later: The sponsorship.

The money from the sponsorships brought the sport to far corners of the globe, made the financial life of teams a lot easier, and some driver millionaires.

Every square inch of the area must generate revenue.

But, as many other things in life, motorsport was a lot simpler, in the beginning, most of the money came from the manufactures and even from the drivers, as many of them were from wealthy families.

As a result, the cars were “clean” and the only graphics were the numerals and that created a problem, race cars were (as they also are nowadays) very similar in shape. Even if they were built by different automakers, without the sponsor’s liveries over the cars, it would be very hard for the people on the stands to identify them.

In the beginning, the rivalry between the automakers on the race tracks was immensely increased by national pride, so it was common sense to differentiate the teams by their nationality.

Wolseley 90HP at the 1905 edition of the Gordon Bennett Cup.

The auto clubs around the world came up to a color scheme to help to identify the nationality of the cars and it was applied for the first time during the “Gordon Bennet Cup”, a racing event held between 1900 and 1905 and was created by Gordon Bennett Jr, the millionaire owner of the newspaper “The New York Herald”.

This is how the collours were assigned for:

Germany: white, France: blue, USA: red, Belgium: yellow. It took two years for the Brits to join the competition and they didn’t have many choices for the color other than green.

The Rosso Corsa.

1967 Alfa Romeo Stradale

Perhaps the most traditional color in motorsports is the “Rosso Corsa” or the “Racing Red” that has become a trademark for the Italian high-performance cars, in and out of the race track, but how did they end up having the color that was intended for the Americans?

By early 1900, the automobile was considered more as a hobby than a necessity, and based on this principle, the aficionados were in constant pursuit of new challenges. The Parisian newspaper “Le Matin” on its January 31st, 1907 edition, published the following challenge: “What needs to be proved today is that as long as a man has a car, he can do anything and go anywhere. Is there anyone who will undertake to travel this summer from Peking to Paris by automobile?

Around 40 contestants accepted the task but only 5 teams were actually able to ship their cars to Peking There were 3 French teams, one Dutch and one Italian.

The race started in front of the French embassy in Peking on June 10th, 1907. After covering 9,317 miles, the Italian car, driven by the Prince Scipione Borghese and Ettore Guizzardi, was the first one to arrive in Paris, on August 10th, 1907.

The Italian Prince was so confident he would be the winner, he even decided to take a detour from Moscow to St. Petersburg a dinner that was offered in honor of the team, and later headed back to Moscow and rejoined the race.

The red 1907 Itala.

The car that gave the victory to the Italian team was a 1907 Itala, equipped with 4 cylinders, 7,433 cc (453.6 cu in) able to produce 45 HP and yes, the car was painted in red.

Prince Borghese and Ettore Guizzardi became national heroes and the red Itala was the symbol of the superior Italian engineering. After that victory, every Italian team competing around the world wanted to have their cars associated with the Borghese team.

Niki Lauda’s 1976 Ferrari 312 T2

The Rosso Corsa became the most traditional color in motorsports, actually not only on the track but on the streets as well. For us, gearheads, it hard to picture a classic Ferrari or Alfa Romeo in any other color.

No more red but white and blue.

After the Italians took over the red, another option was presented to the Americans, the white and blue. When we think about this combination only one name comes to mind: Shelby.

Shelby Cobra

The racer/builder Carrol Shelby is, perhaps, the most iconic persona in the American motorsport scenario. He will be forever remembered for making the Ford GT 40 good enough to beat Ferrari 4 times in a roll in Le Mans but even before that, his cars had already defeated the Maranello boys in 1965, in the GT class.

The victory in blue and white.

Shelby himself said the biggest achievement in his career was the 1965 GT class Championship and that pretty much made the blue with the white stripes a trademark for his team.

No, it doesn’t get any more bad ass than this.

And the colours, on the other way around, also became legendary.

But before Carrol Shelby, there was another racer/builder who proudly painted his cars in white and blue, his name was Briggs Cunningham.

Born into a very wealthy family, Cunningham started his passion for speed while racing boats and during this period, he also started to show some talent in the engineering field when he created the “Cunningham Downhaul” an aerodynamic innovation to increase the speed of his boat. By 1940s he was already modifying street cars for racing and 10 years later he brought two Cadillacs to compete in Le Mans.

One of them was a slightly modified 1950 Caddy Serie 61 coupe. But was the other Caddy that became a legend, not so much for its performance but for its looks.

le Monstre

Briggs Cunningham even had the help of the Grumman Aircraft Corp.to develop the new body for the Cadillac. The car certainly isn’t pretty but since the panels are aluminum it is a lot lighter than the original Serie 61 and obviously way more aerodynamic; all that paired with the new powerful small-block Cadillac V8, the first American V8 with overhead valves. But the Frenchs were unforgiving with the design and they nicknamed it “Le Monstre”.

On the second lap of the race, Mr. Briggs lost control of the car end got stuck on a sandbank, it took him 30 min to go back to the race.

At the end of the race, the coupe #3 finished in 10th and the le Monstre in 11th.

The Cunningham C-4 R

But his most popular creation is the C-4 Roadster, especially the “R” (racing) version. Between 1951 and 1954, Cunningham pursued the victory of an American car in Le Mans and the C-4 was the best bet, the elegant roadster was equipped with the hottest V8 of its time, the legendary Chrysler Hemi.

At the team’s peak performance, a C-4 won the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1953, and in the same year a C-5 won on class in Le Mans.

Ford GT replica by Powertech – Brazil

In one way or another, the white and blue tradition lives on. There are many small companies that produce replicas of the Shelby cars and this combination of colors is still very popular.

2019 GT 350

The renewed Shelby-Ford partnership in the early 2000s has brought us the modern interpretation of the Shelby GT Mustang and the old colors scheme is again a winner combination.

In the next post, I will talk about the colors of Germany, France, and Britain.

About “The Classic Machines”

Machines are created with one primary mission: to make our lives easier, but it is inevitable some of them will fulfill other gaps in life. Some machines will provide status, arouse passion and make life not only practical but thrilling.

All this love for the machines can be seen on thousands of blogs and videos that pop-up every day on the internet, I can’t promise this blog will be a lot different or better than the others, I can only promise I will try to express all my admiration not only for cars but for motorcycles, planes and some other machines that make life more interesting.

I am the third generation of my family that is involved with cars, as a hobby and professionally as well, all this experience gave some knowledge and lots of memories I would like to share with you.

Rubens Florentino Junior.