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The First Sponsor in Formula One

Gendebien YCR British GP 1960.jpg

© Bernard Cahier - Gendebien, British GP 1960

We all know how vital it is for an F1 team to have a sponsor nowadays. Being the most expensive discipline in the motorsport, it essentially requires external funding for a team to be able not only to run, but also to develop the car itself and hire the better drivers and engineers it can afford to be competitive. That is also why, in the last years, we are assisting to somewhat of a struggle for teams, both big and small, to keep investing in this discipline. Sponsors, in fact, are getting slimmer by the year, and cars are no longer covered in stickers like those that we were used to see in the late 90es – early 2000. Even big names like Mercedes and Ferrari have somewhat of an empty car, sponsor wise, now on the grid. Some say it is no longer a profitable investment, some believe it is the natural course of the market economy.

However, how did it all start?


We are used to think that the first time a sponsor fully entered in F1, funding a team and putting its own logo on the car, has been in 1968 with the Lotus 49. The red and gold cigar-shaped car, taking up John Player’s colours over the traditional British racing green, was somewhat of a scandal. The mechanics were the first to take this change as a bit of a hard blow[1]. Being, back then, still a sport were the money was few, and honour was of paramount importance, it really was felt as betrayal.

Hill Monaco 1968_2.jpg

- Hill, Monaco GP 1968

Nevertheless, this was actually not the first time. Another British team had committed “treason”, so to speak, almost ten years before. During the 1960 F1 season, in fact, a new challenger entered the competition: the Yeoman Credit Racing Team. As you can imagine by the name itself, this was truly something that would raise quite a few eyebrows in the paddock. What is the story behind it?

Yeoman Credit LTD was a motor finance company, which was at the time ran by three brothers: Paul, William and Fabian. They were the founder’s, Joseph Samengo-Turner, sons. The three brothers knew that their somewhat small business needed advertisement, in order to get big and to do it fast. Being motoring fans, like their father, they looked at a possible investment in open-wheelers racing. Therefore, they turned at Ken Gregory, who was Sir Stirling Moss’ manager, to arrange a deal. That is because Ken Gregory was in fact running, at the time, together with his business partner Alfred Moss, Stirling’s father, a racing team employing some Cooper T51s; the British Racing Partnership (BRP).

“They approached us […] my friend Peter Pilsworth from Yeoman asked if we would allow them to sponsor the team […] they asked for a proposal and I aimed high.”[2]

Being an expert businessman, Gregory knew how to make it profitable. He managed to strike an outrageous deal, getting £40.000 solely to buy their equipment plus £20.000 per year to run the team.

“This was substantially more than the works team had,” recalls Gregory, with Sir Stirling Moss commenting, “It was an impressive amount of money. Far more than Rob [Walker] had!”[3]

We have to remember, in fact, that the Cooper works team was the championship title winner in both 1959 and 1960 with Jack Brabham, while Rob Walker ran the successful Rob Walker Racing Team, which had drivers like Moss and Trintignant at the wheel that season. Surely people with no shortage of coin.

Gregory managed to also retain start and race prizes for him and Alfred Moss, while Yeoman had rights to the entrants’ trophies and adverts. The car had no logos or decals of any sort, but it was painted in a distinctive livery, with the body being pale green and the front nose crimson red, according to Yeoman’s will.

This was the first fully sponsored team in F1 history.

Brooks YCR Monaco GP 1960.jpg

- Brooks, Monaco GP 1960

Understandably, the others did not look at this positively. Having this enormous amount of money invested in the cars, which took both the name and the colours dictated by its sponsor, was seen as not playing by the rules by the other competitors. This ever-increasing hostility was also the reason why, a few years down the road, at the beginning of 1963, Yeoman decided to actually retire from F1. The deal between Yeoman and BRP, however, expired much before that. Right at the end of the new team maiden season, in September 1960, Yeoman in fact withdrawn from any relationship with BRP and moved their funding and investments over to the Reg Parnell Racing Team. The reason why sympathy fizzled out between the two was due to legal reasons. Gregory, in fact, used to rely at the time on an external company for body repairs of his cars; the Express Coachcraft LTD. Yeoman found out, sometime later in 1960, that the manager of said company had served a sentence for fraud in the past. This was highly uncomfortable for a finance company, and so they decided to move to greener pastures[4]. They kept racing Parnell’s team for a couple years, during the ’61 and ’62 seasons, while also changing name in Bowmaker Racing in ‘62, and then, as we said, decided to permanently retire from the motorsport.

Surtees Bowmaker.jpg

- John Surtees on a Bowmaker Racing Lola MK4, British GP 1962

An interesting curiosity comes from Nicky Samengo-Turner, member of the family that owned Yeoman Credit, who still is involved in F1 today. He says, in fact:

“We, in hindsight unwisely, turned down an offer to run a second-string Ferrari team in F1 in 1962; we were put off by SEFACs indifferent performance in 1960, and the uncertainty about their ability to produce a competitive rear-engined car.”[5]

For a turn of fate, we have not seen a Ferrari private sponsored team in F1. Bad luck for Yeoman, yes, since Ferrari produced quite a competitive car with their “Shark” 156 (even though, truth be told, 1962 has not been a stellar year for them). Most importantly however, it uncovers an interesting detail too. Ferrari was not doing well financially in those years. That is why they negotiated with Ford in 1963, later with Alfa Romeo in ‘68 and finally with Fiat signing a deal in ’69. They really needed external investment. Therefore, Yeoman Credit was basically the first one they turned to for funding, before the colossi of the car industry we just mentioned. Enzo could not approve having neither his team colours nor the name changed, obviously, so running a secondary private team was the best option to arrange this. That is definitively something to write in the books of the Scuderia history!

In the end, John Player was not really the first then in F1. We must credit the Samengo-Turner family for have had this stroke of genius.

“I believe that the foresight of my grandfather, my father and uncles created the commercial climate that took F1 from a cottage industry to a worldwide media business — for better or worse.”[6]

Taylor YCR French GP 1960.jpg
Taylor, French GP 1960
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] I. Wagstaff, Lotus 49 1967-1970 (all marks) Owners’ Workshop Manual, Sparkford-Somerset, Haynes Publishing, 2014, p. 19.

[2] G. Cruickshank, The Green Shoots of Sponsorship, «MotorSport» (magazine), October 2010, p. 52.

[3] Ivi.

[4] G. Gauld, Cliff Allison: From the Fells to Ferrari, Dorchester, Veloce Publishing, 2008, p. 104.

[5] Nicky Samengo-Turner, Give us Some Credit, Letters from readers, «MotorSport» (magazine), August 2002, p. 18.

[6] Ivi.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Kenny Paton

Staff
Premium
Really good article Davide, nowadays it's easy to forget just how controversial it all was at the time with debates on TV, articles in the papers etc.
 
Great Article indeed, but I must admit I think I preferred the cars nice and clean without advertising stuck all over them !
 

CC

Premium
Great Article indeed, but I must admit I think I preferred the cars nice and clean without advertising stuck all over them !
I kind of prefer it, well some adds so much character to the cars and the overhaul appeal,
would have been cool with a vote in the menu "sponsors or no sponsors" just to see how the rest of the community feel, great topic :)
 

Steve Worrell

Staff
Premium
Nice article. I voted for cars with sponsors. However. If someone could tell me that the racing would be better without sponsors I would of course opt for that option.

I absolutely love sponsors on cars though. Think of all the iconic cars over the years which have carried those stickers so well.
 

CC

Premium
Nice article. I voted for cars with sponsors. However. If someone could tell me that the racing would be better without sponsors I would of course opt for that option.

I absolutely love sponsors on cars though. Think of all the iconic cars over the years which have carried those stickers so well.
Yes I feel exactly the same, some do not look or get presented or perceived or remembered in a good light,
but oh boy there is some awesome iconic racing liveries with sponsors from the last in all motorsport :D
 

CC

Premium
We are so interactive, F5 :)
You know what would be cool, some kind of voting system in the menu side bar,
on topics and interests and stuff of the community, so you guys know where to focus threads like this in the future, but reading the last 2-3 threads from Leon the guys on fire :D
 

wombat999

Premium
Being pretty ancient I well remember the Yeoman Credit - Bowmaker Lolas running in the 1963 Tasman Cup looking very smart and driven by John Surtees and (I think) Tony Maggs or Masten Gregory. By then the cars were privateers, as Yeoman Credit - Bowmaker had pulled the plug on the sponsorship deal.
Surtees won the New Zealand GP in January '63, and gave a good account of himself throughout the series. Home on leave in early 1968 and again, Tasman Cup time, where the Lotus 49T's that had gone into New Zealand 'Green' appeared at the Lady Wigram Trophy round in full GLTL colours which Jimmy Clark won! At the Sandown Park 'Australian GP' he won his final 'Grand Prix' by 0.1 of a second from Chris Amon in the delectable Ferrari Dino 246 Tasman.
One interesting sponsorship deal I remember from the 1970 something 'Race of Champions' in the UK was a Ferrari entry (a 312T I think) for an unknown Italian driver funded by 'Everest Ice Cream'!
Somewhere in my accumulated rubbish I have a few photographs of that car, I really must try to find them.
 

apex11

@Simberia
More sponsors than ever. People will like attaching there products / brands to electric racing cars for the same reason car manufactures are investing in electric cars as the future.
Formula E has no problem attracting sponsors, yet McLaren / sauber roll around with no title sponsor.
 
I think I prefer the look of no sponsors, but I want to see what that actually looks like on modern F1 cars

I believe good quality racing is possible with or without big budgets, but without sponsorship it wouldn't be what we're used to with incredibly advanced cars and large numbers of safe, well-maintained circuits.
 

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