24h Le Mans
14/09/2018 - 09:01

Jo Siffert (2) - The Tale in Words and Pictures

In 1968, Jo Siffert became the first Swiss driver to secure pole position in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and to win a Formula One Grand Prix. The legendary driver even inspired a comic book published by Paquet. Michel Janvier (illustrator) and Olivier Marin (writer) worked closely with Siffert’s children Véronique and Philippe and enlisted the help of Jacques Deschenaux, the driver’s friend and biographer.
Jo Siffert (2) - The Tale in Words and Pictures

“In March 2012, I met Philippe Siffert at a sponsorship evening for a young Swiss driver in Geneva,” says Olivier Marin. “He was on the Jo Siffert watch stand and I was signing my Les Enquêtes auto de Margot albums opposite. We hit it off and I asked him how he would feel about seeing his father’s life story in comic book form. He was keen, provided he could approve every stage. So, I went to Michel Janvier, who I knew was a motorsports fan and would be the right illustrator. And we took it from there!”

“A few years ago, at a festival in Amboise - St Ouen les Vignes, I got talking to Olivier Marin about comics and cars. I didn’t know him very well then,” says Michel Janvier. I clearly remember the moment when Olivier said ‘I’d like to do the biography of the Swiss racing driver Jo Siffert. have you heard of him?’ I replied that I saw him race in 1967, so yes, I was interested.”

Philippe and Véronique supplied lots of family documents and approved every page of the album
Michel Janvier, illustrator

Olivier Marin worked closely with Philippe Siffert and his sister Véronique to draft the script for the album: “I was mostly in contact with Philippe in the beginning, says Olivier Marin. I wet to his office in Fribourg to pick up documents, and a couple of books and DVDs. Then he left us to work and didn’t interrupt in any way. Michel sent his finished strips for approval and everything went without a hitch.”

“Philippe and Véronique supplied lots of family documents and approved every page of the album,” says Michel Janvier. “I felt part of the family. I met them on 24 October 2015 at the annual memorial for Jo. They were very young when their father died [Véronique was born in 1969 and Philippe was born in 1971 a few months before Siffert’s fatal accident], and there were a few stories they learned of through the script of the album.”

Jacques Deschenaux, Siffert’s biographer and best friend also helped, especially in getting the likeness right, an important aspect of a biography in comic book form.

The close collaboration has given rise to an original script that places Jo Siffert’s life and adventures in the turbulent context of his era. Read the next instalment in the series to find out more.

Photo (Copyright ACO Archives): Siffert’s daughter Véronique was born in 1969, the year of Siffert’s fifth Le Mans 24 Hours. Here he is pictured at the wheel of the Porsche 908 he shared with Briton Brian Redman.