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Exclusive: up close with the Martini racers

  1. A great livery makes a car faster. This is a known fact. And since speed is good and more speed is better, it’s no great leap of brain power to work out that the fastest cars also look the best. It’s something to do with the engineering dictum that decrees that what looks right, is right. So there you go, an eye-smacking livery is a key component of any successful racing car.

    God knows how the current crop of F1 teams is managing it. I mean the latest efforts of energy drinks, telecommunications, fuel and car companies to make their cars look good is, to be frank, mostly a dismal failure. But, boy, did they know how to do it properly back in the 70s and 80s. Booze and fags, that seemed to be the key.

    And Martini arguably did it better than anyone. So, with the Italian drinks firm celebrating its 150th anniversary by taking a whole load of its historic racers down to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, we did our best pleading and managed to gather a few together in our very own studio to take some beautiful pictures and tell you a bit about them.

    A bit of cherry-picking from the (utterly delectable) long list means we have two heroes each from the worlds of rallying, endurance racing and F1. We present them for you here in date order. And no, you can’t have the Porsche 935/78. That one’s mine, all mine.

    Words: Ollie Marriage
    Photography: John Wycherley

  2. Brabham BT44

    • 1975
    • 3000cc, V8
    • 430bhp
    • 5 speed manual
    • 580kg

    This wasn’t the first car to sport Martini racing livery - the drinks company had been involved with motorsport since 1968 and had gained real fame in 1971 when a Martini Porsche 917 won at Le Mans. But this was Martini’s first successful foray into the world of F1 - adorning a car run by a certain B Ecclestone esq.

  3. Front spoiler

    Shaped by legendary F1 designer Gordon Murray, the BT44 not only looked the business, but had clean lines which gave it good aerodynamics, while Murray also added side skirts in an early attempt at creating ground effect aerodynamics. Three years later he would go on to create the famous Brabham BT46 fan car.

  4. Engine

    Like so many race cars of the time, the Brabham BT44 used the famous 3.0-litre Ford DFV engine, a 90-degree V8 that underpinned many F1 cars from its arrival in 1967 (when it developed a little over 400bhp at 9,000rpm) through to the early 80s (the last ones boasted around 530bhp at 11,000rpm). In the BT44 it generated around 430bhp through a five-speed Hewland gearbox and dependent on gearing had a top speed of around 180mph.

  5. Interior

    Argentinian racing driver Carlos Reutemann campaigned the BT44, winning three F1 races in 1974, and in an updated chassis, finished third in the driver’s championship the following year.

  6. Side view

    Simple white bodywork makes the livery stand out all the more. Effective. Someone tell Red Bull.

  7. Porsche 935/78 ‘Moby Dick'

    ◦ 1978
    ◦ 3211cc, flat 6
    ◦ 845bhp
    ◦ 227mph
    ◦ 1025kg
    ◦ 4 speed manual (100mph in 1st gear)

    Possibly the coolest racing car of all time, Moby Dick was the ultimate incarnation of the Porsche 935 Le Mans racer. It started life as a road going 911 Turbo, but massive changes to, well, everything saw it end up as an 845bhp fire-breather. The fastest car of all down the Mulsanne straight in 1978 and, when it raced at Silverstone earlier in the same year, it was only four seconds a lap slower than James Hunt’s McLaren.

    I drove it at the Goodwood Festival of Speed a few weeks ago. The experience will stay with me for a very long time indeed.

  8. Wing

    Aerodynamics, 1978 style. Not only was Moby Dick lowered by a massive 75mm, it was also equipped with massive bodywork extensions designed to improve stability and aerodynamics at high speed. The rear clam was fitted over the top of the original panel, which can still be seen underneath.

  9. Wheel

    You might have seen this car with red wheels in historic pictures. Those were spats that were designed to improve airflow. Gold BBS alloys underneath are even more gorgeous.

  10. Interior

    No, we haven’t uploaded the picture the wrong way round, Moby really is right hand drive. This was to improve weight distribution on clockwise circuits such as Le Mans and Silverstone, placing the driver on the inside through right-hand corners.

  11. Gearlever

    Four speeds was all that was needed to allow Moby to hammer down the Mulsanne straight at 227mph. Manoeuvring around at low speed is less easy as first gear is good for 100mph, but once up and running the shift action is tight and accurate. Just watch out for the turbo lag.

  12. Dials

    All completely original and untinkered with, which might be why the rev counter wasn’t working when we drove it. So we drove by feel. This mainly involved working out exactly when turbo boost would be arriving, and girding your loins accordingly. Performance, from a car with 845bhp and weighing 1025kg, is not small.

  13. Lotus 80

    ◦ 1979 (first ground effect car)
    ◦ 3000cc
    ◦ 500bhp
    ◦ 180mph
    ◦ Lotus/Hewland 5 speed
    ◦ 620kg

    Revolutionary concepts are rarely triumphant from the word go. Not even when they come from the brain of Colin Chapman. Such was the case with the Lotus 80, the first ever ground-effect F1 car. The plan was to generate downforce from the underbody of the car, meaning that the wings and spoilers up top could be smaller and so cause less drag and turbulence. It was a good theory, but during testing it was found that the car would gain and lose downforce suddenly at certain speeds, making it a very hard car for the driver to predict. Lotus persevered with it for most of the 1979 season, with Mario Andretti scoring a best of third at the Spanish GP, but Lotus later reverted to the older 79 chassis.

  14. Cockpit

    While Mario Andretti did the bulk of the testing, Lotus’ other driver, Carlos Reutemann (Martini livery does seem to follow him around, doesn’t it?) refused to race the 80 and raced the older car throughout the 1979 season.

  15. Rear deck

    The Lotus 80 used a later incarnation of the Brabham’s Ford-Cosworth DFV engine, by now developing 500bhp. And yes, this is a Lotus-painted British Racing Green. JPS had pulled out and Colin Chapman decided on the colour scheme before Martini came on board. To our eyes the blue and red lines don’t look as good here as against a white backdrop.

  16. Lancia Delta Integrale HF

    ◦ Group A spec
    ◦ 1995cc
    ◦ 318bhp
    ◦ 332lb ft @ 3500 rpm
    ◦ 152mph
    ◦ 1149kg
    ◦ Abarth 6-Speed Manual

    If Porsche is the first name you think of in conjunction with Martini, then Lancia should be the second. Or it could be the other way round. The Lancia-Martini partnership in rallying lasted continuously for over a decade, from 1982 through to 1992, the livery adorning some of the most iconic Group B and Group A cars to have ever graced a rally stage. The Lancia 037, the Delta S4, and this, the Delta Integrale HF Evo. The latter, although the least ferocious on paper (the hairy-scary group B cars were banned after 1986) was the most successful, bringing home the constructor’s championship for six years on the trot from 1987 and the driver’s championship in 1987, ‘88, ‘89 and ‘91.

  17. Interior

    Mmm, boxy. Inside as well as out. But don’t misjudge the Delta for its 80’s flimsiness. Legends sat here. Deltas were campaigned by Juha Kankkunen, Didier Auriol, Bruno Saby and Miki Biasion.

  18. Wheel

    See the chips on the wheels, the dents in the bodywork? Each one was hard-earned: the Delta wears them all with pride.

  19. Ford Focus WRC

    ◦ 2001
    ◦ 1991cc
    ◦ 1230kg
    ◦ c300bhp
    ◦ 143mph
    ◦ Xtrac 240 6-Speed Sequential

    After a few years away from rallying, Martini came back to the fold in 1999, the livery making the Mk1 Ford Focus look way cooler than anyone had expected. Replacing the Escort, Ford hoped the Focus, in the hands of Colin McRae, would dominate the WRC, but despite success in individual rallies, the combination never managed to stitch together a whole season and win the driver’s championship.

  20. Cabin

    Colin McRae and Nicky Grist once occupied these two seats. This particular car was a successful one for the pair - they used it to win the Cyprus Rally in 2001 and the Acropolis Rally the following year.

  21. Dash

    Many digital things going on in here. Also a lot of carbon fibre. Things had moved on in the decade that separates the Focus from the Delta.

  22. Porsche 911 GT3 Cup

    ◦ 454 bhp
    ◦ flat 6cyl
    ◦ 3,800cc
    ◦ Six-speed sequential
    ◦ 202mph
    ◦ 1160kg

    Martini is back, and the livery has lost none of its power to impress. The colour scheme has been seen on prototypes of the Porsche 918 and also this GT3 Cup racer. A car, incidentally, which has been raced this season by one Sebastian Loeb. It’s based on the GT3 RS road car and uses the same 3.8-litre flat six, but actually develops slightly less power due to the compulsory air restrictor. Still it’s a bit of a flier and we’ve driven it - watch out for the report in next month’s magazine and iPad app.

  23. Interior

    Not much in here that would make you think of the road car cabin. The interior has largely been ripped out and replaced with a digi dash and many important-looking switches. It has brilliant seats. And a gearchange that makes a lot of noise. Almost as much as the engine, in fact.

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