The Vaillante Le Mans has a rich history and can be considered to be one of the first true racing vehicles to come out of the Vaillante factories. These vehicles are, more often than not, concept cars and usually not street legal. Per season usually only two or three of them are made and, up until 1992, for exclusive use in the 24 Hours of Le Mans races.
Design history Edit
This single-seater is capable of high speeds and manages to continue driving without repair works after a major crash. The car is the first and only unique model to be shown to the readers of the test comic.
A slightly updated model is produced for the next race. Michel reports a whistling sound, something Jean-Pierre had heard as well. Overall, he
is not satisfied with the speeds the initial design is capable of, however, and revises the front. The original model is capable of reaching 275 km/h, of which Jean-Pierre is certain he can squeeze an extra 5 to 20 km/h by adjusting the streamline. During the following 24 Hours, Team Vaillante manages to finish first in the update with an average speed of 183,218 km/h.
Appearances: Album #1: The Great Challenge
In a move that could be considered "crowdsourcing", Vaillante organised a competition to decide on new designs for the new season. Next to the new Concorde and La Boule models, a new Le Mans model was also among the finalists. This design boasted a 3000 cc engine, reported speeds that pushed the 300km/h mark and four were made for use in the 1963 24 Hours competition. The canopy has an half-open top, allowing for a pilot to jump right in after the start of the race. Team Vaillante manages to place top-three with the cars that started; the yellow Le Mans #5 was used for parts and testing purposes and did not partake in the race. To quote Henri Vaillant: "Every Vaillante that starts, needs to be able to make a good impression when, not if, it finishes; it's a matter of prestige."
The model is then used during the Grand Prix Special International of Texas; the new models for use in the Americas are still being tinkered on, so they are not available yet. The car manages to hold it's own against the onslaught of American models, but still the highest position on the podium is 3rd place. Not long after, Team Vaillante is challenged to partake in the Pan American race. While hesitant to enter this dangerous rally and aware that it is a marketing ploy from their American competitors, Team Vaillante still opts to enter the race. However, both the Le Mans and Ouragan models are deemed not capable enough to be entered in this challenge; in the nick of time, Jean-Pierre and his team at the Vaillante factories manage to design, build and transport to the Americas a new Vaillante Marathon.
About one hundred street-legal units of this car were produced by the Vaillante factory for fans of the design, known as the Le Mans GT.
The new model is produced in a much higher quantity: seven prototypes are entered in this year's race. The model takes certain design cues from the GT and GTX1 models and has a hinged canopy that doubles as windscreen. This makes entering for the running start easy, yet still provides an enclosed protection for the driver.
An elegant car which showcases a lot of fluent lines, the next Le Mans model has to compete with the Leader Le Mans model of that year. While the opponent's top speeds are higher, their cars are shown to be prone to defects. Of the three cars that Vaillante starts with, at least one manages to finish (the #6, piloted by Michel); Steve Warson had a crash in the #5 car, but it is unknown if Philip Davis, the #7 pilot, managed to finish.
As part of a sponsoringdeal with German plasticsmanufacturer Hönerplast, two of this year's Le Mans models have been outfitted with large corporate advertising for the company and are driving for Team Hönerplast; the two others, piloted by Michel Vaillant and Yves Douléac, are classified as "factory cars". Due to unspecified reasons, Michel has to drop out, leaving it to Yves to secure a victory. He eventually manages to surpass Team Hönerplast and win the race.
Team Vaillante competes with three teams piloting the concepts. Even though the car is a single-seater, it has an offset driverposition to the right. The car continues the more angular lines set in by its predecessor, but manages to be a more sleeker model overall. It also features a return to the enclosed cockpit, which had been skipped in the '74 model.
Appearances: Album #36: The Lost Driver
Whereas most of the Le Mans models have been used specifically for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Vaillante started to use a single model for their racing activities in 1992. The Vaillante VS 92 model is featured as the factory's main competitor during the World Sportscar Championship; Le Mans being part of it.
This model combines both the more angular lines of the 1980 model with the more organic design from 1970 model. It is mentioned that the VS 92 has less power than its main Leader competitor, but a better streamline. The specifications of this car are as follows:
- V10 Atmospheric engine
- 5 valves per cylinder
- 650 HP at 14000 RPM
- Electromagnetic clutch with 6 transmissions
- Clutch operated from the steering wheel, F1-style
- Self-carrying carbon fibre - kevlar body
- Carbon fiber wheels and brakes
Appearances: Album #55: A Crazy History
Two years later, Vaillante uses two VS94 prototypes exclusively for Le Mans again. Unfortunately, not much details about the car are given. Also, because of a daring rescue operation that brings Michel deep into the headquarters of Leader, it is unknown at which position, if at all, the two prototypes finish this race.
Appearances: Album #59: The Prisoner
The 2004 races are not considered canon, as this album is considered a companion to the Michel Vaillant movie.
Appearances: Album #67: For David
The final model used for a Le Mans race is shown in 2006. Featuring a lot of aggressive lines, none of the two contesting models finish after a doping scandal is uncovered. Jean-Pierre decides to back out of the race and let it be.
Appearances: Album #70: 24 Hours Under the Influence