For New Car Liveries, Image Is Everything
Amidst the ongoing search for speed, some sandbagging and the occasional engine controversy – one of the aspects of last week’s Spring Training at Sebring was the unveiling of many new and revised liveries for IZOD IndyCar Series teams. In the days before Spring Training and the internet, we had to hope to catch a random glimpse of what a new car might look like for the upcoming season in the various motorsports magazines. With the magic of Twitter, on-site reporters were tweeting the new paint schemes of various cars just minutes after they hit the track.
There is a popular school of thought among those that perceive themselves as true racing aficionados that says they don’t care what the new cars look like so long as they are safe and they provide good racing. While I’ll agree with that the cars should certainly be safe and race well, I’ll disagree with the notion that looks aren’t important.
Being the shallow and superficial man that I am, I place a great importance on looks – which probably explains why I’m still single after being divorced for over fifteen years. I follow the theory that “image is everything”. We’ve all read and heard the various opinions of the new DW12. Some consider it hideous while others are warming up to it. Personally, I actually like it from the cockpit forward. I think the front-end looks updated and modern compared to its predecessor. I’ll admit to being disappointed when I saw the car would continue the air box, although the engine is no longer naturally aspirated. But since IndyCars have had the air box since 1997 and Formula One cars even longer – I can certainly live with it.
My only serious complaint about the car is the bulbous growth on each sidepod just ahead of the rear wheels. Is it a safety issue to prevent wheels from inter-locking? Is it an aerodynamic device to help streamline the rear wheels? Does it do both? Whatever the case, it sure is ugly. But one thing is certain – it’s not going away, not this year anyway.
Whoever designs the liveries for the cars had an added challenge this year. Not only did they have to design around an entirely new car, they had to do something to work around the giant sidepod bulge. Some teams utilized the additional space for a sponsor’s logo. Others unintentionally accentuated the ugliness by painting it in a light color or writing the sponsor’s name up into the bulge. Team Penske did the best job of downplaying the giant fairing. They utilized dark colors and chose to display the sponsor name horizontally and completely ignoring the added space.
(All photos courtesy of Trackside Online)
Target Chip Ganassi Racing took a different approach. They saw this as an opportunity to display a giant target on the new area, which serves to draw your eyes immediately to the enlarged bulge. Dale Coyne racing decided to write their sponsor’s name at an angle, thinking that this would provide bigger lettering. Perhaps, but reading at an angle always makes me do more work than I really want to.
As usual, some teams did a nice job with either updating their current liveries or designing new ones; while other teams missed the mark. Then again, some of the teams were still waiting on sponsorship deals to come together. While Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing continue to pursue a deal with Walgreens, they ran their car for Josef Newgarden in a basic white and light blue scheme. Dragon Racing ran their one car in carbon fiber black – just as it came out of the crate.
Some of the liveries I liked (in no particular order) were:
Mike Conway for AJ Foyt Racing in an updated ABC Supply scheme.
Ed Carpenter in his Fuzzy’s Vodka livery. Although you can’t tell from this photo, the white portion of the car is covered in golf ball dimples – in honor of Fuzzy’s founder, golfer Fuzzy Zoeller.
Graham Rahal went from one of the ugliest schemes on the grid last year, to one of the best looking this season, with just a few design tweaks.
Rubens Barrichello has, by far, the best looking of the KV cars.
Oriol Servia has a car reminiscent of the old John Player Special from Formula One.
Alex Tagliani has one of my favorites if not THE favorite this season. I’ve seen several pictures that show the tasteful use of royal blue and black. I’ll bet this car will be striking in person.
There are some whose schemes are so similar to last year’s that they hardly merit mentioning, but I guess I will anyway. Helio Castroneves was carrying the Shell/Pennzoil livery he ran at Indianapolis last year. It’s not one of my favorites, especially considering they have seemingly passed on the opportunity to run a retro paint scheme harkening back to the Rick Mears design of the eighties. Ryan Hunter-Reay and the Go-Daddy car of James Hinchcliffe have made only subtle changes to their last year’s scheme.
Some of the cars that completely blew it, in my modest opinion are:
Marco Andretti carries new sponsorship with RC Cola. Unless this design came straight from RC, this is no way to welcome a new sponsor. The “RC” letters are big and easy to read, but from a purely aesthetic standpoint – they make the already large bulb on the sidepods look huge.
Tony Kanaan has already had his paint scheme modified since we first saw it at a test in Texas a couple of weeks ago. They have toned down the almost-all bright day-glo green with a more liberal use of dark green. If they wanted to incorporate even more dark green into the livery, it would suit me just fine.
Simon Pagenaud is running a new scheme for HP, who has never been known for good-looking liveries. They continue that tradition in a new car for the newly renamed Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports. Like Marco’s car, the “HP” letters are gigantic and highlight the ugly sidepod bulge. The white and bright light-blue on the bulge doesn’t help either. Dark colors look much better in this area.
EJ Viso is running Milka Duno’s old Citgo colors. One of the few things that Milka actually had going for her was a decent looking car. Somehow, KV has managed to turn that basic scheme into an ugly car. Hopefully, the crash-prone Viso will have better luck than Milka did.
Overall, I think that the teams have done a good job in making a somewhat unattractive car look pretty good. There were far more hits than misses. They can’t all be nice looking. But judge for yourself when the green flag drops in less than two weeks in St. Petersburg. These opinions are, in fact, coming from a very shallow and superficial perspective. So take it from a guy who takes everything at face-value. In my materialistic view, image is everything.