Romain Dumas: PH Meets


Romain Dumas has taken victory at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in three of the last four years, and will be favourite for glory again in this weekend's event - but the challenge will be very different this time.

The Frenchman has previously driven his own Norma sports prototype, serving as team boss and driver. But this year he'll be driving for the works Volkswagen Motorsport team, and will be aiming to set a new electric hill record in the 680hp ID R Pikes Peak.

Before he takes control of the 680hp and 470lb ft of his 1,100kg EV, we sat down with him to discuss the challenges he'll face in the 155 turns of the 12.42-mile Colorado hill climb.


The ID R Pikes Peak is based on the same underpinnings as the Norma you've driven previously. How much input did you have into it?
"At the start the target for the ID took a lot of parts from my car. But when you know Volkswagen, you know they change a lot of things to improve the car. Only a small amount of parts are still the same.
"The biggest point of interest for them is to share what we've learned for the last five years. The rear wing is largely the same and the front has a lot of similar points, but the rest of the car is completely different: we can't compare the weight, the battery, the electric engines."

Did you make any suggestions to Volkswagen for the car?
"No, because they are more intelligent than I am. By the end of last year, we were in a bit of a dead end, development-wise. We were close to Peugeot's time [Sebastien Loeb's hill record from 2013] but we always had issues that come when you don't practice and lack money, so the target was to attract a manufacturer. When Volkswagen contacted me to say 'we can do this and this and this', I was like a kid with big eyes."


Will there be more pressure driving for a manufacturer rather than in your own team?
"No, for me the last five years were a lot more complicated. Volkswagen was very kind to keep the key people around me, which is good for me and my guys, because the story continues.
"I first spoke to Volkswagen around Pikes Peak last year, and it's very exciting. When you do it with your own team you have to find partners and sponsors, and prepare the car, fly the mechanics, fly the car - you have stress.
But you're still running cars in Pikes Peak, aren't you?
"My team is entering two Porsches - one historic and one modern - so all my guys will still go. We'll all still be there, which is cool. But there will be a team boss looking after them, so I can focus on driving."

This will be your first run in an electric car. Have you ever been tempted to race in Formula E?
"I've never been excited by Formula E. At Pikes Peak, electric is the best concept you can have in terms of performance because you don't lose power. You have a disadvantage about the weight, but we all have smartphones and you can see batteries getting lighter and lasting longer. For me, electric is the best choice - it's not a compromise."


You competed at Le Mans last weekend. Given how short it is, is Pikes Peak easy by comparison?
"In 2016 I won Le Mans [with Porsche] and did stints of three hours, and went straight to Pikes Peak for nine minutes. But at Pikes Peak you test in the morning from 0600-0830hrs, so you have to be there at 0500hrs every morning, and so you wake up at four.
"When it's your own team you stay up until 0200hrs for one week. I've done the Dakar Rally and, I tell you, I was more tired doing Pikes Peak than Dakar. Not in terms of driving, but with the altitude and running my own team, it's exhausting.
"In 2016, we had to make a new intercooler the night before the race, and the team worked through the night. They came banging on my door at 0500hrs, going 'hey Romain, we need money to pay the welder.' I think it will be less stressful this year."

What's the appeal of hillclimbing?
"For me, hillclimb drivers are the most crazy and talented drivers in the world. We speak about F1, and when they do a qualifying run in Monaco, people say 'it's the best with the adrenaline and the barriers are so close', but hillclimb drivers do that every weekend. It's something really special."

James Attwood

 

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Comments (3) Join the discussion on the forum

  • LotusOmega375D 21 Jun 2018

    "But when you know Volkswagen, you know they change a lot of things to improve the car."

    Yes I think the whole world knows that by now! laugh

  • Digga 21 Jun 2018

    LotusOmega375D said:
    "But when you know Volkswagen, you know they change a lot of things to improve the car."

    Yes I think the whole world knows that by now! laugh
    Don't mock. It's no mean feat fudging emissions data on an EV.

  • Alex Langheck 22 Jun 2018

    Top driver is Romain - and a modern day 'all rounder'. And is due a bit of luck after retiring from both N24 and Le Mans....

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