Since its debut in 2013, former A6 champions RAM Racing have featured some of the boldest liveries on the 24H SERIES grid. Team boss Dan Shufflebottom walks James through his team’s colourful side.
It speaks volumes that arguably the most distinctive car on the grid during this year’s 24H SERIES powered by Hankook is NOT the scarlet Ferrari 488 GT3 of Scuderia Praha, but the ‘Jupiter Red’ Mercedes-AMG GT3 of RAM Racing.
It’s a colour scheme that first appeared amidst many approvingly raised eyebrows at this year’s Hankook 24H DUBAI, the eye-popping shade a tribute to the Röte Sau (‘Red Sow’) 300SEL that got the AMG ball rolling way back in 1971. That the candy chrome red also helped the British entry stand out in a sea of Mercedes-AMGs now synonymous with the event didn’t hurt either.
Not that the radical departure came as a surprise to those who’ve followed RAM Racing’s trajectory, of course: the Röte Sau homage was the team’s fifth different livery in as many races. But since its inaugural season in 2013, the British squad’s bold style has proven just as popular as its competitive nature, an observation not lost on team principal Dan Shufflebottom.
“A lot of people do comment on the fact that we use different liveries,” explains Dan, a former Formula 1 mechanic at Honda GP, Brawn, and Mercedes F1. “Some of them are quite special, others are just tweaks, and I don’t necessarily think it does much for our brand commercially. But it helps us stand out, and that’s important.”
Stand out the team’s original Ferrari 458 GT3 certainly did, debuting with a simple yet elegant blue and white livery for the team’s first-ever race at the 2013 24H DUBAI, a design that also used throughout that year’s European Le Mans Series. One year on though, the blue and white was gone, replaced entirely by mirrored chrome, save a deep blue ‘RAM’ logo on the bonnet. A design that, but for one complaint, may not have raced at all…
“The radical departure came as a surprise to those who’ve followed RAM Racing’s trajectory: the Röte Sau homage was the team’s fifth different livery in as many races.”
“We always had a problem with the Ferrari,” Dan continues. “There’s hardly any flat surfaces on the car, so trying to find a design that worked was quite hard. The chrome looked fantastic when it started. By the end of the race it looked like a piece of old kitchen foil, but everybody liked that one.” Particularly Glorax Racing, it seems, the Swiss team entering the following year’s Hankook 24H DUBAI with a chrome Ferrari all of its own. Well, they do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery….
“The only thing we had to check was that the organisers were concerned about glare from the headlights during the night: if even one driver had complained about that, we were told we’d have to unwrap it. Fortunately nobody ever did.”
Despite winning the European Le Mans Series GTE crown in its debut season though, tough times were ahead for the Ferrari as ‘an unforeseen budget shortfall’ meant the team had to withdraw from its 2014 World Endurance Championship campaign after just two starts. It would not be seen again until the 2015 Hankook 24H DUBAI almost seven months later, albeit now with fresh backing and a brand new, devastatingly quick Mercedes SLS AMG GT3. Hopes were immediately high that team regular Tom Onslow-Cole – now partnered with fellow GT frontrunners Adam Christodoulou and Thomas Jaeger, as well as gentleman driver / benefactor Cheerag Arya – could spring a surprise. Well, after a slight hiccup, anyway…
“An ‘unforeseen budget shortfall’ meant the team had to withdraw from its 2014 World Endurance Championship campaign after just two starts. It would not be seen again until the 2015 Hankook 24H DUBAI almost seven months later.”
“We ran the maroon SLS for the first two races, but it wasn’t supposed to be that colour. When it was delivered from AMG, it was supposed to be ‘Le Mans Red’, I think it was. But the carbon fibre and the bodyshell don’t get painted the same way as they do with a roadcar, so every panel appeared to be a different colour. We agreed we couldn’t race it like that and stripped it right back to the shell to re-spray it, but it was never quite the colour it was supposed to be.
“We actually don’t paint our cars anymore because it’s about 3-4kgs lighter to wrap the panels than to paint them. If you maintain the car after each race, all you’re doing is adding more and more layers of paint to it, unless you strip back to the carbon every time. The wrapping guys we use today are based in Brackley at the bodyshop for the Mercedes F1 team.”
Twinned with silver detailing across the bonnet, the maroon paint would be gone after just two races, in, what would turn out to be, a superb year for the SLS’ only campaign under the RAM Racing banner. Incredibly, every 24H SERIES race that year netted the team a podium, the now-blue and silver SLS going on to secure RAM’s first outright win in the series at Paul Ricard as well as the A6 Teams’ and A6 Drivers’ crowns. After the heartbreak of 2014, the British squad had recovered to finish just three points short of the overall 24H title in 2015.
Results would prove tenuous for RAM Racing in 2016 though, the team’s brand new AMG GT3 – now sporting a simple pearl white base with day-glow yellow detailing around the front grille and red stripes across the front wheel arches – losing an hour in the garage in Dubai to a cracked oil cooler, and failing to start at Mugello at all with terminal engine problems.
“Although the races didn’t go to plan, the new AMG GT3 showed a lot of promise,” Dan explained at the time. “The drivers all reported better handling in the corners and the team found it easy to engineer and set-up. Obviously, like with any new car, we had some issues that prevented us from getting a better result but the service from AMG Customer Sports was, once again, second-to-none.”
“After the heartbreak of 2014, the British squad had recovered to finish just three points short of the overall 24H title in 2015.”
Said drivers included, for the first time at RAM Racing, 2013 GTE World Endurance Champion Stuart Hall and German artisan Roald Goethe. This relationship that would be re-visited later that same year at Paul Ricard when RAM Racing debuted, arguably, its most popular livery to-date…
“The Gulf Livery. We knew very early on we would be running the Gulf colours at Paul Ricard, because that race was with Roald, who owns the famous ROFGO collection. The original proposal actually came from AMG, Roald liked it, got clearance from Gulf Oils, and we were away!
“It’s quite cool actually, because that was the first time a Mercedes had ever raced with a Gulf livery. And since then there have been scale models and Scalextric cars made.”
Fittingly, Hall and Goethe were joined by Daniel Brown and Hall’s championship-winning teammate Jamie Campbell-Walter for that race at Paul Ricard, the quartet surviving the 24-hour event to score the Gulf-clad Mercedes’ first podium of the year in its final 2016 outing.
For 2017, RAM Racing returned to 24H SERIES action for one of only two starts at Mugello, Tom Onslow-Cole now back in the bucket seat alongside Kevin Veltman and Dutch patron, Remon Vos. Gone too was the Gulf livery in place of something altogether different…
“The multi-colour livery actually came from Remon. It was his first GT3 race, and the company he owns” – CTP – “has a design team, so he asked them to come up with the livery. It was quite strange to see brown on a racing car, but that was the one he chose.
“That design was actually very difficult to do. Remon’s guys had never done a car livery before, and it wasn’t particularly hard-wearing vinyl either because it was printed. When we stretched the vinyl around the curves, the printing lines became very distorted too. That probably took two or three weeks to get right.”
“Paul Ricard was the first time a Mercedes had ever raced with a Gulf livery.”
Mercifully, the ‘multi-colour’ was gone for RAM’s next outing at Imola, the AMG GT3 now sporting a much cleaner matt grey evocative of the Ferrari chrome used three years earlier. A successful change the new colours proved too, Vos and Onslow-Cole putting together a stunning drive to finish 3rd, just 50 seconds behind the race winning Car Collection Motorsport Audi.
Admittedly, success has been fleeting for RAM Racing in 2018. The red liveried Mercedes suffered a literal baptism of fire in Dubai when the rear bumper ignited during the night stages, and it failed to start at all at Silverstone when the chassis was badly damaged during qualifying. The AMG claimed pole position in Imola, but a late race shunt relegated the team to a hard-earned 5th place at the flag, ironically, just behind ‘the other red car’ of Scuderia Praha.
Can RAM Racing turn its season around in Barcelona? Absolutely. Despite the struggles, the race pace of the Jupiter Red Mercedes is a proven commodity this year, as is staunch professionalism behind the scenes and the fast-developing Onslow-Cole / Vos partnership. Throw in two-time 24H DUBAI winner Yelmer Buurman and GT hotshot Rik Breukers to the driver line-up, and RAM’s first 24H podium finish in more than a year is a strong possibility, as is, perhaps, the team’s first series win since 2015. If not in Barcelona, then perhaps in Dubai this coming January, six years on from the British team’s debut.
Don’t ask us what colour the car will be though. We honestly couldn’t tell you…
*Images courtesy of crankandpiston.com