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The CAR Top 10: worst racecar liveries

Published: 26 June 2015

Honda 'Earth Dreams' F1 livery

If your car’s quick, it doesn’t matter who sponsors it or what the colour scheme is, right? Wrong, so very wrong.

1) 24-hour nudity

Nurburgring 24hr car with 'happyweekend' sponsorship

You can’t cut it with the factory teams at the Nürburgring 24hrs, so how to attract fans? Why, sign up sponsor happyweekend.tv (‘a new community for all those who enjoy a more active sex life’) and plaster your racecar with naked ladies. We tried the website (tut – for research purposes only) but the IT department was on us in an instant.

2) Porsche’s pink pig

Porsche 917 'Pink Pig'

Porsche’s legendary 917 ultimately evolved into a 1100bhp Can-Am monster, but there were offshoots like this 917/20, the infamous Pink Pig. The bulbous bodywork was an attempt to create a racecar with low-drag and high downforce, and it was on for a good finish at Le Mans in 1971 until Reinhold Joest hit the barriers under braking. Whatever the potential, it was pig ugly.

3) Toyota’s pink kitten

Kyle Busch NASCAR commercial

Nascar is a real man’s sport, so Kyle Busch no doubt felt a little exposed when his racer was painted pink and covered in pictures of kittens, bunnies and little baby seals. See the video evidence below:

4) No win for Winfield

Williams Winfield F1

The ’98 F1 season signalled the start of Williams’ decline. Fault must lie with the horrific Ferrari-aping livery of sponsor Winfield (a subsidiary of Rothmans) and not with the fact long-time engine supplier Renault left the sport, or that chief designer Adrian Newey had jumped ship to McLaren. Williams finished third in the Constructors’ Championship, without a single win…

5) From BAR to WORSE

1999 BAR F1 car

…which led to Jacques Villeneuve switching to the new British American Racing (BAR) team. Not the Canadian’s best move: owner British American Tobacco wanted to promote both its Lucky Strike and 555 cigarette brands, so painted Villeneuve and teammate Ricardo Zonta’s cars in opposing liveries. Ruled illegal by the FIA, BAR painted its cars half-and-half. Clever, but it failed to score a single point all year and Villeneuve started the season with 11 straight retirements.

6) Bad (Earth) dreams

Honda 'Earth Dreams' F1 livery

Honda became a BAR engine supplier in 2000, and later bought the team when BAT quit due to a ban on cigarette advertising. With no sponsor for ’07 and ’08 the cars were painted to resemble the Earth, but Greenpeace accused Honda of hypocrisy and neither Button nor Barrichello won a race. Honda quit F1 at the end of 2008… but a buyout led by Ross Brawn saved the team, and in 2009 Brawn GP won the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships.

7) Shafted

NASCAR ExtenZe sponsorship

Nascar team owner Robby Gordon signed rookie Kevin Conway for the 2010 Sprint Cup series, with sponsorship from ‘natural male enhancement product’ ExtenZe. But after Conway’s, umm, inadequate performance, Gordon agreed to drive the remaining races. Yet, Gordon alleged, ExtenZe stiffed him and refused to pay the outstanding $690k of sponsorship money.

8) Clawed but flawed

Red Lobster-sponsored March GTP car

How do you beat the Porsche 962? Faced with German domination of the IMSA GTP series during the ’80s, the solution for one privately run March was to secure the sponsorship of seafood chain Red Lobster and paint its 83G to resemble a giant clawed crustacean. Porsche still won.

9) Every little helps

2012 MG BTCC car

MG signed Tesco’s Momentum 99 fuel brand to sponsor its new BTCC team for 2012, but the resultant livery looked cheap, nasty and downmarket. And that’s before you get to the motoring mag plastered on the side sills. Still, Jason Plato finished third, and MG came second in the Constructors’ championship.

10) No king of the jungle

Jan Lammers 1979 Shadow F1

Dutchman Jan Lammers made his F1 debut with Shadow in 1979, and then – as now – came with his own sponsorship, in the form of Dutch ciggie company Samson Tobacco. Samson’s emblem was a lion, painted on Lammers’ car, but he proved rather toothless and didn’t score a point all season. 

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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