When you think of the most famous names in motorsport, chances are you will think of brands such as Ferrari or Porsche, or drivers such as Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher. But what about Martini? Yes, Martini, the drink so loved by James Bond.
Many of us are aware of Martini’s sponsorship in various forms of motorsport, but walking around the paddocks at the Goodwood Festival of Speed recently, it was astonishing just how many vehicles have carried the red and blue stripes of Martini Racing over the decades.
Those stripes continue to adorn race cars today, with the brand sponsoring the Williams F1 team, but the relationship with motorsport all started back in 1962 for the Italian drinks manufacturer. That first sponsorship was on a pair of Alfa Romeo entries in the Daytona 3 Hour race in the US. It was early days and only in 1968 did Martini Racing first appear in the way we know it today. The year 1968 was significant not just in that it marked the debut of Martini Racing, but it signalled one of the most famous relationships in motorsport, that between the Turin company and Porsche.
In 1969 Martini stickers featured on a Porsche 910 before the team was formed in 1969 and the first proper Martini Racing Porsche 907 cars appeared in 1969. Then the famous stripes were seen passing the chequered flag throughout the 1970s on the 917 and other Porsche models at Le Mans.
The 1970s also saw the stripes on a number of Formula 1 cars, initially with disappointing results, but it was in 1975 when they sponsored Brabham that they found success in the sport. For Martini it was a good fit, with Brabham using Italian, Alfa Romeo V12 engines.
The company stuck with F1 when it moved its sponsorship to Lotus in 1979 but things did not go well there and it was not until 2006 that Martini returned to F1 with Ferrari for a short time before disappearing from the GP tracks of the world again until its stripes appeared on the Williams’ entries from 2014.
During the 1980s when the company was out of F1, it moved its allegiances back to Italy where the famous Lancia Martini cars competed in various sports car events.
Martini Racing had dabbled in rallying in the late 1970s but when Lancia moved its efforts off the tarmac into rallying, the drinks manufacturer followed. The move produced some of the most famous icons of rallying history, including the Group B Lancia 037 and the Delta Integrale.
Numerous drivers’ and constructors’ titles followed but when Lancia withdrew from world rallying, so did Martini. It was involved in a few smaller championships, but it was Ford that lured them back in to put the stripes back on the World Rally Championship entries of such famous names as Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz in 1999. Sadly Ford never managed to secure a championship in that era and Martini pulled out in 2002.
Over the decades Martini Racing livery has also featured on German Touring Car (DTM) Alfa Romeos, on a Porsche 911 Carrera RSR in the famous Targa Florio and also on a BMW 3.0 CSL in the European Touring Car Championship.
Wandering the paddocks at Goodwood, Martini was everywhere and not just because they it was an event sponsor. Looking down the lines of historic race cars packed into the temporary pit areas it was easy to spot those famous stripes standing out somewhere. From rally cars to sports cars and F1 cars, the dark blue, light blue and red stripes seem to have adorned some of the most famous icons in motorsport history.
It was not all success, but generally the people behind Martini Racing seemed to have a knack for picking the winners. Even when they didn’t, the stripes still featured on race cars that many revere to this day. It even exerts a fair amount of influence. Felipe Massa might have retired from F1 in 2016, but Martini made Williams bring him back, after all you can’t have a driver who is not old enough to drink a Martini, shaken or stirred. – Mark Smyth (Pics: Mark Smyth)