Motor Racing in Art – Part One (Work in Progress)

Gottlieb Daimler and his son Paul witness the arrival of the winning car in the reliability trial between Paris and Rouen of 1894. By Carlo Demand.

In truth, there have been many “golden” eras of motor racing but here the Golden Age is taken to be from the earliest days, pre-1900, through to 1914. This period saw the long distance, city to city races on public roads with their inevitable disasters, the huge increase in speeds achieved, the advent of closed-circuit racing, the establishment of the Grand Prix, manufacturers’ racing teams as well as wealthy privateers, drivers who became famous throughout the western world . . . facets which are familiar in motor racing today.
It can equally be called the Heroic Age. Drivers (and riding mechanics) had to be of great determination and courage to be able to handle these cars, most of which were capable of speeds still thought “fast” today but did not possess the brakes, suspension and tyres to match. They deserve, quite simply, to go down in history as heroes.


Click on each thumbnail for the full size picture

One of the first posters to advertise a race meeting, in 1898 at the Spa circuit in Belgium, and to also emphasise speed, rather than just reliability. The car is probably a Benz, with Old Father Time encumbent.

By Georges Gaudy.

The Paris to Madrid “Race of Death” of 1903. Léon Théry’s Decauville leads the de Dietrich of Charles Jarrott. At the end of the first stage, at Bordeaux, the race was stopped because the high number of accidents, some fatal. Crowd control was virtually non-existant. Racing on open roads in France was subsequently banned.
By Carlo Demand.
The box art from an early motor racing board game – if only the crowds really had been this well controlled! Face masks as well as goggles were necessary protection. Both cars seem to be loosely based on Fernand Gabriel’s victorious Mors from the 1903 Paris to Madrid.
(Artist not credited)
“Pour la Coupe, 1905”. The De Dietrich of Arthur Duray during the French eliminatory trials for the 1905 Gordon Bennett Cup race. He was one of the three drivers selected for the French team – he was in fact Belgian but took French citizenship.
By Ernest Montaut.


“Final Instructions”. In 1905, Victor Hémery raised the World Land Speed Record to 109.65 mph, driving the 200hp V8 Darracq.
By Bob Murray.


Lewis Strang on his way to winning the 1908 Briarcliff Road Race (just north of New York) on his Isotta-Fraschini.
By Peter Helck.


The famous French driver Louis Wagner on the giant Fiat S74 leading René Hanriot’s Lorraine-Dietrich in the 1912 French Grand Prix, held at Dieppe. Georges Boillot driving a Peugeot took the laurels for France and Wagner was runner up. A fire put Hanriot out of the race after 10 laps.
By Dexter Brown


More to come . . . !



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