Rosso Corsa is the red international motor racing colour of cars entered by teams from Italy.
In the Peking to Paris race of 1907, the first to arrive in Paris was Prince Scipione Borghese, an Italian aristocrat, who was accompanied by Luigi Barzini, a journalist who worked for The Daily Telegraph, and a valet, Ettore, who acted as his mechanic and traveled with a supply of Lanson champagne. The prince was so confident of winning that he took a detour from Moscow to St Petersburg for a dinner in honour of the team, and afterwards headed back to Moscow and rejoined the race. Their chief rival was Charles Goddard, a fairground worker and con artist who, until he learned of the race from a scrap of newspaper he found blowing in the wind, had never sat in a motor car and who was arrested for fraud as he approached the finishing line. Goddard, who came second, lacked the resources of Borghese and had to beg fellow competitors for fuel. In a desperate attempt to catch up, he set an endurance record for non-stop driving for 24 hours. The prince's prize was simply a magnum of Mumm champagne, and the red colour of his 1907 Itala car was adopted by Italy as its racing colour in his honour.
Since the 1920s Italian race cars of Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Lancia, and later Ferrari and Abarth have been painted in rosso corsa ("racing red"). This was the customary national racing colour of Italy as recommended between the world wars by the organisations that later became the FIA. In that scheme of international auto racing colours French cars were blue (Bleu de France), British cars were green (British racing green), etc.
In Formula One, the colour was not determined by the country the car was made in nor by the nationality of the driver(s) but by the nationality of the team entering the vehicle. A yellow Ferrari 156 was entered and driven in the 1961 Belgian Grand Prix by Olivier Gendebien from Belgium, scoring 4th behind 3 other Ferrari 156s painted in red as they were entered by the Scuderia Ferrari itself, and driven by US drivers Phil Hill and Richie Ginther as well as German Wolfgang von Trips.
Ferrari won the 1964 World championship with John Surtees by competing the last two races in Ferrari 158 cars painted white and blue -the national colours of the teams from the United States- as these were entered not by the Italian factory themselves but by the US-based NART team. This was done as a protest against the agreement between Ferrari and the Italian Racing Authorities regarding their planned mid-engined Ferrari race car.
National colours were mostly replaced in Formula One by commercial sponsor liveries in 1968, but unlike most other teams, Ferrari always kept the traditional red but the shade of the colour varies. Since 1996 Ferrari F1 cars are painted in a brighter, almost orange day-glo to adjust for colour balance on television screens. The original Rosso Corsa may appear almost dark brown in older television sets. The darker more crimson or claret-like shade of red made a return on the F1 cars at the 2007 Monaco Grand Prix, possibly in line with the increasing market presence of higher quality high definition television.
Red cars are also traditional in Alfa Romeo and Ferrari car running in other motorsport champsionships, such as Supertouring championships in the former and the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 24 Hours of Daytona in the latter. In contrast, since the 2000s Maserati has been using white and blue and Abarth has been using white with red flashes.
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