In the days of the Gordon Bennett Cup, Count Eliot Zborowski suggested that each national entrant be allotted a different colour. The races were hosted in the country of the previous year’s winner. Britain had to choose a different colour to its usual national colours, red, white and blue, because those colours had already been taken by Italy (this being why Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati are forever linked to red), Germany (although Auto Union and Mercedes Benz later adopted silver as their National colour Porsche continues to use white as their ‘racing colour’ to this day) and France. Selwyn Edge won the 1902 race for England in a Napier and it was decided that the 1903 race would be held in Ireland (at that time a part of the United Kingdom, as motor racing at the time was illegal in Great Britain) and the opening of Brooklands was still four years in the future. As a mark of respect for their Irish hosts the English Napier cars were painted shamrock green. As Napier had already used olive green during the 1902 event, and had adopted the colour as its corporate livery, they thought this was a good idea. These colours were later codified in the Code Sportif International (CSI) of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).
In keeping with these Irish/Napier roots, many of the earliest greens used on English racing cars were of a lighter olive, moss or emerald green – Scottish teams use a dark blue as their chosen National colour. Later, darker green shades became more common on the Bentley and Jaguars but the first recorded use of the dark green was on the Bugatti of British driver William Grover-Williams, driving in the very first Monaco Grand Prix in 1929. This colour has become known as British Racing Green. In the 1950s and 1960s British teams such as Aston Martin, Vanwall, Cooper, Lotus, and BRM were successful in Formula One and Sports car racing, all in different shades of green.
The Australian-owned but British-based Brabham team also used a shade of BRG, and this was augmented with a gold (later yellow) stripe, gold and green being the national sporting colours of Australia.
Under pressure from a number of teams, most famously the Lotus team who wished to use the Gold Leaf livery on the Lotus 49, in 1968 sponsorship regulations were relaxed in F1. In 1970 the FIA formally gave Formula One an exemption from the national colours ruling and the previously common green colour disappeared.
The ‘Gladiator’s Colours’ are now replaced with the commercial sponsorship colour schemes and are special in their own way and we will feature some of their ‘colours’ in future blogs.
Colour is powerful… especially when designing a corporate identity. Colour defines the ‘personality’ of your brand, defines the image you project and establishes the initial (and lasting) perceived value of your brand. Choice and use of colour in image, typography and solid make a statement and become an intrinsic element in your logo, icon and corporate identity. Often ‘colour’ is the corporate identity – Orange (the telecommunications company) is one good example… the colour and word working in unison to become instantly recognisable and individual in a highly competitive sector where each of the brands involved fight for awareness and visual positioning. Colour is part of our world and is a dynamic and hugely versatile element in the brand architecture of some of the most successful brands on the planet.
Colour in motorsport… one of the most ‘colourful’ sports; but where did some of the colours come from? Ferrari is known by millions as the ‘red’ cars but their corporate identity ‘colour’ is yellow. British Racing Green has quite a story behind it –