List of International Auto Racing Colours
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List of International Auto Racing Colours

From the beginning of organised motor sport events, in the early 1900s, until the late 1960s, before commercial sponsorship liveries came into common use, vehicles competing in Formula One, sports car racing, touring car racing and other international auto racing competitions customarily painted their cars in standardised racing colours that indicated the nation of origin of the car or driver. These were often quite different from the national colours used in other sports or in politics.



The colours have their origin in the national teams competing in the Gordon Bennett Cup, which was held annually in 1900-1905. Count Eliot Zborowski, father of inter-war racing legend Louis Zborowski, suggested that each national entrant be allotted a different colour. The first competition in 1900 assigned: Blue to France, Yellow to Belgium, White to Germany and Red to the United States. (Italy did not adopt its famous 'Racing Red' until a red Fiat won the Grand Prix race in 1907).

When Britain first competed in 1902, it had to choose a different colour from her national colours of red, white and blue, as these had already been allocated. Selwyn Edge's winning Napier of 1902 was painted olive green, and green was well-established as an appropriate colour for locomotives and machinery, in which Britain had led the world during the previous century. When Britain hosted the 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup the following year on a closed course at Athy in Ireland, the British adopted Shamrock green which later evolved into various shades of 'British racing green'.


Colours were definitely established in the Interwar period of Grand Prix motor racing and listed by the AiACr (the forerunner of the FIA), when the Bleu de France Bugattis and the Rosso Corsa Alfa Romeos of Italy won many races, while the British racing green Bentleys dominated the Le Mans Grand Prix d'Endurance until 1930.

In the 1930s the Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union teams did not apply the traditional German white paint, and their bare sheets of metal gave rise to the term Silver Arrows. A myth developed in the 1930s that the German teams did not apply white paint owing to the need to be under the 750 kg maximum weight limit; however the first "Silver Arrows" raced in 1932, before the weight limit was imposed in 1934. Modern monocoque aircraft fuselage construction was already using polished and unpainted aluminium panels at this period, and the wealthy motor-racing fraternity would also have been aware that in Heraldry, White and Silver are the same colour or 'tincture', described as 'Argent'; (similarly Yellow and Gold are both called 'Or').

Post-war colours were defined in terms of body, bonnet, chassis, numbers and their backgrounds (see diagrams below). When the chassis was no longer exposed, the chassis colour was shown in various ways, e.g. the parallel blue stripes of the Cunningham team and other US teams in the 1950s. Porsche in the 1950s and 1960s also retained the silver colouring, although other German teams in the 1960s (such as BMW) returned to white paint.

During this period, the colour was not determined by the country the car was made in nor by the nationality of the driver(s) but by the nationality of the team entering the vehicle, e.g. Stirling Moss drove three races during the 1954 season in a British racing green Maserati 250F because the Italian-built car was entered by the British teams Equipe Moss and A.E.Moss respectively. However, this general rule was not strictly kept. Australian Jack Brabham and New Zealander Bruce McLaren, for instance, who both based[1] and licensed[2] their teams in Britain, used colour schemes on their early cars that were not based on national principles (namely the Brabham BT3, McLaren M2B, McLaren M4B and McLaren M5A cars).

Sponsorship era - from 1968

In the spring of 1968, sponsorship liveries, which had already been used in the United States for some years, were also allowed in international racing. Team Gunston, a South African privateer team, 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 colours of Gunston cigarettes, in the 1968 South African Grand Prix.[3] In the next race, the 1968 Spanish Grand Prix, Team Lotus became the first works team to follow this example, with Graham Hill's Lotus 49B entered in the red, gold and white colors of Imperial Tobacco's Gold Leaf brand. British Racing Green soon vanished from the cars of British teams.

The old colour scheme was abandoned by the FIA for most racing disciplines in the 1970s.

Contemporary usage

Traditional colours are still used by automakers and teams that want to emphasise their racing traditions, especially by Italian, British and German manufacturers.

The Rosso Corsa has been used uninterruptedly by Italian manufacturers Ferrari and Alfa Romeo.

Since the 1990s, other traditional colours have resurfaced, such as the British racing green F1 Jaguar Racing cars and Aston Martin sports cars, and the white F1 BMW Sauber. German manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and Audi (Auto Union) used silver paint when they returned to international racing in the 1990s. Many concept cars follow the old colour schemes, and most amateur racers prefer them as well.

Often, sponsorship agreements respect traditional colours. For example, Ferrari has had major sponsors which also use red colours, like Marlboro and Santander. In contrast, when tobacco company West sponsored McLaren in the 1990s and 2000s, they did not use their colours, but the "Silver Arrows" from engine provider Mercedes. In a reversed situation, Subaru has continued using blue and yellow liveries well after their 555 sponsorship ended.

Some manufacturers prefer colours different from their national colours. For example, Citroën has traditionally used red, Renault and Opel have used yellow and black, and Volkswagen has used blue and white.

The EFDA Nations Cup, running 1990-1998, was a one make racing series with around 20 national teams being represented.[4]

The annual A1 Grand Prix series of 2005-2009 featured national teams, driving identical cars with differing colour schemes. Initially, most schemes were based on the respective national flags;[5] some teams with different traditional sporting colours have since switched, including A1 Team Australia[6] and A1 Team India.[7] The old national racing colours were not so popular among these teams.

Honda's range of street-legal Type-R vehicles are offered in Championship White (Honda colour code NH0) which is similar to the original white that adorned Honda's first F1 car (Honda RA272) driven by Richie Ginther that secured Honda's first ever F1 win in the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix.

Historic colours

Major competitors

These have stuck as a pattern, and are common outside of international Grand Prix racing.

German Blitzen Benz (1909)
Italian Itala Tipo 11 (1925)
French Bugatti Type 35C (1926)
German Auto Union Type C (1936) and Mercedes-Benz W125 (1937), two examples of Silberpfeile (1930s)
American Shelby Daytona (1964)
Japanese Honda RA272 (1965)
Siamese (later Thai) liveried ERA R12B Hanuman II (1939)
British Lotus 49 (early 1968)
Brazilian Fittipaldi Automotive F5A (1977)
Code Country Body Numbers Marques/Teams
D  Germany White[8] Red Benz, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Audi
Silver (or bare metal (Silver Arrows)) Red Mercedes-Benz, Auto Union, Veritas, Borgward, EMW, Porsche, Audi
F  France Blue[8] (Bleu de France) White Delage, Bugatti, Talbot, Delahaye, Matra, Panhard, Alpine, Gordini, Peugeot, Ballot, Ligier
GB  United Kingdom Green[8] (British racing green) White Jaguar, Vanwall, Cooper, Lotus, Brabham, BRM, Bentley, Aston Martin, MG, Caterham
I  Italy Red[8] (Rosso corsa) White Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Ferrari, Lancia, Abarth, O.S.C.A., Officine Meccaniche
J  Japan White with red "sun" Black Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Super Aguri
USA  United States White, Blue lengthwise stripes ("Cunningham racing stripes"), Blue underframe Blue Cunningham, Ford, NART, Shelby, Chaparral, Hendrick
Blue (Imperial blue), White lengthwise stripes, White underframe White AAR Eagle, Ford, Shelby, Scarab, Chevrolet, Hendrick

National list

The following schemes have been adopted for various countries at various times:[9][10][11][12]

Code Country Body Bonnet Other Colours Numbers Illustrated example
A  Austria Blue   Black on white Auto racing color A.png
ARG  Argentina Blue Yellow Chassis: Black Red on White Auto racing color ARG.png
AUS  Australia Green Gold Blue Black Auto racing color AUS.png
B  Belgium Yellow   Black Auto racing color B.png
BR  Brazil Pale yellow Chassis/Wheels: Green. Sometimes, Brazilian cars featured lengthwise green stripes Black Auto racing color BR.png
BUL  Bulgaria Green White   Red on white Auto racing color BUL.png
C  Cuba Yellow Black   Black on white Auto racing color C.png
CDN  Canada Traditional colours are British racing green with two white parallel stripes (4" wide and 6" apart) After the Canadian flag was changed in 1965 Red with wide lengthwise white stripes became popular Black Auto racing color CDN.png
CH   Switzerland Red White   Black Auto racing color CH.png
CS  Czechoslovakia White Blue/white Underframe: Red Blue Auto racing color 2 CS.png
D  Germany White bare metal (aluminium, "Silver Arrows") Red Auto racing color D.png
DK  Denmark Silver-grey National flag as a lengthwise stripe on bonnet Red on white Auto racing color DK.png
E  Spain Red Yellow Chassis/Springs: Red Black on yellow or white on red Auto racing color E.png
ET  Egypt Pale violet   Red on white Auto racing color ET.png
F  France Blue   White Auto racing color F.png
FIN  Finland White Two blue stripes on bonnet shaping a Latin cross Black on white Auto racing color FIN.png
GB  United Kingdom Green Scottish entrant Rob Walker used dark blue with a white noseband and Ecurie Ecosse also used dark blue; the Arrol Johnston team pre-World War 1 used navy tartan White Auto racing color GB.png
GR  Greece Pale Blue Two white lengthwise stripes on bonnet Black on white Auto racing color GR.png
H  Hungary Front: White
Rear: Green
Red   Black Auto racing color H.png
HJK  Jordan Brown   Black on white Auto racing color HJK.png
IND  India Blue Orange and green stripes on the side and bonnet Green on Orange
I  Italy Red   White Auto racing color I.png
IRL  Ireland Green Horizontal band of orange all around White Auto racing color IRL.png
J  Japan Ivory White Red disk on bonnet White on black Auto racing color J.png
L  Luxembourg Tricolour lengthwise stripe (red/white/blue) from front to rear Black on white Auto racing color L.png
MAS  Malaysia Yellow White Black on white/Black Auto racing color MAS.png
MC  Monaco White Red lengthwise band around car Black on white Auto racing colors MC.png
MEX  Mexico Gold Different designs in royal blue (Not strictly an X on the bonnet) Black on white (not red on white) Auto racing color MC.png
NL  Netherlands Orange   White Auto racing color NL.png
NZ  New Zealand Green and silver Black and silver[13]   Auto racing color NZ.png
PHI  Philippines Red Blue Red Rpracingcolors.png
P  Portugal Red Underframe: White White Auto racing color P 2.png
PL  Poland White Underframe: Red Red on white Auto racing color 2 PL.png
RCH  Chile Red Blue Underframe: White Blue/red or red on white Auto racing color 2 RCH.png
RO  Romania Navy blue Underframe: Red Yellow Auto racing color F.png
RUS  Russia Yellow Red (in Soviet era) Black Auto racing color B.png
S  Sweden Blue bottom, yellow top, three cross bands of blue on top of bonnet White Auto racing color S.png
T  Thailand Pale blue with yellow horizontal band around body and bonnet Wheels: Pale yellow White on blue Auto racing color T.png
U  Uruguay Pale blue with large red band around the lower part of bonnet White on black Auto racing color U.png
USA  United States White with blue lengthwise stripes Underframe: Blue Blue on white Auto racing color USA.png
ZA  South Africa Gold Green   Black on yellow Auto racing color ZA.png

See also


  1. ^ "Case History". Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ "Entry list". 1970 Austrian Grand Prix Formula 1 Programme.
  3. ^ "'SA was ahead of the curve' - 50 years of sponsorship in F1". Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ "The Nations Cup". Archived from the original on 12 August 2007. Fastlines International
  5. ^ "Sporting Regulations". A1 GP. Archived from the original on 24 May 2008. Retrieved 2008.
  6. ^ "Australia's new colours". A1 GP. 28 August 2008. Archived from the original on 31 August 2008. Retrieved 2008.
  7. ^ "A1 Team India brings home 2 points with 9th position in the Feature Race". A1 Team India. 14 October 2007. Archived from the original on 14 March 2008. Retrieved 2008.
  8. ^ a b c d Ahlbom, Bengt; Hentzel, Roland; Lidman, Sven S., eds. (1948). "Motorsport". Sportens lille jätte (in Swedish). Stockholm: Natur & Kultur. p. 746.
  9. ^ "International Racing Colours". Archived from the original on 2 December 2013.
  10. ^ "Racing Colors English". Retrieved 2018.
  11. ^ "Vintage FIA Colours".
  12. ^ "Motorsport Memorial - Miscellaneous - Country abbreviations and racing colours".
  13. ^ Doug Nye: "McLaren, The Grand Prix, Can-Am and Indy Cars", page 73
    McLaren - The Cars by model number Archived 17 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading

  • Davey, Keith Davey (1969). The encyclopaedia of motor racing. Anthony Pritchard. D. McKay Co.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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