The Le Mans scenes in watercolors on the following four pages are from the brush of a man who wanted to draw automobiles when he was 10 years old. But there was one insurmountable problem: motor cars were practically nonexistent in the remote part of the Sudeten Mountains of Austria (now Czechoslovakia) where Walter Gotschke was born in 1912 and where he lived until he went away to architectural school at the age of 16.
Soon after reaching the city, Gotschke became fascinated by the cars, particularly the racing variety, of which he had dreamed all his life. He abandoned architecture for art and became a professional illustrator for Mercedes and later for the German division of Ford. These vivid episodes from his 1956 Le Mans portfolio bring all the automotive enthusiasm of this distinguished artist to one of motor racing's premier events.
At 4 p.m. this Saturday the starter's flag will dip at the end of a countdown at the Le Mans course in western France. At that moment, 55 helmeted drivers will dash from their ready stations (see sketch left) to the long, silent row of cars across the track. Then the drivers will start their engines and begin the 24-hour Grand Prix of Endurance.
Hotels for miles around the 8.4-mile road course have been booked solid for weeks; campers are already congesting the adjacent green fields; racing enthusiasts are debating the merits of the 15 different makes of entries from four countries. Liveliest speculation concerns whether a powerful Ferrari team can snatch victory from Britain's D Jaguars, Lister-Jaguars and Aston Martins. In the stands and on the fields some 200,000 spectators will be on hand to find out.
Dawn Pinks the sky over long Mulsanne straight at Le Mans, as a D Jaguar, headlights still blazing, leads an Aston Martin
Homestretch at Le Mans is flanked by pits (center) and grandstands. Here an Aston Martin leads a pack of D Jaguars into the first turn after the straight. Press box towers at the extreme right.
Pit stop at night sends Porsche team into action. Driver Von Trips reports to Team Manager Von Hanstein as Co-Driver Von Frankenberg prepares to take over. Mechanics refuel, check car.