It was 1972 when a Formula 1 car was first painted fully in the colours of cigarette brand Marlboro. And it was the BRMs that first appeared with the iconic paintwork. But during its two-year partnership with Philip Morris, the British squad failed to deliver the success expected from the lavish backing. One last win at the end of ’72 was a flash in the pan, before the demise set in.
Following Jo Siffert’s funeral in Fribourg, Switzerland, on 29 October in 1971, Louis Stanley continued his journey to Lausanne, 75 kilometres down the road. Stanley was married to Jean, née Owen, who along with her brother Alfred owned the Rubery Owen Group, including the BRM racing team. While Alfred was fully occupied with managing the group, Jean and Louis took care of the race team and were a constant presence at each and every Grand Prix.
Stanley’s final destination at the city on Lake Geneva was the European HQ of American cigarette brand Marlboro. There, he explained to Ronnie Thomson, Philip Morris European President, and Albert Bellow, Vice President of Marketing, why they should sponsor BRM. For Thomson, Formula 1 provided a unique stage that would quickly and effectively market the Marlboro brand in Europe. And being involved in an international sport would also help the company circumnavigate the restrictions for tobacco advertising, which varied from country to country. BRM was seen as the perfect partner as it was the only British team building its cars, engines, and gearboxes in-house, making it a more substantial prospect than the so-called garagistes and promising the best value for the planned expenditure.
BRM, meanwhile, was no longer happy with sponsor Yardley, which was not prepared to boost its backing to help pay for badly-needed engine developments. So, in November 1971, Stanley and Thomson signed a two-year deal in London, which secured over £100,000 plus win bonuses for the team. Given that an annual budget for a Formula 1 team at the time was £100,000 to £150,000, this was a top deal. It also meant the BRMs would become the first F1 cars to run the iconic red-and-white Marlboro colours. In order to make those colours as visible as possible, it was decided that there would be not three, but five cars, split into an A and a B team.
The A team was Howden Ganley, Peter Gethin, and Jean-Pierre Beltoise, the latter taking over the place left by Jo Siffert. Helmut Marko and Swede Reine Wisell, joined from time to time by Àlex Soler-Roig (Spain), Jackie Oliver (UK), Bill Brack (Canada) and Brian Redman (UK), would make up the B team. A total of nine drivers were used, a strategy focussed on quantity instead of quality that quickly led to problems which not even the Marlboro dollars could solve…
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