A reader asks me when national colours were first introduced for racing, and in what colours for which nation. A difficult subject, to which I have no proper answer. It has been said that green for Britain may have originated when Count Eliot Zborowski suggested to Napier’s that this would be a tribute to the Irish for holding the 1903 Gordon Bennett race there. Another view is that Charles Jarrott adopted green as being his lucky colour after a bad 1902 race.
A never-published paper on the subject by that astute researcher, the late Stanley Sedgwick, has recently been found and printed in the BDC Review. It discloses the consternation that arose when the BRDC, in its BRDC Notes in Motor Sport, then used for official announcements, said in November 1946 that for an experimental period of two years from ’47 the British colour would be blue. Royal blue to make it different from France’s blue!
A storm resulted, aimed at the RAC and FIA. In December 1946, Lord Howe announced it had all been a mistake, but the matter of whether colours applied to cars or drivers lingered on. The answer seems to be that the AC de France specified individual colours for cars in the first Gordon Bennett of 1900 — white for Germany, red for America, yellow for Belgium and blue for France. Others were allocated for subsequent events, 26 by 1936!