Road cars inspired by motorsport liveries
Throughout their history, the motorsport and automotive industries have been intrinsically linked. Whether it's series such as touring car or GT championships fielding road-going vehicles, the race-to-road principle of innovative motorsport technology being applied to everyday cars, or even the old win on Sunday, sell on Monday mantra. In many ways, it is a symbiotic relationship in which the other usually follows suit when one benefits.
One of the less talked about bonds between the two spheres is motorsport liveries. More often than not, a racing car will be remembered for its iconic colour scheme, as opposed to any technological advancement it has brought to the table.
Manufacturers quickly caught on, producing road-going cars adorned with the colours of headlining sponsors and in limited numbers, producing some highly sought-after iterations that captured the imaginations of car and motorsport fans alike. The desirability of many of these examples makes them perfect investment opportunities for the avid car collector.
The arrival of an ultra-rare McLaren 720S derivative and the legendary Le Mans story that inspired it got the PaddlUp team thinking about the greatest ever road-going cars with racing liveries. Naturally, we couldn't agree on a favourite, but we did compile a collection of our most memorable liveried cars to ever grace public roads.
Porsche 918 Spyder (Martini livery)
Inspired primarily by the Le Mans-winning Porsche 917 racing car of 1971, the Porsche 918 Spyder – one third of the modern-day hypercar tripartite – blends the new and the old seamlessly into one extremely desirable, investment-worthy machine.
Boasting advanced hybrid technology and mind-bending performance stats, this contemporary high-performance car pays homage to not only the 1971 917, but also the winning Martini Porsche cars from the 1973 Targa Florio and 1976 Sportscar Championship, as well as the 1976 and 1977 Le Mans 24-hour events.
Renault Sport Megane Red Bull Racing RB8
During the period of complete Red Bull F1 dominance in the early 2010s, the team together with Renault, their engine partner at the time conceived a limited edition Megane to commemorate the success they enjoyed during the tail end of the V8 era.
A total of 250 examples were produced, of which, just 30 arrived on the shores of the UK making this very sought-after, especially in this country. The Twilight Blue paint is borrowed from its namesake, the 2012 championship-winning Formula 1 car with various Red Bull decals scattered across the bodywork. A more focused suspension setup and a limited-slip differential were available as standard for this model by way of Renault's Cup pack.
Toyota GT86 (Casio / Zent / Denso livery)
The Toyota GT86 is a firm favourite amongst car enthusiasts and has established itself as a prominent modern driver's car in short order since its release in January of 2012. To celebrate the 86th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Japanese marque produced three liveried GT86s harking back to its finest moments in top-flight endurance racing.
First in the timeline is a homage to the final days of the glorious Group C era and the TS010. Unlike the car it drew inspiration from, this GT86 didn't integrate rear wheel covers, but the blue and white Casio livery is still as recognisable as ever. The TS010 recorded a second-place finish at the 1992 running of Le Mans – Toyota's best result at the time – and went on to win the All Japan Sports Prototype Championship titles that same year.
Next is a tribute to the truly iconic TS020, AKA the Zent-branded GT-One. This car competed in GT1 and LMGTP in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Despite blistering speeds down the straights and fastest laps, the TS020 was plagued by misfortune finishing ninth in '98 and was denied the overall win in '99 by a disastrous puncture in the closing stages. That doesn't stop it from being a classic livery, and the GT86 looks stunning in the timeless red and white colour scheme.
Finally, we are brought into the 21st century by Toyota's return to endurance racing at the 2016 24 Hour race, the TS050. This Denso-sponsored effort continued the manufacturer's long-standing run of bad luck at the circuit grinding to a halt on the final lap resulting in another runner-up spot. Once again, this heartbreaking result takes nothing away from Toyota's resplendent, contemporary colour scheme we've come to know and love.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI (Tommi Mäkinen Edition)
Tommi Mäkinen etched both his and Mitsubishi's names into World Rally Championship history, after piloting the Lancer to win four drivers’ championships on the trot. It seemed only natural then, to commemorate that remarkable run with a limited run of his all-conquering Evo VI in its unmistakable red and white colours, although other options were available.
Special edition Recaro seats were fitted with Tommi Mäkinen embroidered logos and the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine sends 276bhp to all four wheels providing the ultimate rally experience for the road.
Lotus Esprit V8 'Senna'
Created by Cam-Shaft Premium Wrapping in 2012, the 'Senna' Esprit pays homage to one of the greatest racing drivers to ever compete in Formula 1. The German wrapping specialists ensured this reimagining mirrored the legendary Lotus 97T JPS livery.
Not only does it boast one of the most recognizable liveries of all time, but in the depths of this beast, it has been tuned to produce an extra 138bhp, bringing that figure to a total of 492bhp. All that extra power propels the 'Senna' Esprit from 0-62mph in just 4.3 seconds and continue on to 175mph.
McLaren 720S Gulf
For the first time in over 20 years, the McLaren marque and the Gulf brand partnered for a number of projects across automotive and motorsport. To mark the collaboration, McLaren’s in-house personalisation team produced a blue and orange Gulf-inspired 720S that took 20 days to paint entirely by hand. This particular design was offered to a limited number of McLaren customers.
The Gulf / McLaren partnership dates back to the team's inception and founder Bruce McLaren in 1968 and ran until 1973. The 1990s saw a renewed partnership that took endurance racing by storm.