List of international auto racing colours

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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 USA. (Italy did not adopt its famous 'Racing Red' until a red Itala won the Peking to Paris 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'.

1920s - 1960s

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 some races during the 1954 season in a British racing green Maserati 250F because the car was entered by the British A.E.Moss team.

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 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. British Racing Green soon vanished from the cars of British private teams.

Although the old colour scheme was abandoned by the FIA for most racing disciplines in the 1970s, it is still informally used, especially by Italian, British and German automakers and teams that want to emphasise their racing traditions. Often, sponsorship agreements respect this, and the Rosso Corsa used by Scuderia Ferrari and Alfa Romeo and the "Silver Arrows" used by Mercedes have been in continuous use to the present day.

Contemporary usage

In recent years the 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. Other 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.

The EFDA Nations Cup, running 1990-1998, was a one make racing series with around 20 national teams being represented.[1]

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;[2] some teams with different traditional sporting colours have since switched, including A1 Team Australia[3] and A1 Team India.[4] The old national racing colours were not so popular among these teams.

Historic colours

Major competitors

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

German Blitzen Benz (1909)
French Bugatti Type 35C (1926)
German Silberpfeile (1930s)
Japanese Honda RA272 (1965)
Siamese (later Thai) liveried ERA R12B Hanuman II (1939)
British Lotus 49 (early 1968)
Italian Alfa Romeo 33 (1977)
German Audi R8 (2006)
Code Country Body Numbers Marques/Teams
D  Germany White[5] 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[5] (Bleu de France) White Delage, Bugatti, Talbot, Delahaye, Matra, Panhard, Alpine, Gordini, Peugeot, Ballot, Ligier
GB  United Kingdom Green[5] (British racing green) White Jaguar, Vanwall, Cooper, Lotus, Brabham, BRM, Bentley, Aston Martin, MG
I  Italy Red[5] (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"), (originally) Blue underframe Blue Cunningham, Ford, NART, Shelby, Chaparral
Blue (Imperial blue), White lengthwise stripes, White underframe White AAR Eagle, Ford, Shelby, Scarab

National list

The following schemes have been adopted for various countries at various times:[6][7][8][9]

Code Country Body Bonnet Other Colours Numbers Illustrated example
A  Austria Blue   Black on white 50px
ARG  Argentina Blue Yellow Chassis: Black Red on White 50px
AUS  Australia Green Gold Blue Black 50px
B  Belgium Yellow   Black 50px
BR  Brazil Pale yellow Chassis/Wheels: Green. Sometimes, Brazilian cars featured lengthwise green stripes Black 50px
BUL  Bulgaria Green White   Red on white 50px
C  Cuba Yellow Black   Black on white 50px
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 50px
CH   Switzerland Red White   Black 50px
CS Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Czechoslovakia White Blue/white Underframe: Red Blue 50px
D  Germany White bare metal (aluminium, "Silver Arrows") Red 50px
DK  Denmark Silver-grey National flag as a lengthwise stripe on bonnet Red on white 50px
E  Spain Red Yellow Chassis/Springs: Red Black on yellow or white on red 50px
ET  Egypt Pale violet   Red on white 50px
F  France Blue   White 50px
FIN  Finland White Two blue stripes on bonnet shaping a Latin cross Black on white 50px
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 50px
GR  Greece Pale Blue Two white lengthwise stripes on bonnet Black on white 50px
H  Hungary Front: White
Rear: Green
Red   Black 50px
HJK  Jordan Brown   Black on white 50px
I  Italy Red   White 50px
IRL  Ireland Green Horizontal band of orange all around White 50px
J  Japan Ivory White Red disk on bonnet White on black 50px
L  Luxembourg Tricolour lengthwise stripe (red/white/blue) from front to rear Black on white 50px
MAS  Malaysia Yellow White Black on white/Black 50px
MC  Monaco White Red lengthwise band around car Black on white 50px
MEX  Mexico Gold Different designs in royal blue (Not strictly an X on the bonnet) Black on white (not red on white) 50px
NL  Netherlands Orange   White 50px
NZ  New Zealand Green and silver Black and silver[10]   50px
PHI  Philippines Red Blue Red 50px
P  Portugal Red Underframe: White White 50px
PL  Poland White Underframe: Red Red on white 50px
RCH  Chile Red Blue Underframe: White Blue/red or red on white 50px
S  Sweden Blue bottom, yellow top, three cross bands of blue on top of bonnet White 50px
T  Thailand Pale blue with yellow horizontal band around body and bonnet Wheels: Pale yellow White on blue 50px
U  Uruguay Pale blue with large red band around the lower part of bonnet White on black 50px
USA  United States White with blue lengthwise stripes Underframe: Blue Blue on white 50px
ZA  South Africa Gold Green   Black on yellow 50px

See also


  1. Fastlines International
  2. "Sporting Regulations". A1 GP. Archived from the original on 24 May 2008. Retrieved 1 September 2008. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Australia's new colours". A1 GP. 28 August 2008. Archived from the original on 31 August 2008. Retrieved 1 September 2008. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "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 1 September 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Ahlbom, Bengt; Hentzel, Roland; Lidman, Sven S., eds. (1948). "Motorsport". Sportens lille jätte (in Swedish). Stockholm: Natur och kultur. p. 746.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "International Racing Colours".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Vintage FIA Colours".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Motorsport Memorial - Miscellaneous - Country abbreviations and racing colours".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Doug Nye: "McLaren, The Grand Prix, Can-Am and Indy Cars", page 73
    McLaren - The Cars by model number

Further reading

  • Davey, Keith Davey (1969). The encyclopaedia of motor racing. Anthony Pritchard. D. McKay Co.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

  • "The colour in racing". Road & Track. 1960.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>