Since The national colors have gradually given way to liveries dictated by sponsors we have become accustomed to seeing vehicles sporting lettering and colors. Of course, these must be declined according to each brand's coordinated image guidelines, in accordance with commercial and sporting logics.
Sometimes even more obvious elements may be used to further emphasize a message. This may be the case with a material, a texture, a more "didactic" reproduction of brand characteristics.
In this analysis we focus on incidents involving the use of references to the animal world. A dynamic that certainly helps to make a fairing or bodywork more distinctive, attracting the attention of fans and many curious onlookers. Not to mention the impact this can have on younger children and younger spectators in general. The examples, as is often the case in motorsport are numerous, especially if we extend in time and space.
Let us start with a car that, although less well known in our latitudes, certainly represents a curiosity. It is the March 83G piloted by Dave Cowart and Kenper Miller in the IMSA Championships from 1983 to 1985. The prototype "wore" an all-white backdrop color scheme on which a giant stylized lobster stood out in full size. Further enhancing the synergy between shapes and graphics was the structure of the car's front end, which featured two generous extensions of wheel arches that stretched beyond the central part of the nose. Ideal volumes to fit the animal's claws into.
This curious choice was due to the sponsorship of the Red Lobster restaurant chain, which now boasts nearly 700 establishments worldwide. The original design was created by U.S. artist Stephen Bach, who at the time was in charge of wall decorations for the chain's restaurants. Later it was technician Jack Deren who was in charge of the livery: as a matter of interest, the March was re-painted as many as 16 times due to accidents or for maintenance and upgrades. Templates and jigs were taken from the first example to ensure continuity.
The car quickly became a favorite with the public, who still cheer it at historical re-enactments and fairs.
Let's jump forward to the year 2000. On the Adelaide circuit in Australia, the last round of the American Le Mans Series was being staged. In the so-called "Race of 1000 Years," held on New Year's Eve, Audi brought to the track a unique setup for one of its R8s. The car driven by Rinaldo "Dindo" Capello and Allan McNish sported a color scheme christened "Crocodile" precisely because of a large crocodile that covered the central part of the nose, the cockpit area and the rear hood. The volume of this part was markedly raised in relation to the car body, which facilitated the adaptation of the reptile's body shape. The remaining parts, such as wheel arches and sides, featured a series of illustrations that traced the typical environment of the lake-river habitat: water, logs, bushes, aquatic plants and whatnot. The creation was the work of Audi's in-house style center directed by Frank Lamberty. It aimed to achieve a result that would emphasize participation in a race on the other side of the planet.
Despite a race shortened by about 150 kilometers out of the planned 1,000, the Crocodile took the victory ahead of a "plainclothes" twin (after, moreover, also taking the pole). The presence of a large crowd (more than 200,000 people over the course of the weekend) helped make the feat and the coloring even more memorable. The Ingolstadt company was thus able to enjoy a conspicuous increase in notoriety and visibility in that market.
In 2015, Team Phoenix Racing paid tribute to that event by bringing a special livery to the track for the Bathurst 12 Hours. "Donating" its bodywork was an Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3 - a name that refers to the era's dominant barchetta at the turn of the millennium. The crocodile this time featured on the sides, with the rest of the body panels representing its environment.
The prestigious Australian endurance race saw another "reptilian" interpretation: this time a menacing neon yellow snake with lime green details. It was the AMG GTR fielded by GruppeM at the recently held edition in February 2023. The previous year a similar car had been brought to the track by the Triple Eight team with support again from Mann-Filter for the "Mamba" livery. Mann-Filter has long been involved alongside Mercedes in as many as six series based on Granturismo cars: the International GT Open, Intercontinental GT Challenge, ADAC GT Masters, ADAC GT4 Germany, VLN Endurance Racing Championship at the Nürburgring as well as individual races such as the Nurburgring 24 Hours or the Dubai 24 Hours. In 2021, an Audi R8 GT3 Ultra also donned the iconic snakeskin.
We remain in the GT sphere to meet one of the most recent declinations of this trend. We are talking about the Porsche "Rexy" of the German team Project 1, a stable engaged in the DTM and WEC together with AO Racing and in the recent past also in IMSA. An onomatopoeia has been added to the GT3 RSR that turns it into RSRawr, from the roar of the dinosaur. Indeed, the car is easily recognizable by its all-green livery with the large mouth bristling with sharp teeth on the front bumper. The sons of one of the drivers, PJ Hyett, who also owns the team, apparently inspired the idea.Gunnar Jeannette and Matteo Cairoli are the other members of the crew that has also raced the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
One of the racing teams to have built a kind of saga about animal coloring is undoubtedly Jordan, whose Formula 1 single-seaters from 1997 to 2001 were unmistakable. During that five-year period, the British team decided to adorn the nose of the cars with menacing inspirations from the animal world. The collaboration with tobacco sponsor Benson & Hedges also provided the basis for a series of advertising choices aimed at circumventing the impossibility of affixing alcohol and cigarette brand logos that was soon imposed by the championship.
First it was the turn of the snake, thanks to which Benson & Hedges was replaced with Bitten & Hisses (literally "bites and hisses"). Scaled skin also covered the side bellies and thanks to a clever alternation of black and yellow areas the letters B & H seen at speed were simulated. Then came the hornet and with it the new inscription Buzzin Hornets - buzzing hornets. Finally it was the turn of the shark, combined with the phrase Bitten Heroes - bitten heroes.
This system allowed the team to gain great recognition, also supported by a good set of results especially in the first phase of the association.
Sometimes a flashy image hides something one would like to keep hidden. Such is the case with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 that made its mark during 2018 and 2019 in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The grand tourer sported a livery named Chupacabra, the fearsome fantasy creature featured in so many contemporary legends. Large front toothed mouth, red eyes and a color scheme shaded from purple to black. Unfortunately, supporting this initiative was not an eccentric brand but a Colombian swindler, Juan Camilo Perez Buitrago. The latter had amassed large amounts of money through the sale of medical devices such as prosthetics and various systems at bargain prices as a result of falsified diagnoses.
In 1979 Team Shadow contested the Formula 1 World Championship by entrusting its DN9 to Dutch driver Jan Lammers. The latter obviously had to procure the means to cope with the season having the team lost its sponsorship the previous year. He obtained support from Niemeyer Tobacco of Groningen after a local newspaper also took action to help the driver. The brand brought into the race would be Samson Shag, a brand of tobacco sold at retail. After the first non-European races Niemeyer expressed the need to have a more impactful image so as to gain more attention and shots. To do this they chose to decorate the entire front and center of the car with a giant lion accompanied by flames. An option that was certainly not the most elegant, but it helped to make that end-of-line car a uniqueness remembered to this day.
One cannot talk about "animal" liveries without mentioning the iconic Porsche 917/20, the experimental model studied together with the French SERA - Societe d'Etudes et de Realisations Automobiles - and brought to the 1971 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The "pink pig" earned this epithet because of the coloring inspired by the cuts shown on slaughtering diagrams. It was Count Rossi, then head of Martini, who imposed this color scheme because of the car's distinctive shapes. The idea of the engineers was to reduce the swirls around the car, which is why the 917 sported much more abundant and rounded lines than its well-known sisters. This gave it a less sharp and more awkward appearance that inspired in the insiders that curious declination. The car failed to finish the race but remains to this day a curious exercise on display at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart.
In 1999 Team Le Mans together with Inging set up a Toyota Supra for the GT500 class of the then JGTC - Japan Grand Touring Championship. The special feature of the car was its sponsorship by Esso Ultron: a "tiger" color scheme was in fact exploited by virtue of the oil company's symbol. The original campaign, launched in the 1960s, read "put a tiger in the engine!" The Esso Ultron Tiger Supra raced the entire season in the unique livery, except for the first race when the team withdrew due to the death of one of the future starting drivers a few days earlier.
The team finished the season in twelfth place while also getting one win. At the end of 1999 it was repainted to meet the needs of another sponsor.
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