Is This the Greatest Motor Racing Sponsor of All Time?
I can be often heard to say that our ‘raison d’etre’ at Mediafleet is to create exciting, innovative, and dynamic ‘mobile’ billboards.
Placing graphics on performance vehicles create the fastest billboards on the planet. It’s also weird that if you were to place iconic motorsport branding on normal vehicles, they instantly appear quicker than they really are! A Ford Mondeo with Martini Racing branding would appear mightily quick! …And that’s the power of great vehicle branding. I’m not a psychologist but I guess that’s something to do with powerful association. Associations borne out of more than 50 years of truly iconic motorsport branding.
The famous Martini ‘ball & bar’ logo was registered for the first time in 1929, becoming the most iconic symbol of the Martini brand. It’s distinctive and memorable. It conjures a feeling of excellence and a glamorous lifestyle; great attributes for a motorsport brand. Martini’s first sponsorship was at the Daytona 3 hours in 1962 with two Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ Coda Troncas having ‘Martini & Rossi Racing Team’ written along the front quarter panels. At this stage no logo was used.
The logo we all know appeared at the start of 1968, when advertising, unrelated to racing, was permitted for the first time on the bodywork of racing cars. The Porsche 910 raced by Scuderia Lufthansa Racing Team was the first vehicle, initiated by Robert Huhn, an executive manager of the German airline.
During the 1970s, Martini became famous in connection with Porsche in motorsport, sponsoring the works Porsche 917 that won the 1971 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Martini Porsche cars won Le Mans again in 1976 and 1977 with the Porsche 936.
Martini Racing’s association with Formula One began in 1972 and by 1975 they were sponsoring Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham team. The Alfa Romeo flat-V12 powered Brabham BT45 and Brabham BT45B were used for the 1976 and 1977 seasons and the Martini colours appeared on a red rosso corsa background. Drivers such as Carlos Reutemann, Carlos Pace, Hans-Joachim Stuck and John Watson all drove for the team during this time.
For the 1979 Formula 1 season, Martini Racing moved its sponsorship to Team Lotus, which was the 1978 championship-winning team both in drivers’ and teams’ championship. After failing to score a single win in 1979, Martini Racing withdrew from Formula One.
Martini Racing returned to Formula One after more than thirty years, in a partnership with Williams Formula One team in 2014. The team changed its name to ‘Williams Martini Racing’. The FW40 was the penultimate Williams car to feature Martini Racing stripes in the final F1 season before the introduction of the Halo. The partnership between Martini and Williams gave F1 some of the more simplistic livery designs in recent years, but the stripes over the white car certainly turned heads on the track.
But the Martini brand is probably best known for its relationship with World Rallying. In more than fifty years of Martini Racing’s history, the most glorious years were the 1980s and 1990s, when Martini Racing was just another name for the Lancia factory rally team in the World Rally Championship, winning seven Manufacturers’ titles between 1983 and 1992.
It was an era of the first Group B rally cars. Martini Lancia entered a category with a brand new Lancia Rally 037 (see below), debuting in the fifth round of the championship (Tour de Corse) with Markku Alen and Attilio Bettega as drivers. The first 4WD car Audi Quattro brought manufacturers’ title to Audi.
Unless you’ve been on another planet for the last fifty years, you will be familiar with the Lancia Delta. The story of Lancia Delta began in 1987. Following a ban of Group B rally cars, after several deaths, Martini Racing was ready to rule in the Group A with Lancia Delta HF 4WD. Juha Kankkunen, Miki Biasion and Markku Alen are the drivers for most of the season, scoring eight wins throughout the season and taking first three places in the drivers’ standings.
The champion was Kankkunen. Of course, the manufacturers’ trophy went to Lancia.
In 1988, with an updated Lancia Delta HF Integrale, Martini Racing took its second consecutive WRC title. The 1988 drivers’ champion was Miki Biasion, who repeated his triumph in 1989. Other Lancia’s rally winners in that period were Bruno Saby, Markku Alen, Jorge Recalde, Didier Auriol and Mikael Ericsson.
One of the greatest stories in a history of rallying came to an end following the 1992 season, when Martini Racing left the World Rally Championship and never returned to it as a team.
The Lancia Stratos is worth a special mention. It was a very successful rally car, winning the World Rally Championship in 1974, 1975 and 1976; and race car winning 1974 Targa Florio, five times the Tour de France Automobile and three editions of Giro d’Italia automobilistico.
The motorsport world owes Martini Racing a debt of gratitude for sponsoring some of the greatest motorsport moments across the widest set of racing disciplines. Has any other sponsor invested in so many different motor racing sports?…answers on a postcard please!
So, to end this textual shrine to Martini Racing let’s end with a look at the logo through time – a logo synonymous with racing success…oh, and it’s a nice drink!