While the Porsche 918 Spyder super sports coupe is being tested and developed, the good people down at Porsche have decided to give it a nice vintage set of clothes to wear.  All too often you see development cars at the ‘Ring wearing disguises to break up the lines of the car and make them look both ugly and difficult to photograph.  Not in the case of the 918 Spyder though which has been proudly wearing the famous Martini livery of the past.

We at Motor Vision have recently been discussing iconic racing stripes (yes, it’s just endless fun down at MV HQ) and there were three ‘stripe types’ that we kept ending up back at.  The three were: the Gulf racing stripes, the Ford twin-stripes, and of course the Martini stripes.  When you consider how many striped cars there have been in racing history, the fact that we all seemed to boil it down to just those three was nothing short of remarkable.  The Rothmans Porsche was also mentioned as were the non-stripe based livery of the Marlboro McLaren and the JPS Lotus but in terms of striped cars we agreed that Martini was certainly in the top 3.

Porsche 918 Spyder Martini 03

So what is it that strikes such a chord with the Martini stripes?  After all, they are just a couple of paired blue lines with a red line in the middle.  By definition they should not be worthy of any sort of conversation.  But they are – aren’t they?

Even the press release that I read from Porsche in regard to the 918 Spyder has four bullet points at the top of it and while one is about the car, the other three are about the Martini livery.  Even Porsche know that the most interesting part of the story is the stripes.

As a part of my job I attend an above-average number of motoring shows every year.  I have seen time and time again people who have bought themselves a Porsche, spent a fortune restoring and improving the car, and then as the finishing touch have covered it in the Martini livery.  Why?  Why do we volunteer to put someone’s brand all over our cars?

Martini Porsche 911 - www.toadhallracing.com

Originally, racing stripes were referred to as Le Mans stripes and were applied to make a race car easier for the team to spot from the pits but also to help the driver realign a spun-out car with the track.  Cunningham’s cars were amongst the earliest to be painted with stripes and had two blue stripes on white.  Shelby, who raced against Cunningham, used very similar stripes for his own cars thus giving birth to the famous Ford twin-stripes.

As time moved on, racing stripes progressed and some people seem to have gotten it right, such as Martini and Gulf, and some people didn’t.  Why some stripes are so much more memorable than other stripes I don’t quite know.  I can only assume that it’s down to the victories you see the cars winning while wearing a certain stripe and that such a stripe then becomes synonymous with victory and speed.  It’s true to say that the current Porsche 918 looks faster with it’s Martini stripes than it did without them.  I know it’s the same car but somehow my mind can’t see it as the same.  Perhaps the stripes help the eye to focus on streamlining the car in an imaginary way.  I honestly don’t know the answers.  My apologies if you were hoping for an answer here.

Porsche 918 Spyder Martini 04

What I can tell you about the Porsche 918 Spyder Prototype though, other than the fact that it’s wearing very nice historic stripes, is that it’s a hybrid car with over 800bhp, of which 570bhp comes from a traditional 4.6litre petrol V8 which will rev to a wonderfully pleasing 9,000 rpm, and 270bhp comes from two electric motors.  While I haven’t heard the car yet, the first thing that I hope is that the 9,000 petrol revs drown out the sound of the electric motors.

With a top speed of over 200mph (reduced to 93mph on pure electric), and a 0 – 62mph time of less than 3 seconds, we’re looking at a seriously quick car here.  The sort of car that has earned it’s stripes.

Porsche 918 Spyder Martini 02

As a part of the ongoing development at the Nurburgring, Porsche are aiming for a lap time of less than 7min 22secs.  Yes, 7min 22secs.  Not 7min 20secs.  Not 7 1/2 mins.  7min 22secs.  How wonderfully German of Porsche to be quite so specific.  Achieving that time will put the car slightly behind stable mate, the 911 GT2 RS (7:18), but ahead of the likes of the Nissan GT-R (7:24), Ferrari Enzo (7:25), Ferrari 458 Italia (7:32), as well as many other rather exotic and expensive sports cars.

Martini sponsored, or as Porsche say, were the official partner of, the Porsche factory team for a relatively short amount of time – from 1973 to 1978.  However, in that time they managed to lift the Porsche brand with the Martini livery to iconic status.  Famous Porsche victories whilst wearing the Martini stripes included the Targa Florio, the Sports Car World Championship, and Le Mans 24 Hours two years in a row.  And now, here we are 34 years later and the same stripes are looking every bit as sporty and fresh as they always have.  I welcome the return of such a classic sports car look for modern Porsches.  With the Nurburgring circuit as challenging as it is, let’s hope that the 918 Porsche-Martini will find itself shaken but not stirred.

Martini Porsche 917 - 1971 Coupe

Photo of the Martini Porsche 911 from toadhallracing.com

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