In modern-day auto racing, you may have a hard time distinguishing which car represents which country. The advent of commercial sponsorship and the use of similar colors turned all cars on a racetrack into one indistinguishable blob. But in the early days of racing, the car design was very simple, and each country had a representing color. In this post, let’s tackle British Racing Green. Yes, this is a color!
What is the origin of international auto racing colors?
Participants had to paint all vehicles competing in organized motorsport events with a color that indicated the nationality of the car or driver, the competitor in a race. For example, for the 1900 race, red was assigned to the US, white became a color of German racing legends, and blue propelled victories for France.
“The use of distinctive colors of nationality is compulsory when the supplementary regulations of the competition require it. These colors are determined by the nationality of the competitor,” according to the Code Sportif International (C.S.I.) of the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (F.I.A.).
Furthermore, every component part of a car had to be manufactured in the country – participant in a race. The driver also had to be a national of that same country.
“One of the conditions of the race is that the cars must be the absolute production of their respective nationalities. This rule is rigid, and cannot be evaded. The application of it handicapped England in the first years of the contest, for the art of manufacturing the electric coil, the most vital part of the machinery, in which the French were adepts[sic], was only acquired by England recently. With such tremendous international trade issues depending upon the result, it will be readily understood how keen will be the struggle,” stated a 1903 article.
Image Source: en.wikipedia.org
Where did British Racing Green come from?
When England first competed in 1902, all the colors of the British national flag had already been taken.
After winning the race in 1902, Britain received the honor to host the 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup. But motor racing events were illegal in the country at that time. Therefore, the British decided to switch the location of the 1903 race to Ireland, where the local laws were “adjusted” for road racing.
Some say that as a sign of respect for the Irish hosts, the British painted their race cars Shamrock Green, which represents the color of the shamrock – a young sprig of clover, one of Ireland’s national symbols.
How did British Racing Green change over the years?
Later on, the British have adopted different shades of green. Most often, a darker shade dominated. But there were times when the nation opted for lighter hues of green just like the Hersham and Walton Motors (HWM) auto racing team did during the 1950s.
Image Source: www.autocar.co.uk
The first recorded use of the darkest shade of green dates to 1929. It was when legendary William Grover-William drove a Bugatti in the first Monaco Grand Prix. That particular shade has become the British Racing Green we know today.
How sponsorship changed the auto racing colors in the late 1960s
Image Source: en.wikipedia.org
During the 1960s, the United States had already been using sponsorship liveries. But it wasn’t until the spring of 1968 that sponsorship liveries officially became a part of international racing. Also, countries did not have to use their assigned national color anymore.
“Team Gunston was the first Formula One team to paint their cars in the livery of their sponsors when they entered a private Brabham for John Love, painted in the colors of Gunston cigarettes, in the 1968 South African Grand Prix. British Racing Green soon vanished from the cars of British private teams,” according to Wikipedia.
Many countries, such as Germany, the USA, and Canada, among others, have changed their traditional racing colors after 1968. Germans, for example, has shifted from white to silver. Leaving the aluminum bodies of their cars unpainted. Canada decided to adjust its auto racing colors to red and white – the colors of its national flag.
Auto racing colors today
British Racing Green (BRG) used to represent any shade of green in the past. Today, it corresponds to a deep, rich shade of green with the #004225 hex value.
In 1991, honoring the 1960s British roadsters that inspired Mazda MX-5, Mazda rolled out a limited edition of only 250 cars. The automaker called it the “British Racing Edition”.
Mazda also produced a similar edition in 2001. The color selection included a BRG option, updated to a more metallic green in 2011.
Image Source: www.diseno-art.com
In recent years, various countries have gone back to the traditional colors that represented them in the auto races of the past. During the annual A1 Grand Prix, one-make racing series that ran from 2005 to 2009, several national teams rode identical cars with different color schemes. And some countries painted their cars with the respective traditional national colors.
British Racing Green in today’s motorsport
British Racing Green – the symbolic color of British motorsport, has also made its comeback. For instance, Jaguar in a 2000 Formula 1 edition, revived its traditional green. But after Ford sold the team to Red Bull in 2004, the new Red Bull Racing team used their own colors.
Image Source: riviera-reflections.com
“Other traditionally British manufacturers have since followed suit. Bentley returned briefly to the Le Mans circuit in 2001, 2002, and 2003, winning with the Bentley Speed 8, painted in a very dark shade of BRG. In recent years, Aston Martin has also returned to endurance racing, with their DBR9s painted in, a typically Aston, light BRG. Rocketsports Racing also used green for its Jaguar XK in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and American Le Mans Series and other,” according to Wikipedia.
Interestingly, for a long time, the US drivers preferred not to paint their cars any shade of green. They believed that this color would bring them bad luck. However, this superstition has been losing its hold on American race car drivers, especially since the advent of more British international competition.