This past weekend saw the first major racing event of 2020: the Rolex 24 at Daytona. One of the liveries caught our attention very early on. It was the comic-style livery of GEAR Racing designed by Andy Blackmore. We had a chat with the now legendary designer about the creative process behind it.
Although the design initially looks like it required a lot of time to get right, the exact opposite was the case. The entire project came together within only a couple of days over Christmas. Initially, the design was only meant to be run in the 'Roar Before the Rolex 24' – the 24 hour race's testing sessions which take place roughly three weeks before the race. Designer Andy Blackmore and the GEAR Racing team have exchanged ideas based on sponsor proposals before.
But literally only days before the Daytona test, the idea for the comic livery was born. “First thoughts about a ROAR event livery for the team to make an entrance was conveyed on the 23rd December. The brief was a one-off livery in the style of an art-car.”
I sat down had a coffee, and thought, maybe I can pull this off.
Incredibly, Andy initially declined the offer as the schedule was really tight, he was fully booked and Christmas was just around the corner. That's three very good reasons, right? But then Andy remembered an idea he's actually had for a while. “I then sat down had a coffee, and thought, maybe I can pull this off.”
He remembered a design he's actually had in his mind for quite some time but never got the chance to convert it into something real. “I’ve had this pop-art Lichtenstein-inspired design in my heart for a while, but most teams have corporate sponsors so it's not usually possible.”
I explained to them I have one hit and that was it.
Remember how the brief came only days before the holiday season? Keeping in mind the Daytona test ran from 3rd to 5th January and wrapping also needed some time, the final design needed to be handed in for production until the 27th December. You know what else is between the 23rd and 27th December? Christmas. These factors really meant that it was one of those hit or miss situations. And, boy, did that one hit. “I sketched the basic idea and sent it over. I explained to them I have one hit and that was it.” The client was very happy and Andy had total freedom over the creative process. As he explains, the usual design process contains about 3 or 4 rounds of revision so this one was certainly in every possible way extraordinary.
Andy then dug up some stock vector graphics, found a typeface fitting the style on his computer and had another close look at the pop-art style of Roy Lichtenstein to finish the design in only four days. For production, he needed to cut the design up so they had to be laid up a certain way. “The engine cover was wrapped first and the the rear fenders and side were then wrapped, covering the outer edge of the pink on the engine cover.
What was certainly useful during the production process was that Andy already had good knowledge of the chassis he was designing for. GEAR Racing fielded a Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO. He had previously designed the livery of the #44 Magnus GRT car for the same chassis which required a lot of attention to detail. “It needed a significant number of measurements taken as that had to follow the lines of the car carefully, so that helped.”
Although the livery was actually supposed to only be run in the pre-race test, is has proved so popular that it was in fact kept for the actual Rolex 24. Would Andy do something like this again, though? “It did end up being a crazy busy Christmas though. I also had 90 cars to illustrate for the IMSA Spotter Guide. I have a very understanding and supportive family. I can’t do that again!”
The highlight was seeing so many kids at the ROAR test standing by the car. As a Dad, that makes my day.
Looking back at the project, it holds a kind of strange place in Andy's career. It's equally one of his most iconic but also the fastest work he's ever produced. Was it worth it, though? “The highlight was seeing so many kids at the ROAR test standing by the car. As a Dad, that makes my day.” It's definitely not only kids who are in love with this livery – we are, too.
Thanks a lot to Andy Blackmore for telling this story! You should definitely make sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram. Keep your eyes out: we will have another story about the career of Andy Blackmore fairly soon!