Red, light blue and dark blue: the colours of motorsport

Red, light blue and dark blue: the colours of motorsport 01
Photo credits: Rosario Liberti (Petrolicious)

A red central stripe, with light blue and dark blue stripes on either side. And the Martini logo at the centre. From rallies and prototypes to the single seaters of Formula 1, and that's just the car racing: for motorsport enthusiasts, Martini Racing symbolises half a century of passion, races, victories and legendary drivers. And the most illustrious moments over these 50 years are associated with the Lancia brand.

Though Martini & Rossi is an Italian company, its first race – Hockenheim, 1968 – came about after a German subsidiary decided to put the logo on a Porsche 907. Just two years later came the decision to create its own team under the name Martini Racing. The first victories soon came in the 12 Hours of Sebring, where the team lined up with two Porsche 917s. It was a car which would go down in history after bringing Porsche its first wins in the 24 Hour of Le Mans. Once again it was a Martini Racing car, driven by the Marko-Van Lennep crew. In the same year, the red and blue trademark made an appearance in Formula 1, where it stayed until 1973.Martini Racing returned to competing with Porsche cars in the World Endurance Championship, as well as street races such as the Targa Florio, which the team won in 1973. Martini's partnership with the Stuttgart brand worked well and the wins kept coming, thanks in part to the talent of a Belgian driver who would go down in motorsport history – Jackie Ickx. Then, in the following years Martini Racing featured on various F1 cars: first the Brabham of Bernie Ecclestone, then the Lotus of the world champion Colin Chapman.

Red, light blue and dark blue: the colours of motorsport 02
Photo credits: Rosario Liberti (Petrolicious)

Too many disappointments in the highest racing class convinced the directors of the team to return to their past love, endurance racing. Only this time it was no longer with Porsche: in the second half of 1980, Martini Racing announced it would be supporting Lancia. Immediately after came the first glorious victories, including in the Giro d'Italia automobilistico in a Beta Montecarlo driven by the trio of Patrese, Alén and Kivimaki. In 1981 came the World Championship, which led to a committment to competing in categories including Group 6 and Group C. However, the overwhelming strength of Porsche in endurance racing convinced them to abandon this route. In fact, they decided to abandon track racing altogether: it would be the start of Martini Racing's most exciting and epic era, full of victories.Always on the move over the most difficult terrains, the white Lancias left clouds of dust behind them as they claimed one win after another. First came the 037 car, with rear traction which - in the face of all predictions - left all the 4X4s trailing in its wake. Behind the driving wheel of the two positions we saw a succession of drivers including Walter Röhrl, Markku Alén and Attilio Bettega. In 1985, the baton was passed to the Delta S4. More than 500 horsepower, a combined super/turbocharger system, integrated traction and a sound that appeared to have come straight out of hell. It was also one of the last of the Group Bs: they were too powerful and too fast, and a fatal accident involving Henri Toivoben in Corsica led to them being withdrawn. However, the Martini Racing team and Lancia decided they were ready for the Group A category. The new Delta conquered the World Rally uninterrupted from 1987 to 1992, leaving its opponents utterly helpless. At the wheel, a name which filled page after page in the history of rally driving: Miki Biasion. Many of the Lancia-Martini Racing victories were also connected to the Pirelli brand: the P Zero tyre – today the name of the leading Pirelli tyre range – was created to fit the Delta S4.

Red, light blue and dark blue: the colours of motorsport 03
Photo credits: Rosario Liberti (Petrolicious)

Even the greatest love stories, though, can come to an end. Lancia withdrew from racing and Martini Racing had to find a new path. They did so with Ford and the success continued, both in the Italian and World Rally Championships. You never forget your first love, however, and the Martini livery once again returned to the track, with the Alfa Romeo 155 GTA of Nicola Larini and Alessandro Nannini. At the time, these competitions had a huge public following and Larini's victory in the Italian Touring Car Championship convinced the brand to make its debut in the legendary DTM.They had little luck against the overwhelming presence of the German cars, which may have been less efficient than the Alfas, but were so great in number that the fight for the title was lost from the start. Another disappointment, but Martini never lost its need for speed. In 2006, the logo appeared on the Ferrari of Formula 1. Another new title to add to the list of winners with Martini Racing. Today, the red and blue livery is still found on the track in the global prototype series, on the side of the Williams cars and once in partnership with Pirelli. Ready for another 50 years of victories and passion for motorsport.

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