Paul Fearnley's off the line
Nobody had worn British Racing Green with greater pride — or more success — than Team Lotus. Impressed by the glitz and glamour of Indianapolis, Chapman had added that longitudinal yellow stripe, but that was all. Until Esso and Firestone withdrew their support — and ex-Lotus mechanic Dave Lazenby happened to mention to Andrew Ferguson, the man whose job it was to keep the team’s head above water, that Imperial Tobacco was considering a sponsorship deal with a race outfit. Lazenby knew this because one of his mechanics was going out with a secretary from the firm that handled Imperial’s PR account. Of such tenuous links is history made.
When Jimmy Clark’s 49T was wheeled into the public’s gaze at Wigram, scene of the third round of the 1968 Tasman Series on January 20, there was a gasp: its red-and-white paint job was barely dry, but already the battle lines were drawn.
The naysayers were right in some ways: Gold Leaf’s Lotus sponsorship was the thin end of the wedge. From it, via the savvy ministrations of Bernie Ecclestone, directly stems modern-day F1. But even if you hate that fact, it would be hard to deny that, between then and now, there have been some fantastic GPs, long-distance sportscar races and rallies — all coloured by memorable sponsorship liveries: Gulf, JPS, etc.
I was born in 1967 and so am a child of the commercial age — the Summer of Love simply didn’t pay the bills, sadly. But that does not make me blind to the importance of British Racing Green. Given its various hues, from Aston Martin’s olive to Jaguar’s near black, it’s clear that BRG represents a state of mind more than anything else. Which is why I knew that the removal of green from our cover would cause you concern. And sure enough, the notes of disapproval are stacked in my ‘Pending’ tray.
To those of you who sent positive responses, I say thank you. To those of you whose breakfasts we ruined with last month’s revelation of this month’s big change, I say sorry — and please give us time.
Like Chapman, the move has in some ways been forced upon us. But like Chapman, we remain racers at heart. And like Chapman, we will be pushing hard to stay at the front of our field. We haven’t forgotten the sport’s history — nor our own — and it will remain at our core. But the startling fact that next year marks the 10th anniversary of McLaren’s win at Le Mans — with a black car backed by a Japanese circumcision clinic! Hmm — proves that history never stops. And even though we will continue to look back, it was definitely time to move forward.
We await your responses to the cover — and the other alterations within this issue — with a keen sense of anticipation.