Gulf, McLaren reunite for road and track

Racing team and sponsor once dominated F1 and Can-Am

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McLaren
Denny Hulme drives a Gulf-sponsored McLaren M7A during the 1969 F1 racing season | Lothar Spurzem photo

People debated whether the cars were painted in butterscotch or orange, but there was no debate that the McLaren racing cars sponsored by Gulf Oil were dominate, whether they were racing in Formula One or the Can-Am Challenge Cup.

And now, they’re coming back as McLaren and Gulf Oil International Ltd have announced a multi-year partnership that involves not only racing cars but McLaren’s supercars.

“The partnership reunites two renowned brands that have a long-standing and successful history together and symbolizes a united ambition to use both brands’ innovation and class-leading capabilities to refine a winning formula, both on the track and on the road,” the companies said in their announcement.

It was in 1968 that Gulf first sponsored Bruce McLaren’s race cars. The partnership lasted through the 1973 season and enjoyed victories in 40 races in F1 and Can-Am. The companies got back together in the 1990s, with the McLaren F1 GTR factory entries in Gulf colors at Le Mans.

Starting with the 2021 season, Gulf will become “the preferred lubricant supplier to McLaren Automotive, with all cars to be filled with Gulf Oil and fuel optimized for high performance engines,” the companies said.

Even before then, McLaren’s F1 cars driven by Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz and racing this weekend in the British Grand Prix will carry the oil company logo. Gulf colors also will appear on the McLaren MCL35 race cars.

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McLaren and Gulf announce reunion | McLaren photo

Further, a limited number of McLaren customers will be able to have their new road cars painted in Gulf colors like those of the 1990s Le Mans cars.

“It’s great to be able to welcome back Gulf after a long historical association which has seen the name adorn many McLaren road cars and race cars over the years,” said McLaren Automotive chief executive Mike Flewitt.

“I know our customers will be thrilled to be able to work with our in-house bespoke team on the option of being one of the few to be able to personalize their McLaren supercar in the iconic Gulf livery.” 

“We’re delighted to welcome Gulf back to McLaren and reunite two iconic brands back together in a new and exciting partnership,” added Zak Brown, chief executive of McLaren Racing. “Gulf is part of McLaren’s history.”

“This is a very exciting partnership that brings the Gulf brand back into elite motor racing,” said Mike Jones, chief executive of Gulf Oil. “The history books are full of remarkable tales that tell of what Gulf and McLaren have achieved in the past. Now we are together once more to write the next chapter of this unique partnership.”

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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