Journal: Here’s How Martini Racing Changed Racing Liveries Forever

Here’s How Martini Racing Changed Racing Liveries Forever

By Joel Clark
November 5, 2015

Photography by Alessandro Bianchi, Jonathan McWhorter, Federico Bajetti, & Andrey Smazhilo

If sponsorship worked as well as marketing directors wished, an awful lot of motor racing fans would be certified alcoholics. We’d, no doubt, spend our lives totally pished thanks to the huge number of alcoholic beverages advertised in motorsport over the years.

But as a brand to inspire some of the most iconic liveries ever, one brand stands above all others: Martini.

For me, the world of racing car sponsorship doesn’t have another all-rounder design anyway near as strong as Martini Racing’s, and the past 45 years have seen the Martini-liveried cars eclipse every other car on the starting grid in looks alone—no matter what the formula! But how is this possible?

So sit back, grab a drink, and let’s get sozzled on a number of the finest examples to wear those intoxicating Martini stripes.

The very first cars Martini sponsored didn’t carry the distinctive stripes, and were very basic in their design in accordance with the era. These were the 1962 Alfa Romeo SZ and later in 1968, the Porsche 907. It wasn’t until very late in 1970 that Martini Racing officially began, with the sponsorship of the 917 competing in the 1971 World Sportscar season. If ever a debut had equal impact, surely Martini Racing would be up there with Elvis first shaking his hips.

Martini, to the casual viewer, obviously seem synonymous with fellow countrymen Lancia, and most people would first think of Lancia because of World Rally Championship coverage in the ’80s. Porsche comes in a close second with equal dominance during the ’70s and having revisited the livery in recent years—even appearing on modern WilliamsF1 machines.

But in my opinion, the nicest mix of car and livery has to be the Martini Racing Alfa Romeo 155 DTM cars.

As if the DTM tarmac-chewing-monsters don’t look incredible enough as they are, covering the angular 155 in those stripes is pure car porn, be it the white or red-based examples. Similar in affect to many other Martini Racing designs, the graphics on the 155 superbly accentuates the car’s shape, turning aggressiveness up to eleven.

Even on a grid full of the most radical saloon cars we’ll likely ever see on this earth, it still holds the honours of being the most menacing, purposeful-looking race car.

It also carried the designed-in-1929 Martini “Ball and Bar” logo in an unusually large size, yet this didn’t sully the design in any way: a rare occurrence when the client asks for an ever-bigger logo!

But perhaps the greatest achievement of the Martini Racing colors is that each type of car has its own different take on the livery. Each design is adapted to complement whatever car it’s applied to, and it’s significant: this is a luxury only well-loved brands can get away with.

Think about the Alitalia livery, for example. As superb as that design is, it won’t take too much alteration from its classic look, and is truly at its best on the side of a Lancia Stratos. This is by no means a criticism, only a point of comparison between the looks-good-on-almost-anything Martini Racing colors.

However, with so many variations out there, it’s inevitable we’re going to find a few bad apples in the crop. As far as the iconic Martini Racing livery is concerned, my vote for least exciting has to be the current WilliamsF1 incarnation. Park it next to a WRC Lancia Delta, and it looks weak and wispish.

What’s your favorite car to wear the Martini Racing colors?

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Ulysse Aquarius
Ulysse Aquarius(@ulysse_aquarius)
2 years ago

If you’re a Martini racing fan, then this may be perfect for you :

Keith Walker
Keith Walker(@keithwwalker)
5 years ago

Lancia LC1

Eric Heinrich
Eric Heinrich(@eric-j-heinrich)
5 years ago

Just saying…

5 years ago

Hard to best the 917. The 1977 rallye 911 in Safari trim is also awesome. The 037 is fantastic. It’s hard to pick which of the integrali’s is best. Even the Escort Cosworth and Focus did a great job of displaying Martini’s colors.

6 years ago

Lancia Delta Integrale looked stunning in Martini colours

Samir Shirazi
Samir Shirazi(@samirshirazi)
6 years ago

I think it would fit to Alfa Montreal

Frank Jack
Frank Jack(@frankjack904)
6 years ago

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Alex Wakefield
Alex Wakefield(@fb_10102065692468138)
6 years ago

I’ll take anything Porsche for sure!

Gustavo Fabián Terreni
Gustavo Fabián Terreni(@fb_10153657249489870)
6 years ago

Carlos Reutemann´s Brabham bt 44

Per Eldh
Per Eldh(@per)
6 years ago

Has to be a Lancia.. So it’ll have to be the Delta S4.

Tim van Dorst
Tim van Dorst(@fb_10153615336708726)
6 years ago

Porsche 935 “Moby Dick” is still my favourite.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger(@gtrslngr)
6 years ago

Ahem ! Seriously Mr Clark ? Errr .. as much as I love Martini & Rossi’s livery …. there is also …

etc …..

…. to be considered . All of which have as much if not more staying power than M&R [ seen how many custom M/C’s alone have been done up in Gulf livery lately ? ] Not to mention many of the above were in the game [ and changing it ] well before M&R’s marketing mavens even considered motor sports sponsorship

So errr … yeah … you’re kind of over stating the case to the point of hyperbole not to mention revisionist history . M&R’s is a sight to behold . But they hardly changed things [ to the extent you’re claiming ] – brought in no innovations to speak of .. and are certainly not the most iconic motor sports livery either .

In answer to your question though . Without a doubt … the M&R liveried Lancia 037’s .. because the 037 is as stunning in its M&R colors as it is without .

PS; Martini & Rossi Red . The key ingredient for a drink I created I call the San Remo Fizz [ its still served at a certain cafe/bar in San Remo by the way ]

4 jiggers M&R red
1 jigger fine vodka
pour into a 16 oz ( chilled ) glass of finely crushed ice
Top off with S.Pellegrino [ Voss sparkling or Perrier will do in a pinch ] stir gently and add and a twist of lemon

Knock a few of those back by the ocean/poolside [ or people watching on a summers day ] and tell me you aint a happy guy …:)

Francisco Yantorno
Francisco Yantorno(@fyantorno)
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

Obviously there are a lot of liveries to remember and that will be remembered but, Martini’s is the only one that has endured decades. JPS, Rothmans, Alitalia, Gulf… they all had their time and lasted like a decade in official teams and FIA categories, you can’t take in count the replicas made today. As official sponsor the Martini Racing livery is the only one lasts even today and appeared in Rally in the 70s and 80s and 90’s, F1 in the 70,s 80, and 00s, in Le Mans, in ITCC and DTM!!! And no other make placed it’s colour on such a variety of brands and teams: Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Porsche, Williams, Brabham, Ford…

Francois Bozonnet
Francois Bozonnet(@bozo348)
6 years ago

There was also in off-shore racing…

Francisco Yantorno
Francisco Yantorno(@fyantorno)
6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

PS: I’ll try the “San Remo Fizz”

6 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

I see Buzz Killington is back… “Did I ever tell you of the time when I created a cocktail…?” Yawn…