Do you remember the moment when you fell in love with cars and racing? For Chris Workman, the author / illustrator of a new children’s book project called The Longest Day, his passion for racing was born when he attended his first live race event.
“I kept thinking about the excitement I felt when I went that first IndyCar race at Road America with my father and older brother, and how I fell in love with racing when I experienced the visceral power of those amazing cars go rocketing by. I was hooked – and that moment was so much more meaningful sharing it with my family. It is something I have shared with my daughter – at Road Atlanta and again at Road America – and something I can’t wait to share with my sons.”
But rather than use an IndyCar race, The Longest Day celebrates this special bonding experience against an iconic backdrop, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the 1950s. Creator Chris Workman said, “Sometimes inspiration comes from the smallest things. I bought this Hot Wheels Jaguar D-Type painted in distinctive Ecurie Ecosse deep blue while doing some consulting work with Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) over a decade ago. It has been sitting on a shelf in my home office for years. And when I decided I wanted to take develop a children’s book, for whatever reason, that car immediately flashed into my mind.”
The Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-Type is the focal point of a story that encapsulates both the drama of endurance racing with childhood race adventures and bonding between a boy and his father. As noted below, The Longest Day project has made tremendous headway. Workman is self-publishing the book to raise funds for a global autism charity, Generation Rescue, and has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise the capital necessary to bring the book to market early 2015.
Decade in the Making
As a passionate race fan and car guy, Workman has been contemplating creating The Longest Day for years. “Since I began reading books to my daughter ten years ago I had this seed of a thought in the back of my head to work on picture book. This desire picked up in earnest several years ago as I was reading books to my son,” said Workman.
Similar to fellow children’s book author and illustrator Dwight Knowlton, Workman searched for a compelling, authentic story about cars and racing to share with my kids. “There are some decent books available designed for really young kids, but I just didn’t find anything about cars or racing quite like what I was looking for. The seed began to germinate – and the general storyline for The Longest Day began to gel in my head.”
The creative thought process wandered down a few different paths. “At first I was thinking about the book characters being animated cars themselves, with the main character being Scurry (built from “Ecurie”) but I ruled that out as it felt overdone at that point.” Development was “leisurely”, but after Workman’s youngest son was born in 2013 the thought process accelerated.
“I wanted to complete the book at a point where both my sons would be able to enjoy it, so I began to map out the storyline and research what it would take to bring the book to life. While doing some market research I stumbled upon information about The Little Red Racing Car. I owe quite a bit to Dwight – when I realized that he was pursuing a similar thought, and was seeing some success…well, it gave me the spark I needed to get serious about bringing The Longest Day to life.”
Trip Back in Time
The Longest Day is a reference to grueling test of endurance that is the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which has always been one of Workman’s favorite race events. Thanks to that little blue Hot Wheels D-Type, the 1956 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans set the storyline for The Longest Day. “I have always been drawn to sports racing cars from the 1950s – they are so beautiful in form and epitomize the Golden Age of the sport. Plus, 1956 was the year of Ecurie Ecosse’s first Le Mans win – I love the fact that Ecurie Ecosse pulled off a huge win over the factory Jaguar, Aston Martin and Ferrari teams.”
While the race itself provided plenty of drama, Workman wanted to build a storyline that provided deeper meaning for the audience. Enter a young boy named Jamison and his father, two small-town Scots who make their way to Le Mans to embark on a race adventure together. Jamison’s father raced at Le Mans himself and is ecstatic to be able to share this amazing experience with his son.
“I knew I wanted to focus on the relationship-building event the trip to Le Mans becomes for Jamison and his father. Once I decided the basic storyline writing that aspect of the story was pretty easy,” said Workman. “It came straight from the heart based on my own personal experiences – both with my kids and what I’ve experienced at the track with others. I kept thinking how cool it would be as a young kid to be at Le Mans, watching those Jaguar, Aston Martins and Ferraris surging by on the Mulsanne. Or enjoying the dazzling dance of the headlights from high up in the Ferris Wheel. I don’t know how a little kid couldn’t fall in love with racing in that environment!”
The Le Mans Adventure Unfolds
We’ll leave additional details on the storyline for when the book is launched next April, but here is a little taste of the action. Jamison and his father make their way from Scotland to France for the event, and serendipitously run into a friend while in the village of Le Mans for scrutineering. This friend is David, the team owner of Ecurie Ecosse, who invites the father and son to visit the team’s garage in town and pits before the race.
Jamison gets an up-close look at the D-Type and meets team driver Ron Flockhart – and immediately decides that Ecurie Ecosse is “his” team. The race adventures of the pair continue from there as they cheer the #4 Jaguar as they battle against the factory teams for outright victory in The Longest Day.
Focus on Authenticity
Workman focused a great deal of attention towards detail and authenticity. “First and foremost I want to create a product that a car guy will look at and be able to connect with. I know that little tinge of excitement I feel when I see a race car I know and love someplace unexpected, and I wasn’t prepared to proceed with this project if I couldn’t get authorization to use primary cars in the book. It just wouldn’t be the same. And, getting approval to use the Le Mans name and track was vital to the story.”
So far Jaguar, Aston Martin, Porsche, the ACO, the Ecurie Ecosse race team and Sir Stirling Moss have all granted approval to use names and representative illustrations in the book. A few of these entities may even get more involved and help promote the book. “I am truly blessed and thankful to have the support I’ve received from all involved. Being able to draw the cars true to form in their native race environment is an astounding opportunity.”
In addition to the featured cars, readers will find quite a collection of obscure race and road cars from the era mixed into the book. “I’ve had fun with the secondary cars. In researching the book there are cars I hadn’t heard of before and to keep the book as engaging as possible I’ve sprinkled them throughout.” The collection is so diverse there may even be a trivia contest on the book’s website or via social media.
Authenticity was a core tenet of the storyline as well. Workman has studied several accounts of the race itself, most notably from the book, Le Mans 24 Hours 1949-1959 – The Official History by Quentin Spurring, and has used these details to tell the tale of Ecurie Ecosse’s victory over the world’s best factory teams of the era. The only deviation from the actual events comes through a sense of timing. In reality, this race was settled with around six hours to go – however for The Longest Day the timing of the #8 Aston Martin’s mechanical ailments was bumped up closer to the finish. But, by no means was a fictitious, multi-car frantic race to the finish fabricated for the sake of drama.
For a Good Cause
In addition to his own passion for the sport, another key driver for Workman to bring The Longest Day to market is a desire to raise funds and awareness for autism. “I have several family members with autistic children and I wanted to focus on a charity that is committed to helping families with autistic children get the education and therapy they need while maximizing their quality of life. Generation Rescue is a perfect match, and their global presence aligns well with the markets I will be targeting with the book.”
Final book pricing has yet to be set – that will depend on the success of the Indiegogo campaign – however Workman has committed 15% of all printed books sold through his website and Amazon storefront once the book is available for purchase next year. He is working on a final donation value for planned eBooks and other related merchandise.
How You Can Help
Which brings us full circle – how Sports Car Digest readers, as avid vintage car and racing enthusiasts, can help bring this story to life. The biggest assistance comes in the form of helping fund this effort through Indiegogo. (As an aside, check out the campaign video for The Longest Day; you’ll likely spot a few familiar vehicles from the Sports Car Digest garage). Also, engaging with the project on Facebook and Twitter is also encouraged. And of course, share information on the book with other friends and family members who would be interested in the content.
“Any support advocates are willing to provide is greatly appreciated,” said Workman. “The Longest Day will hopefully be one of many books. What is cool about starting this storyline in 1956 with a boy who is seven is it opens up an additional six decades of racing history and action to a completely integrated storyline. Jamison could be inserted into just about any racing event in any era as his life progresses; discussions have already begun with several entities about books two, three and four so it will be exciting to see how this progresses.”