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Gulf Oil, Gulf Racing End Backing Agreement

Mike Wainwright explains the background behind Gulf Racing team’s split from Gulf Oil…

Photo: Porsche

Gulf Oil will no longer back Gulf Racing’s GTE-Am Porsche 911 RSR but the team will continue with its name for the rest of the 2019-20 FIA World Endurance Championship.

The Gulf Racing machine is in a new livery for the second round of the season at Fuji Speedway this weekend.

This design change reflects the sudden end of Gulf Oil’s sponsorship just before the start of the campaign, but the team – which trades as Gulf Racing (UK) – had already registered its entry name and cannot change it per WEC rules.

Wainwright, who was responsible for the team’s Gulf association and co-drives the car with Ben Barker and Andrew Watson, explained the background to the decision.

“My contact at Gulf was with [former international vice president] Frank Rutten, who has recently retired and gone on to do other things,” he told Sportscar365.

“A new person came in, and they wanted to go in one direction which was more around the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“If you’re doing something with Gulf, it’s pretty dominant. You’re not going to do anything else, so I said it doesn’t make sense for us – we’d rather go in a different direction.

“From my perspective, it’s no hard feelings. We’re just doing something different.”

The new black and orange livery was designed and applied by the team just after the 4 Hours of Silverstone, which it contested with Gulf colors but without official backing from the oil company.

“We didn’t have the Gulf stickers on the car at Silverstone,” said Wainwright. “It was too last minute to make the change, but we’ve done it now.

“The big thing to decide on is obviously the name, Gulf Racing. It’s the name of the team and the company. We can’t change mid-year because of the race license in WEC, but possibly next calendar year we could change it [in time for the 2020-21 season].

“It doesn’t bother me but having the Gulf name in the team name will obviously lead to questions.”

When asked if Gulf backing could return for Le Mans next year, Wainwright suggested that if it does, it likely won’t be with his car.

“I do think there will be another Gulf car at Le Mans. We’ll see what happens. We have our car but would Gulf try to do something at Le Mans for themselves? Possibly.

“Would I expect a Gulf-liveried car at Le Mans? If it’s not us, yes. We saw in LMP1 last year, DragonSpeed made a deal with Gulf to run the design.

“It’s a new direction so it’s a complete change in terms of the makeup of the car. I don’t need to be with Gulf and, therefore, won’t be with Gulf going forward.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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