The new Le Mans movie
You may not know about the return of the film industry to Le Mans for the first time since Steve McQueen's epic of the 1970 race. In 1997 a works Courage carried the Vaillant name and the legendary number 13 after one of the Michel Vaillant stories. Now in 2002 the cartoon character becomes the subject of a new film directed by Luc Besson. The Vaillant is opposed by the "baddies" the Leader team and although I know the eventual result I will not spoil the story!
Michel Vaillant is the creation of Jean Graton born in Nantes in 1923 the year of the first Le Mans 24hrs race. His inspiration was a visit to the to the race age 13 perched on the back of his fathers motorcycle, "To a young boy like me, it was an extraordinary experience, which marked me forever. I adored the special atmosphere of this race from the very first. We were opposite the pits and I still remember the noise of the engines reverberating off the stands and the sight of the headlights piercing the night".
Jean Graton's career started with the Magazine Spirou in 1952 and then he moved to the Tintin magazine. After several short mainly sporting series he was advised to create his own character. Those early memories inspired him to create a young racing driver aiming to win the 24 hours. He named him Vaillant (courageous) and the Christian name was after the son of a neighbour.
Jean's guidance came from many sources including Pierre Stasse one of the founders of the Francorchamps team. Lucian Bianchi gave him much advice and was one of the few real drivers to feature in the stories. In time Jacky Ickx, Michele Alboreto, Didier Pironi and Francois Cevert would all be beaten by Michel Vaillant and to win they would have to join the team.
Thus far six million Euro has been spent in bringing the Vaillant (Lola) and Leader (Panoz) to Le Mans. The cars have to comply fully with the Le Mans rules and the production team are praying that both cars complete the race and rain does not fall. The filming will continue in July and August and DAMS are currently building 26 "prototypes" for the main filming. Whilst the roads will be closed at times for the filming only the race can provide the crowds and start and finish scenes that are so important to the film.
The books have been published in French, Dutch, German, Italian, Polish and Portuguese. Sadly Michel has not caught on in England but then we have Roy of the Rovers!
However perhaps all I have said about this "fictional Character" may be my own little fairy tale as we find in the official Le Mans Press information book the following information in the section that lists all the Le Mans drivers. He is listed of French nationality and married with one child. His first competition experience was a rally in 1957 and that year was his first Le Mans when he finished second. He is listed as having competed eight times with wins in 58, 62, 68 and 92. He has also won the Monte Carlo and Liege Rome Rally in 1957 and in 1958 he won Indy and the German GP. He has won the Indy 500 three times as well as the Daytona 24hrs and Sebring 12 hours. In 1974 he won his First F1 World Championship and repeated the feat in 78. 80 and 93. In 1982 he again showed his versatility by winning the Paris Dakar Rally. Eat your heart out Michael Schumacher!
Copyright© 2002 Club Arnage
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