My love of sports history has also meant that I am also interested in sports uniforms, logos and other features that identify individuals or teams. For the last year or so one of my favourite websites has been http://www.uni-watch.com, which as the name suggests, deals with sports uniforms. The webmaster asked for articles on uniforms, so I asked him if colour schemes on racing cars would qualify. he said yes, and I created the article below which was posted on the Uni-Watch website.
In most forms of motorsport, the livery or colour scheme of a car is usually based on either a driver’s personal preference for particular colours, or a range of colours based on the sponsorship that a driver has, eg painting the car in the corporate colours or logo of the car’s main sponsor.
There is one form of motorsport where liveries/colour schemes are used to grade drivers, as well as identifying the top drivers. This form of motorsport is British Formula 1 stock car racing, which has been the highest level of British open-wheel oval track racing since the late 1950’s. The use of colours to rank drivers was introduced in 1959.
There are 5 driver grades in BriSCA Formula 1:
- “C” Grade (aka White Tops)
- “B” Grade (aka Yellow Tops)
- “A” Grade (aka Blue Tops)
- “Star” Grade (aka Red Tops)
- “Super Stars” (Red Tops with flashing lights – introduced in 1976)
Drivers pick up grading points in every race in which they compete in. At the end of each monthly grading period, a drivers grading points are used to check whether they are in the right grade. It is possible for drivers to be both demoted as well as promoted, up and down the grades.
This can create situations where a driver who would ordinarily be graded as a Red Top, could have had a bad month, maybe suffering from car problems, and be down graded to a Blue Top. Likewise, a driver who’s normal regular grading may be a Yellow Top, could have had an exceptionally good month and received the handicap of being upgraded to a Blue Top. This is where grades within grades comes into affect.
So what does this have to do with colour schemes? Drivers must display their designated grade at all times by painting their roof/wing to the grades appropriate colour, hence a “White Top” driver will have a white coloured wing, a “Yellow Top” driver will have a yellow coloured wing, going all they way through to the “Red Top” drivers with red coloured wings. There are however, exceptions to these colours. Drivers who have won an individual title have unique roof colours to distinguish them from the rest of the drivers. Here are the four examples:
- The World Champion has a gold roof – Tom Harris (2014)
- National Points Champion has a silver roof – Craig Finniken (2011)
- British Champion has a black and white chequered roof – Paul Harrison (2014)
- European Champion has a red and yellow chequered roof – Ryan Harrison (2013)
The purpose of the roof colours is to show how drivers are performing compared to other drivers. There is also the prestige and status of being a “Star” driver, along with having a special roof colour due to winning one of the major individual titles.
As well as identifying different grades of drivers, the roof colours serve another important function – determining the starting positions for drivers in races. Each grade forms a block of cars lined up two abreast and bumper to bumper, with a two-car-length gap between each Grade. The White Tops start at the very front, followed by Yellow, then Blue, the Reds, and the Superstars at the very back. With the spacings between grades, this effectively means that the “Superstar” drivers will be giving the “White Top” drivers at least half a lap advantage at the start. A driver who has been newly promoted to a higher Grade will be lined up towards the front of the new grade, and a driver who has been recently demoted down a grade will be lined up at the back of his grading. This all helps ensure that drivers are lined up on the grid amongst other drivers of similar skills. An example in 2014 is Michael Steward, who started the season as a “C” Grade driver with a White Top. Due to several good performances, he has now been reclassified as a “B” Grade driver, and now starts further back as a Yellow Top driver.
With the better and quicker drivers starting the at the rear, the racing has plenty of action, speed and overtaking as the Stars and Superstars chase down the front runners from their three-quarter lap handicap. Doing so is no easy task when races can be as short as 16 laps, at an average of just 15 seconds per lap. Here is a video of a Brisca F1 race from Stoke in July 2014, showing clearly the roof colours and how they determine starting positions.