Gulf’s star-studded motor racing record extends further into history than many people can recall. It was Gulf’s interest in frontier-extending motor racing research that prompted it to attack the Indianapolis 500 with the fabulous rear-engined “Gulf-Miller” four-wheel drive cars as long ago as 1938.
The cars were out of luck at Indy but driver George Barringer then smashed no fewer than 14 International Class D (2-3 litre) speed records in one on Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. This included 158.446mph for the flying 5 kms, 150.242mph for an hour, and the full 500 miles Indy distance at 142.770mph – staggering figures for the era.
60s & 70s
During the late Sixties and early Seventies, Gulf promoted the brand worldwide through the financial and technical sponsorship of a number of major-team motor racing programmes. International exposure was achieved most notably when Gulf’s Vice President Grady Davis linked the company up with John Wyer to mastermind Gulf’s participation in the World Endurance Championship.
The Gulf-JW Automotive team became a legendary force between 1967 and 1975 with the Ford GT40, Porsche 917 and Mirage cars. Gulf achieved victory at Le Mans in 1968, 1969 and 1975 as well as taking World Championship Sportscar honours.
It was also during this period that the now iconic Gulf racing colours made their first appearance. Gulf’s corporate livery of dark blue and orange was considered too muted for team car colours, so powder blue and orange (the colours of the recently-acquired Wilshire Oil Company) were chosen to reflect the vibrancy of the brand. They have remained Gulf’s primary racing colours ever since and are one of the most widely recognised motorsport liveries of all time. They are so synonymous with the company that in recent years Gulf became the first lubricant company to officially trademark its racing colours.
In 1968 Gulf further broadened its sponsorship activities by supporting McLaren in Can-Am, Indycar and Formula One racing, a partnership that would last until 1974. Over this hectic and hugely successful period Gulf secured seven F1 victories through McLaren and the company also sponsored the 1969 Brabham F1 team cars.
Gulf’s link with McLaren in Formula One continued successfully until the end of 1973 season but Gulf Team McLaren will probably be best remembered for its spectacular domination of the Can-Am series between 1968 and 1972, winning 35 races and achieving a first-second combination on no fewer than 20 occasions.
INTO THE 90s
After the sale of the Mirage team it was almost 20 years before Gulf made a welcome return to the international motor racing arena. In 1994 Gulf sponsored Derek Bell’s attempt to equal Jacky Ickx’s all-time record of six Le Mans successes. Driving the Gulf Kremer Porsche Spyder K8, Bell finished a creditable sixth on the famous Sarthe Circuit in France.
Between 1995 and 1997 Gulf renewed its successful link with McLaren in sportscars, with the racing version of its million-dollar road car – the McLaren F1GTR.
The Gulf-McLarens broke with tradition and ran in Gulf’s official corporate colours – dark blue and orange – for two of the three seasons before reverting to the iconic Gulf racing colours in 1997. During this time the team took nine race wins and, with Ray Bellm and James Weaver, won the Global GT Championship title in 1996.
INTO THE NEW MILLENNIUM
In 2001 Gulf sponsored an Audi R8 run by Stefan Johansson, which competed in the famous blue and orange colours and became the Driver and Team Class Champions in the 2001 European Le Mans Series.
2005 marked the opening of a new chapter in Gulf’s international motorsport history with Paul Belmondo Racing (PBR). The PBR Courages took victory in the LMP2 category at both Monza and Silverstone and finished on the podium a further three times (including second and third in LMP2 at the Le Mans 24 Hours). The team and drivers only narrowly missed out on being LMP2 Champions, finishing the season third.
Gulf kicked off 2006 venturing into new territory, when it sponsored Paul Belmondo’s factory-supported Nissan 4×4 on the gruelling Dakar Rally. The Frenchman’s Nissan challenged for the production car honours during the first half of the event until it was forced into retirement.
In 2006, Gulf again sponsored Paul Belmondo Racing and also further extended its support to fellow LMP2 entrant, Barazi-Epsilon, with excellent results. Barazi-Epsilon had a season to remember, taking first in LMP2 in both Team and Drivers’ championships.
With PBR not taking part in 2007, Gulf increased its support of the Barazi-Epsilon team in its challenge for glory in the Le Mans Series and the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours. The team raced the all-new LMP2 contender from British constructor Zytek, the 07S. The Zytek had a mixed season but did win the LMP2 category at Silverstone and Interlagos and took a second place at the Nurburgring. This resulted in Barazi-Epsilon finishing third in the LMP2 team standings for 2007.
THE ASTON MARTIN RACING PARTNERSHIP: 2008 – 2015
2008 – GT1 VICTORY AT THE LE MANS 24 HOURS
In January 2008, Gulf launched its partnership with Aston Martin Racing. The “marriage” of two such well-loved motorsport brands immediately captured the public’s imagination and this was further fuelled by victory for the blue and orange DBR9s in the GT1 category of the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours.
2009 – LE MANS SERIES CHAMPIONS
2009 saw the unveiling of Aston Martin Racing’s LMP1 Le Mans prototype – the DBR 1-2 – in January and, there followed a year of exceptional success with two Le Mans Series race wins, an unbroken run of LMS podium finishes (including a 1-2-3 “clean sweep” at the Nürburgring) and three LMS titles, Teams, Manufacturers and Drivers.
AMR and Gulf also achieved further success at the end of season at the initial running of the Asian Le Mans Series.
2010 – PODIUM FINISHES AROUND THE WORLD
An updated version of the 2009 DBR 1-2 took to the track at Sebring for the classic 12 Hour race and scored a fine third place finish behind two factory Peugeot diesels. Second place finish followed this in the 8 Hours of Le Castellet at France’s Paul Ricard circuit and another runner’s up slot a week later at the Long Beach ALMS race.
2011 – A SEASON OF TWO HALVES
AMR-1, Aston Martin’s first ground-up LMP1 machine succeeded, the DBR1-2. The amount of development necessary ultimately proved greater than had been anticipated and after a poor showing at the Le Mans 24 Hours, the decision was made to revert to the DBR 1-2 for the remainder of the season.
At the Laguna Seca round of the American Le Mans series Gulf and Aston Martin Racing returned to winning ways, running almost faultlessly en route to victory. The car then took a podium place at the final round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, the “Petit Le Mans.
2012 – SUPERB PODIUM RUN ENDS IN VICTORY IN CHINA
AMR returned to its GT roots and a full WEC season rarely saw the 97 Vantage GTE finish off the victory podium in the GTE Pro category. First time out, the car secured a fine runner up slot in the WEC opening round at the Sebring 12 Hours. A rare retirement at Spa was followed by third place at Le Mans, and then six consecutive podium finishes, which culminated in victory at the final round of the season in China.
2013 – GULF DRIVERS ARE WEC GTE AM CHAMPIONS
The 2013 season saw Aston Martin Racing continue in its winning ways in the World Endurance Championship, in both the GTE Pro and GTE Categories.
MEET THE TEAM – GULF RACING
Milton Keynes, some 40 miles north on London is home to the UK’s newest WEC team: Gulf Racing. The racing operation is a remarkably compact affair, with less than ten full time employees, but one look at the facility will quickly show a visitor that the team is both professional and extremely serious about what it does.
As well as a spotless race workshop, that also houses and prepares for ongoing track use, some of team co-owner Roald Goethe’s ROFGO collection of works Gulf race cars, the facility also houses the admin offices and a full physical preparation centre, which includes a state of the art race simulator.
THE PORSCHE 911 RSR GTE
The car chosen for last season was a full factory specification Porsche 911 RSR GTE, which is one of a handful of such cars sanctioned by Porsche to run in top line endurance racing.
The 911 RSR GTE competed in the GTE Am category, which means that it is configured in the specification used by the GTE Pro cars in 2015.
At the heart of the 911 RSR GTE is the road-going Porsche 911. The GTE has been specifically designed to compete in championships running to the Automobile Club De L’Ouest GTE regulations.
The chassis is taken directly from the 911 road car. Into this, Porsche integrates an aerospace specification steel roll cage built to FIA standards. With the exception of the roof, the bodywork is manufactured from lightweight carbon fibre and features an advanced aerodynamic package with carbon fibre splitter, flat floor and diffuser, and a carbon fibre rear wing designed using the latest computational fluid dynamics (CFD) techniques.
Under the bonnet, the xx litre engine is based on the Porsche XXXx, but with competition components including cylinder heads, connecting rods, valves, camshafts and a racing exhaust system. As in the road car, the transmission is xxxx mounted, but with a six-speed semi-automatic sequential transmission and competition clutch.
Perhaps the most demanding test of any lubricant is one conducted on a racetrack. Gulf has continued to promote the brand worldwide through sponsorship of a number of major racing events and top teams, which has created and maintained international exposure. Gulf is proud to have partnered Aston Martin Racing since 2008 and the company now uses and endorses Gulf products. In 2013 Gulf again renewed its partnership with the Aston Martin factory team, signing a new agreement that linked the two companies until the end of 2015.