Gulf in Motorsport – Our rich history in racing
Gulf has always had a keen interest in motorsport, it's in our veins. Over the years we have experienced so many monumental moments that will forever have a place in the hearts of motorsport fans all over the world. Here’s a brief history of Gulf in motorsport, for all the racing enthusiasts out there….
1936 - 1937 Gulf-backed Morman Meteor:
Gulf took its first tentative step into motorsport by backing the Morman Meteor, an advanced Dusenberg-based record-breaking racer using a 700bhp Curtis V12 aero engine.
The Gulf-sponsored Meteor broke an impressive number of records at the Bonneville Salts Flats in Utah, taking both the 24-hour record at a speed of 153.8 mph and the 48 hours record at an average of 148.6 mph. In 1937 an improved Morman Meteor II achieved a new record-breaking speed of 157.3 mph.
1965-75 - Gulf-JW Automotive:
It was during the late Sixties and early Seventies, that the Gulf Oil brand really came to international prominence through our highly successful financial and technical sponsorship of a number of major-team motor racing programs.
Notable early global exposure was achieved when Gulf’s earlier Vice President, Grady Davis, linked the Gulf brand up with John Wyer (of JW Automotive Engineering) to mastermind Gulf’s participation in the World Endurance Championship (WEC).
The Gulf-JW Automotive team became a legendary force between 1967 and 1975 with the Ford GT40, Porsche 917 and Mirage competition cars. Gulf achieved victory at the famous Le Mans 24 Hours race in 1968, 1969 and 1975, as well as taking World Championship Sportscar honors.
It was also during this period that the now iconic Gulf blue and orange racing colours made their first appearance. Gulf’s corporate livery of dark blue and orange was considered too muted for race 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.
1967 - Gulf-JW Automotive Achieves its First Race Victories
The J W Automotive-prepared orange and blue Mirage-Ford M1 took its maiden competition victory at the Spa 1000 km race in Belgium, driven by Jackie Ickx and Richard Thompson.
Ickx took a further victory in the same car at the 1967 Sportscar race in Karlskoga, Sweden, with Jo Bonnier and Paul Hawkins repeating victory for the Mirage-Ford M1 just one week later at Skarpnack, Sweden. The Mirage-Ford took its final win of the 1967 Sportscar season at the South African Kyalami Nine Hours race, with Jacky Ickx and Brian Redman sharing the spoils.
1968 - Gulf-JW Automotive Ford GT40 Le Mans Victory
Ahead of the famous 1968 Le Mans 24-hour race and victory, the Gulf-JW Automotive team had already taken an impressive seven wins in that year’s Sportscar Championship.
The first of these was the Brands Hatch Six Hours in the April, through to the Watkins Glen Six Hours in the USA, where the Team took its first ever one-two finish.
Run later in the year than its traditional mid-June slot, due to wide-spread strikes in France, on 29 September 1968, car number 9, the Gulf-JW Automotive Ford GT40, wearing its distinctive Gulf livery, took Gulf’s first Le Mans victory.
1969 - Gulf-JW Automotive Ford GT40, Consecutive Le Mans Victory
The 1969 Sportscar Series brought more victories for the Gulf-J W Automotive team with the Team taking its second historic win at June’s Le Mans 24-hour race.
Le Mans victory came to the Gulf Team’s winning Jackie Oliver and Jackie Ickx duo at an average speed of 129.4 mph (208.250 km/h), covering 3,105.61 miles (4,998 kilometres).
The winner’s podium was shared with another Gulf-JW Automotive team car, the third-placed Number 7 Ford GT40 of David Hobbs and Mike Hailwood, separated by the second-placed Porsche 908.
1970 - Gulf-JW Automotive Porsche 917
With the victorious Ford GT40 getting a little old in the tooth in competition terms, for the 1970 season the Gulf-J W Automotive team changed its allegiance to the stunning new Porsche 917, naturally branded in the official iconic Gulf orange and powder blue livery. Lap records were quickly felled by the Gulf cars and race victories were numerous.
At the inaugural 1970-season race opener - the Daytona 24 Hours - the Gulf team gave the Porsche 917K its maiden race win; the trio of Rodriguez, Kinnunen and Redman taking the laurels.
The Gulf 917 went on a claim another seven wins during the season (with John Wyer altering the 917’s tail to improve its aerodynamics), joined by a works-entered Gulf Porsche 908/3 victory in the celebrated Targa Florio by Siffert and Redman.
1971 - Gulf-JW Automotive Porsche 917 and the Steve McQueen Le Mans Movie
The 1971 season witnessed the continuation of the Gulf-J W Automotive team’s winning ways with the Porsche 917K, giving the first victory to the Team’s latest recruit (in the Buenos Aires 1000 km), Englishman Derek Bell, who would go on to enjoy a long and successful racing career with Gulf. The Team saw a further six Sportscar race wins during the season.
Significantly, 1971 also saw Gulf receive a major global awareness boost with the cinema release of Steve McQueen’s infamous Le Mans movie and gave the Gulf Porsche 917 globally iconic status.
Filmed after the 1970 Le Mans 24 Hour race, throughout the movie McQueen (playing racing driver Michael Delaney) wears his Gulf-emblazoned Nomex fireproof racing overalls and famously pilots an iconic orange and blue Gulf Porsche 917; car number 20.
Delaney crashes his Number 20 Porsche, but is drafted in at the last hour to tackle to his rival, Ferrari 512 in another Gulf 917K team car, Number 21.
1972 – 1975 - Gulf-JW Automotive form the Gulf Research Racing Company
With major technical changes being made to the Sportscar racing regulations for 1972, Gulf-J W Automotive dropped the newly banned Porsche 917 and introduced the new Ford Cosworth-powered 3-litre Gulf Mirage GR6. At the same time it also formed the new UK-based Gulf Research Racing Company.
Derek Bell was signed up to share the Mirage GR6 with Dutch driver Gijs van Lennep. Each year showed improvement through the GR7 until the GR8 where the Gulf team only campaigned two races for the 1975 Sportscar season, taking a second at the Nurburgring 1000 km.
This was followed by Gulf’s third victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours, with the winning team of Derek Bell and Jacky Ickx securing the top prize at the illustrious Sarthe circuit, with the second team GR8 taking a much-deserved third place.
After achieving the Le Mans hat trick and taking three World Championship Sportscar honours, Gulf withdrew from endurance racing with little left to prove.
1968-74 - Gulf Team McLaren
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 Formula One victories through McLaren and the company also sponsored the 1969 Brabham F1 team cars.
Gulf’s link with McLaren in F1 continued successfully until the end of 1973 season but Gulf Team McLaren is probably 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.
1994 - Gulf Returns to Motor Sports with the Gulf Kremer Porsche Spyder K8
Following its third Le Mans victory, and with little left to prove, the Gulf-Mirage team was sold in the mid-1970s. It was almost 20 years before Gulf made a welcome return to the international motor racing arena with the Kremer Porsche Spyder K8.
For 1994 Gulf sponsored Derek Bell’s attempt to equal Jacky Ickx’s all-time record of six Le Mans 24 Hour successes. Driving the Gulf Kremer Porsche Spyder K8, Bell finished a creditable sixth on the famous Sarthe circuit.
1995-97 - Gulf Revives its McLaren Relationship with the F1 GTR
Gulf followed up its provisional return to motor sport with the Kremer Porsche. Between 1995 and 1997, it renewed its successfully historic links with McLaren in sportscars and an endurance racing programme, with the racing version of its sensational F1 road car – the McLaren F1 GTR.
The Gulf x McLaren partnership briefly broke with tradition and ran in Gulf’s revised 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, including the Gulf-McLaren F1 GTR’s race debut at the 1995 Jerez 4 Hours, and won the Global GT Championship title in 1996, with Ray Bellm and James Weaver.
2001 - Gulf Returns with the Audi R8
After a short break, still revealing in its continued success, the famous blue and orange Gulf livery returned to international motor racing in 2001, as Gulf sponsored an Audi R8 run by Stefan Johansson. This winning combination became both the Driver and Team Class Champions in the 2001 European Le Mans Series.
2005 - Gulf and PBR Courages
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 hard-fought LMP2 endurance racing category at both Monza and Silverstone, ultimately finishing on the podium a further three times during the 2005 season (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 2005 season third.
2007 - Gulf Partners with Historic Motor Racing Timekeeper, TAG Heuer
Gulf’s commitment to unrivalled quality and endurance is mirrored in TAG Heuer's passion for precision engineering and bold design, making a partnership a logical for two brands synonymous with quality craftsmanship. Gulf has worked on a variety of projects with the iconic Swiss timepiece maker. The Gulf themed watches are some of the most sought-after pieces in TAG Heuer’s collection.
2007 - Gulf and the Kytek 07S LMP2:
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 an impressive third in the LMP2 team standings for 2007.
2008 - Gulf and Aston Martin Racing
Gulf launched its fruitful partnership with Aston Martin Racing (AMR). This partnership of two iconic motorsport brands immediately captured the public’s imagination, this being further fuelled by victory for the blue and orange-liveried Aston Martin DBR9s in the GT1 category of the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours.
2009 - Gulf Aston Martin Racing LMP1
2009 saw the unveiling of AMR’s LMP1 Le Mans prototype – the DBR 1-2 – leading to a year of outstanding success with two Le Mans Series (LMS) race victories, an unbroken run of LMS podium finishes (including a 1-2-3 ‘clean sweep’ at the Nurburgring), plus three LMS titles for Teams, Manufacturers and Drivers.
AMR and Gulf also achieved further success at the end of season at the inaugural running of the Asian Le Mans Series.
2011: Gulf AMR Middle East
In 2011 Mike Wainwright and Roald Goethe, gentlemen drivers with a huge passion for motor sport and the heritage the Gulf team now represents, formed a team under the name Gulf AMR Middle East to compete in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, the precursor to the World Endurance Championship.
Once again carrying the distinctive Gulf blue and orange livery once and with the support of Gulf Oil international, the pair contested the championship with an Aston Martin Vantage GT2.
2012-16 - Gulf AMR enters the World Endurance Championship (WEC)
Gulf AMR returned to top level racing and its GT roots with a full World Endurance Championship (WEC) season. 2012 saw the Gulf liveried competition Aston Martin Vantage GTE finish off the victory podium in the GTE Pro category.
First time out, the Aston Martin 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.
This success continued through the 2013 and 2016 seasons, which saw Gulf with AMR continuing its winning ways in the WEC, in both the GTE Pro and GTE Categories.
2017 - Gulf Partners its First Motorcycle Racing Teams
In a first for Gulf, and worldwide Gulf sport enthusiasts, for 2017 it agreed two partnerships in the World Superbike Championship: Milwaukee Aprilia and Althea BMW.
2018 - Gulf and ROFGO celebrated 50-year Spa race victory
Gulf and its Heritage Partner, ROFGO celebrated an incredible win at the world’s foremost GT race, the Spa 24 Hours. The Porsche 911 GT3R, run by the GPX race team for ROFGO, was entered for the race relatively late in the day, with support from Porsche itself, who supplied three factory drivers specially for the event.
2020 - Gulf and McLaren Become Strategic Partners
Gulf has a deep-rooted and successful racing history with McLaren. The two brands reunited in 2020 when Gulf and McLaren Racing revive their partnership. The retro livery marked McLaren’s tribute to Gulf’s timeless design while reflecting a racing connection that began in the days of team founder Bruce McLaren.
Gulf also became the official recommended engine oil by McLaren Automotive.
2021 - Gulf Historic Livery Returns to Formula One
Gulf Oil International unveiled an innovative special livery celebrating their historic partnership with a one-off iconic design for the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix.
This evocative livery marked the return to the sport with one of Formula 1’s most emblematic, recognisable and admired motorsport liveries of all time.
The McLaren F1 team carried Gulf’s racing blue colourway alongside an orange stripe, based closely on Gulf’s classic design, for the entire race weekend of the Monaco Grand Prix. The theme featured on both MCL35M race cars, the race suits of drivers podium-finishing Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, the race team kit and across all team social media platforms.
Discover more about Gulf’s history
And that’s just our motorsports history. Gulf was born in 1901. From introducing the first drive through petrol station in 1913 to the first oil company to trademark its racing colours in 2004. Discover all our firsts and learn more about the Gulf business.