Alain Menu will play the part of comic book character Michel Vaillant at the next World Touring Car Championship round in Portugal.
Created in 1957 by French artist Jean Graton, Vaillant has starred in the 'Adventures of Michel Vaillant, published in numerous comic books. Publishers Dupuis are creating a new series based upon the WTCC.
Menu's Chevrolet Cruze will be liveried up to look like Vaillant's Vaillante racing car next week at the Autodromo Internacional de Algarve.
“I'm happy and excited at the same time, because Michel Vaillant was a great part of my youth,” said Menu. “When I was a kid and teenager I used to read all his comic books several times over, dreaming I would become a F1 driver. To be Michel Vaillant is something I never expected!”
Menu's team boss Eric Neve will also be involved, playing the part of Jean-Pierre Vaillant – Michel's elder brother and Vaillante's head of motorsport.
“We have been working to change the whole look,” said Neve. “The racing overall of Alain/Michel, the team's uniforms, the livery of the car, the truck and the garage. There are also other implications, as we will be visiting the Club Michel Vaillant in Brussels. The main reason why we do this is to promote the championship, because we know that comic books will stay on the shelves of people for the next generation to come.”
Graton's son Philippe will attend the Portuguese event.
“The most amazing thing about Michel Vaillant is that he races somewhere between fiction and reality,” said Philippe. “His stories have always been so accurate and realistic that professional drivers declared they wouldn’t be surprised to see him actually appearing on a racetrack.
“Well, this is going to happen! Never has another comic strip described a world with such realism, nor inspired so many vocations of drivers, journalists and designers. The influence of Michel Vaillant on today’s motorsport is undisputed, and this sympathetic event in Portugal is obviously a wink, but with a true and symbolic meaning.
“I wanted to give Michel Vaillant a new start. If he stays on top of Formula One, and Vaillante is the most successful manufacturer, where is the adventure? There are times, for a hero, to be challenged again, to be thrown back into the lion pit, to find himself alone and having to prove his value again. The WTCC is a perfect place for that, as its drivers are among the best, but they are not victims of stardom. They are strong and tough and the championship is about true racing, not celebrity and money. The WTCC cars don’t look like spaceships, they are close to those you see on the road. This is the perfect place for Michel Vaillant to be tested again and for him to understand if his love for racing is still intact.”