Within the third a part of BBC Sport Africa’s sequence analyzing the historical past of South African Grand Prix racing, Ben Sutherland seems at how one workforce modified the look of F1 racing.
The lights are out and the 2023 F1 season is below approach, with new automobiles bedecked, as ever, with vibrant sponsor logos to catch the cameras.
When present constructors champions Crimson Bull purchased out the previous Jaguar workforce in 2004 their first paint job – used solely in testing – actually resembled one among their drinks cans.
This riot of company color started over 50 years in the past with one tiny, little-remembered South African workforce that competed in solely seven World Championship races – and failed to attain a single level.
That is the story of Crew Gunston.
Revolution in orange and brown
When the F1 World Championship was arrange in 1950, all of the groups competed within the racing colors of their nations: purple for Italy, which is why Ferrari nonetheless race in scarlet; white for Germany; blue for France; inexperienced for the UK – a tribute to Eire’s nationwide colors, in honour of an early interval in motorsport historical past during which Eire permitted races on public roads, one thing that was banned on mainland Britain.
Whereas sponsorship was allowed across the circuits, motorsport’s governing physique, the FIA, banned logos on automobiles.
This was all to vary on the non-championship Rhodesian Grand Prix in Bulawayo on 3 December 1967. That summer time’s day in Zimbabwe a automotive was unveiled that might revolutionise Method 1.
The customized Brabham BT20 wasn’t quicker, it did not deal with higher, nor was it extra technologically superior.
Its distinction was within the color.
The orange and brown paintjob was not from a nationwide flag or emblem, however from the hues of the South African cigarette firm Gunston.
Gunston was a part of the Rembrandt group, arrange by tycoon Dr Anton Rupert. Aptly, he had began his profession making cigarettes in his storage in Stellenbosch.
His firm turned a market chief in South Africa after he invented the king dimension cigarette filter, serving to Rupert to turn into one of many continent’s richest males.
Nevertheless, the mid-Nineteen Sixties was when the risks of smoking had been lastly changing into clear. A devastating report by the US Surgeon Basic in 1964 had proven a definitive hyperlink between smoking and illnesses like lung most cancers and bronchitis.
In consequence, Gunston had been seeking to entice quite extra optimistic publicity. And at a time when South Africa had its personal thriving domestic F1 championship, they stumble on the thought of placing their title on a racing automotive.
By placing collectively main SAF1 drivers John Love and Sam Tingle – who owned their very own machines – and portray these automobiles in model colors, Crew Gunston was shaped.
To Gunston’s delight, Love – already effectively established because the dominant drive within the SAF1 championship – went out and gained the race in Bulawayo, though Tingle spun off.
Their consideration then instantly turned to the complete F1 South African Grand Prix barely 4 weeks later, on New 12 months’s Day 1968. Throughout the earlier season Love had astonished the F1 world by practically changing into the primary privateer to win a Grand Prix. What may he do a 12 months later? Might photos of an orange and brown automotive with Crew Gunston written on its nostril quickly be on each newspaper again web page?
Within the occasion, no. Love certified seventeenth however completed solely ninth, 5 laps down.
However whereas Crew Gunston won’t have garnered worldwide fame, there have been some folks within the F1 paddock who had been paying very shut consideration.
One specifically was Colin Chapman, the supervisor and genius behind Crew Lotus.
Money move disaster
While Gunston struggled, Lotus had scored a 1-2 that day in South Africa, with winner Jim Clark coming in practically thirty seconds forward of team-mate Graham Hill. However alongside this, Chapman was additionally serious about the automotive that had completed ninth within the orange and brown colors of a South African cigarette firm.
On the time, there was a funding disaster within the sport. Oil giants BP and Shell had withdrawn from F1, whereas Firestone had stopped supplying free tyres. As a consequence of this shortfall, the FIA lifted their outright ban on sponsorship.
Three weeks later, Clark was racing in a Lotus once more within the Tasman Collection, the Australian model of the SAF1 championship.
However his automotive was now not inexperienced and yellow. It was within the purple and gold of Gold Leaf Tobacco.
It was not a easy begin for Lotus’ new colors. The Tasman organisers had been shocked and requested that the Lotuses be repainted. Chapman threatened to tug out and, confronted with the lack of their star names, organisers relented.
Then British broadcaster ITV objected when Lotus arrived on the non-championship Race of Champions, threatening to cancel their broadcast.
Finally, Chapman appeased them by taping over the sailor’s head on the Gold Leaf emblem.
Regardless of these early hitches, the hyperlink between tobacco corporations and Method 1 was gaining momentum. By 1970 the BRM workforce had attracted Marlboro, and each title-winning automotive between 1984 and 2007 carried the branding of a significant smoking model
On this period, critics of the game dubbed the automobiles “cell cigarette packets”.
However it wasn’t solely tobacco corporations getting in on the motion.
British fridge-makers LEC ran a automotive, as did Brazilian sugar firm Copersucar. Haulage boss Ted Toleman arrange a workforce to advertise his trucking agency, employed a Brazilian rookie driver known as Ayrton Senna and bought purchased out by Italian clothes firm Benetton.
As TV audiences grew so did the cash flooding in from sponsorship, propelling Method 1 from a distinct segment petrolhead pursuit to the worldwide sporting behemoth it’s at present.
The grid swelled a lot that by 1989 there have been 20 groups and 40 drivers.
However by then, there was no Crew Gunston on the beginning line. The pioneers of racing automotive sponsorship solely had sufficient cash to participate in a single World Championship race a season – their dwelling one. Their final lap was in 1975 once they completed eleventh and thirteenth.
Crew Gunston continued in different classes of motorsport till 1982 however their F1 days had ended after seven races and 0 factors.
However they’d paved the best way for a revolution in branding, color and cash that lasts to today.