British Grand Prix, 75th anniversary, liveries, Ducati, Honda, Yamaha, Aprilia, Valentino Rossi, Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner

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Sportem
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No matter the sport, a visual nod to the past always plays well with the present – think retro footy jumpers of yore, old one-day cricket kits given a new (and less snug-fitting) twist, and soccer shirts with a wistful link to a bygone era.

MotoGP is getting in on the ‘old is new’ visual cue this year too, with series promoter Dorna announcing that all 11 teams among its five manufacturers – Honda, Yamaha, KTM, Aprilia and Ducati – will run special one-off liveries for this year’s 75th anniversary of the world championship at the British Grand Prix in August, round 10 of the season.

The possibilities are endless, the logistics only constrained by imagination and budget, and the debates as to what each team and marque should use sure to light up social media between now and August.

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It’s part of a wider initiative for the sport to pay tribute to its past – the world championship kicked off in the Isle of Man in June 1949 – with the podium presentations at Silverstone, the appearance of the safety car and the presentation of the entire event taking on a vintage feel.

While avoiding the wording of the tobacco branding that was ubiquitous in the sport until the mid-2000s, iconic colour schemes that were synonymous with the success of each brand might be on the menu at Silverstone in July.

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But what should the grid look like? Most teams and brands have their own stories to tell, while others – like KTM – have raced with ostensibly the same colour scheme ever since they entered the world championship in the now-defunct 125cc category in the early 2000s, making any throwback look like a variation on a look we’re already very familiar with.

Five paint schemes we’d like to see reprised? These.

HONDA: THE AUSTRALIAN GP ERA

Wayne Gardner’s Honda livery of the late 80s was synonymous with the sport taking off Down Under. (Photo by Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Honda may be MotoGP’s modern-day doormat – the manufacturer sits dead-last in the constructors’ standings and its highest-scoring rider (Joan Mir) is 18th in a championship raced by 22 full-timers – but its past is glorious.

Honda’s list of multiple premier-class world champions reads like a who’s who of the sport – Freddie Spencer, Mick Doohan, Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez – while the iconic Repsol Honda livery has a 30-year lineage, much of which has been spent on top of podiums the world over.

For Silverstone? Why not reprise the Rothmans-sponsored bikes of the 80s, used by Spencer and – more memorably for bike fans closer to home – Wayne Gardner to win Australia’s first world title in 1987?

Gardner was largely responsible for Australia getting a world championship round, with the 500cc championship first coming to these shores in 1989 off the back of Gardner’s popularity at Phillip Island – a Grand Prix he duly won. As a change-up on Honda’s current orange scheme we now rarely see at the front of races, a nod to a more successful past era would be fitting.

HONDA (OR DUCATI): ROSSI’S FIRST WINNER

Rossi, resplendent in yellow, didn’t take long to get started in 2000. (Photo by Getty Images/Michael Cooper/Allsport)Source: Getty Images

With KTM’s bikes largely looking the same for years, we’ll give Honda two entries here – an either/or conundrum. For a splash of brightness, why not rekindle memories of Rossi’s early premier-class career before he shifted to the Repsol Honda squad at Silverstone?

The Italian’s maiden 500cc (nee MotoGP) win came on English soil, too – the 2000 British Grand Prix at Donington Park, the ninth race of his top-flight career while riding for the Nastro Azzurro Honda team. It was the first of 89 500cc/MotoGP victories, and adds another colour to the modern-day palette.

Rossi could, of course, employ a personal touch and run his 2000 paint scheme on the Ducatis used by Marco Bezzecchi and Fabio Di Giannantonio for his eponymous VR46 team in this year’s championship; while all 89 of those wins came on Honda or Yamaha machinery and his own disastrous two-year dalliance with Ducati (2011-12) produced just three podiums and isn’t a favourite talking point for his legion of fans, it’s an option to bring the past of “The Doctor” into the present.

APRILIA: MEMORIES OF MAX

Biaggi and Aprilia meant 250cc wins for a good chunk of the mid-1990s (Photo by Getty Images/Simon Bruty/ALLSPORT)Source: Getty Images

Max Biaggi’s top-tier career didn’t work out exactly as he wanted – arch-rival Rossi had plenty to do with that between 1998-2005 – but Biaggi was a 250cc world championship machine for Aprilia in the mid-90s, the “Roman Emperor” winning 22 races and three intermediate-class titles on the bounce for the Italian manufacturer between 1994-96.

With Aprilia’s own MotoGP history short (from 2015 to today) and mostly modest (four wins since 2022), it makes the most sense to rekindle memories of the Noale brand’s grandest time in the world championship paddock and have Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales run Biaggi’s old, menacing, black paint job for Silverstone in August.

Oversize, 90s-font fluorescent yellow numbers included, naturally …

YAMAHA: BACK TO THE BEGINNING

Spies has fond memories of Yamaha’s retro livery at Assen in 2011. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Yamaha’s presence in modern-day MotoGP – just two bikes compared to eight for Ducati and four each for Honda, KTM and Aprilia – is woefully modest given the impact the brand has had since Englishman Phil Read won Yamaha’s first world championship in the 250cc class in 1964. So it’s the 60s Yamaha should return to – again – for Silverstone in July.

While the yellow and black ‘bumblebee’ paint job used by American Kenny Roberts Sr to win Yamaha’s world titles in the 70s catches the eye, they were Yamaha USA’s corporate colours.

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Yamaha’s world championship past was acknowledged at the 2011 Dutch TT for its 50th racing anniversary, Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies racing with a white and red livery that the team’s current test rider Cal Crutchlow has sported on wildcard appearances since. Spies would remember it more fondly than most, given his sole MotoGP victory came at Assen on that anniversary 13 years ago.

It’s iconic, clean and suitably retro, should Yamaha elect to utilise it for Fabio Quartararo and Alex Rins in August.

DUCATI: A FAMOUS ONE-OFF OUTLIER

Bayliss stepped in – and stepped onto the top step of the podium – at Valencia in ‘06. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

It’s hard to imagine now, but Ducati took a long time to come to the boil when the Italian manufacturer first came into what had been renamed as MotoGP in 2002 one year later.

Loris Capirossi – now MotoGP’s safety advisor – won on Ducati’s sixth start at Catalunya in 2003, but it took the arrival of Casey Stoner in 2007 to take a title – and nearly six years after the Australian’s 2010 departure for Honda for Ducati to start winning semi-regularly again.

Now, with Ducati riders occupying the top four places in the championship and having won 23 of the past 27 Grands Prix dating back to last year, a less successful era seems a world away. But paying tribute to its past – an overtly tobacco-funded one until 2010 which may need a tweak or two to conform to 2024 sponsorship standards at Silverstone – seems fitting.

For Aussie fans, how about Ducati acknowledges one of its most famous wins with Troy Bayliss and his remarkable one-off Valencia 2006 victory as an injury replacement, a triumph that was overshadowed by the memorable championship battle between Rossi and Nicky Hayden?

Ducati has won 93 Grands Prix (and counting) in the past 21 years, but Bayliss’ was one of the most left-field – and most celebrated.

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