In order to assert Rome’s prestige and the unity of the Italic peoples, Julius Caesar gives the go-ahead to a race open to all the peoples of the Known World, intended to be a dazzling showcase for the excellence of Roman roads.
Caesar gives the race organisers one sine qua non condition: the Roman competitor ABSOLUTELY must cross the finish line in the lead! (sport, politics and showmanship already appear to have been intimately connected back then …). Sadly for Caesar, this doesn’t take into account our two Gaulish champions who sign up for the race and threaten to capsize his dreams of greatness …
Now Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad embarked on the long job of conceiving the many different teams brought together by the race. But let’s linger briefly on our Gaulish heroes’ chariot, embellished with a magnificent example of the archetypal symbol of Gaul – a cockerel. One detail, and it’s a significant one, immediately becomes apparent: it is in fact Obelix who is the auriga (the chariot driver) for the Gaulish team, and Asterix is his co-pilot!
“All the characters created by the Goscinny-Uderzo duo have a little something that makes them unique. Asterix, Dogmatix, Vitalstatistix, Panacea … there’s quite a list! But I agree with most keen readers of the saga: my favourite is still the slightly clumsy overgrown child with a big heart! Everyone loves Obelix, starting with me! I felt we needed to give him a more emphatic tribute in this latest album. And I didn’t have any trouble rallying Didier to my cause!”
“Obelix isn’t as simple as he seems. He’s the most childlike character in the series, and therefore the most likely to develop. Anatomically, he’s the most fantastical. His proportions have varied a lot over successive albums. Jean-Yves and I thought it made sense to give him a bigger part to play than usual. This time it’s very much Obelix driving the chariot and the story.”
As illustrated by Didier Conrad, the image whips us along at breakneck speed with our heroes hurtling towards the right-hand side of the page and leading us on to the rest of their adventure. Around them, their auriga competitors from all over the Known World are captured with hilariously determined expressions.