The decision to include the names of both the Gauloises and Fortuna tobacco brands as title sponsors of the four Yamaha MotoGP machines could leave the outfits facing criticism for excessive tobacco advertising.

In 1999, the BAR Formula One team was forced to make a revision to its livery plans when, after unveiling its cars in different colours - one in Lucky Strike livery, the other in 555 - the FIA then insisted that the newcomers adhere to rules stipulating both cars from the same team look identical.

After entering a game of chicken with the governing body, the brash upstart outfit decided to run both cars with one side painted Lucky Strike white and the other 555 blue (lower pic).
Although the BAR livery was one of the worst to 'grace' F1 in recent memory, it wasn't illegal and was raced throughout the team's debut season. But the decision to run two tobacco brands was seen as highly inappropriate at a time when motorsport is under massive pressure to reduce its dependence on cigarette money, and tobacco advertising in general.

As an example of the upset caused, when F1 arrived at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, government ministers from the country - which has some of the toughest anti-tobacco laws in the world - considered protesting to the FIA over what they felt was 'a flagrant attempt to draw attention to two brands'.

FIA president Max Mosley also felt BAR's actions would reflect badly on the image of the sport, but could not force the team to change livery.

However, as a result of the backlash and subsequent bad publicity, the use of more than one tobacco brand - either on a car's livery or in a team name - has never appeared in Formula One since, despite the obvious commercial benefits.

Fast forward to 2004 and Yamaha could now face similar criticism over the team names/livery fielded on the bikes of Valentino Rossi, Carlos Checa, Marco Melandri and Norick Abe (should the Japanese rider be confirmed) for the 2004 MotoGP season.

Gauloises and Fortuna are both owned by the same company, Altadis, and it appears from the newly released updated entry list that it wants two brands on all the M1s.

Previosly, their had been a 'Fortuna Yamaha Team' and a 'Gauloises Yamaha Team', but the factory outfit has now become 'Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha' and the satellite team 'Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3'.

Although it has yet to be confirmed whether Altadis intends to have one rider from each team riding with one livery apiece, it seems more likely both brand names will be present on each of the four Yamahas.

With Rossi commanding the biggest demand from fans for his merchandise, the company can obviously see the benefit of having both brands associated with the champion.

The only real difference between the BAR and Yamaha situations is that Yamaha can at least claim Altadis aren't introducing an additional brand (since both are already present in MotoGP), but that's unlikely to quell the criticism which all involved - including Rossi - will surely face.

The famous #46 has previously stated he is reluctant - although not totally opposed - to racing in tobacco colours, and while many will accept he had little choice but to wear tobacco livery after leaving Repsol Honda, bearing two brands will be much harder to justify.

Protests are as likely from rival tobacco manufacturers within the sport, who will want clarification over multiple branding on riders/team names, as anti-smoking campaigners keen to prevent the influential Italian - and others - becoming walking cigarette billboards.

 

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