Gulf Oil International has struck a deal with the Aguri Formula E team to bring one of the most iconic racing liveries to the all-electric racing series. Gulf will be the team’s title sponsor for the rest of this season, starting with this weekend's race in Mexico City. Both team drivers — Antonio Felix da Costa and Salvador Duran, who accidentally leaked the news in February — will run the new-look cars.
The famous blue and orange paint scheme has been around since the 1960s, but it was cemented in racing history when the same Gulf-sponsored Ford GT40 won Le Mans two years in a row. Since then it's appeared on everything from Fords, to the Porsche 917, to the incredibly strange 1970 Porsche 908/3. Steve McQueen even drove a Gulf Oil car in the 1971 movie Le Mans.
Made popular by Le Mans and Steve McQueen
Of course, there is some considerable irony in Gulf Oil sponsoring an all-electric racing series, considering the company was one of the major petroleum providers of the 1900s. A messy merger with Chevron and a steady decline at the end of the century left the company in pieces, but in recent years the marketing of the Gulf brand has picked back up. Frank Rutten, Gulf Oil International's vice president, said in a statement that the company hopes to get more out of the partnership with Team Aguri than just branding opportunities.
“The move reflects the changing focus of the automotive industry, with manufacturers increasingly focusing on the development of electric and hybrid vehicles," Rutten says. "These new vehicles will require new lubricant solutions to ensure they run at optimum efficiency and to support the evolving technologies that will provide increased range, faster charging and greater durability.”
For its second season, Formula E allowed teams to develop their own drivetrains, opening up development on the cars' electric motors, the gearboxes, and the rear suspension. Aguri is one of the two teams that decided against investing in this, and as a result it finds itself competing with the same spec car that every team ran in season one. Da Costa has been competitive in a few races, but the team has struggled and even had to replace one of its two drivers after just three races.
The fifth race of Formula E's second season is this weekend in Mexico City. It's the global racing series' first race in Mexico, and will take place at the city's famed Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Mexico City was added to the season two schedule after Formula E decided to drop Miami from the season two schedule.