Viral > Lesson

A feel-good story about the Formula 1 halo safety device

A great tragedy, a great cause and a great marketing campaign

Don't laugh now: The McLaren MCL33's halo device is actually helping a good cause. INSTAGRAM POST BY GANDYS

If you’re a serious Formula 1 fan, you know that the cars won’t look the same when the 2018 season kicks off this weekend at the Australian Grand Prix. That’s largely due to the addition of the so-called halo cockpit protection system, which is supposed to shield the driver from flying debris and other loose objects in the event of a crash.

The new cars have been ridiculed by many observers, saying they now look like flip-flop sandals. And they’re not entirely wrong.

So now McLaren, one of the most accomplished teams in the motorsport series, has thought of a way to turn the comical into something altruistic. Maybe somebody on the team thought: “If people are going to laugh at our cars, we might as well use the entertainment value to promote a good cause.”

That good cause is McLaren’s collaboration with Gandys, a British apparel brand that donates 10% of its profits to philanthropy—particularly that which benefits orphans.

The MCL33 Halo flip-flops from Gandys and McLaren will be sold to benefit orphans. INSTAGRAM POST BY GANDYS

You see, the founders of Gandys—the brothers Rob and Paul Forkan—lost both their parents during the catastrophic tsunami that hit Southeast Asia in 2004. At the time, their parents had been involved in charity work in the region. To honor their father and mother, the siblings put up Orphans For Orphans, a foundation that seeks to provide shelter and care to underprivileged children. They planned to fund the foundation with a portion of their earnings from their company, whose first product was a simple pair of flip-flops.

The McLaren peeps liked what the brothers were trying to do, and offered to partner with them in producing and selling a limited-edition pair of “MCL33 Halo” flip-flops. All profits—as in 100% of the sales—will go directly to the foundation, which, by the way, has already opened a home for children in Sri Lanka.

There’s also a sweet lesson to be learned here. One of the brothers (Paul) had to give up his job and life in Australia in order to help establish both Gandys and Orphans For Orphans. It was definitely a gamble on his part, with the first few years of the company forcing him to question the wisdom of his decision.

Today, Gandys is not only successful, it is also universally admired. Best of all, the Forkan brothers are traveling back to Australia this weekend not as employees or tourists, but as business partners of the McLaren Formula 1 team.

If you want to order the flip-flops once they’re available, go to the Gandys online store.

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist since July 1995. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.