Renato "Tico" Martini was born in France of Italian parents. His first racing car was actually a kart which he built while living on the island of Jersey. It was a 650cc Triumph motorcycle-engined hillclimb car which was used at the famous Bouley Bay hillclimb on the island.
Through this he met the Knight brothers who ran the Winfield Racing School at Magny-Cours and in 1963 Martini moved to Magny-Cours to look after the schools fleet of racing cars. This led to him building his first cars in a garage at the circuit, giving them the designation MW (Martini Winfield) and later MK (Martini Knight).
The first cars were for Formule France and F3 and it was not long before Martinis became regular winners with Jacques Laffite giving Martini its first F3 title in 1973.
In 1975 Martini entered Formula 2 with Schnitzer BMW engines and Elf sponsorship and Hugues de Chaunac ran the team which gave Laffite six victories and the European Championship.
There was further success in 1976 with Rene Arnoux and Patrick Tambay and Arnoux won the title again for Martini in 1977.
In 1978 Martini decided to build an F1 car - the MK23 - which was powered by a Cosworth DFV with backing from Elf, RMO and Silver Match. Rene Arnoux was the driver but the car did not have ground effects technology and was uncompetitive. The team failed to qualify in South Africa and Monaco but Arnoux made the field and finished ninth in Belgium. He raced on three other occasions but lack of sponsorship caused the Martini team to pull out of F1 and concentrate on the junior formulae.
The marque's recovery was boosted by Alain Prost's incredible success in the 1979 European Formula 3 series in which he won 7 of the 11 races in a Martini MK27. The company continued to win in F3 right through the 1980s and returned to F2 in 1983-84. In the second season Michel Ferte finished third in the European Championship despite failing to win a race. Martini still build successful cars for F3 and Formule Renault.