Reigning FIA World Endurance Champion Romain Dumas is hoping his new LMP2 experience in today’s WEC Six Hours of Spa, as well as the Le Mans Test Day, will help in his quest of going for back-to-back wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The former Porsche LMP1 driver has joined the Philippe Sinault-led Signatech Alpine squad for the second round of the WEC season, as well as next month’s French endurance classic, filling in for newly re-signed Toyota driver Nico Lapierre, who formed part of the team’s class-winning lineup last year.
For Dumas, it marks the start of a new chapter, and return to the LMP2 ranks, ten years after scoring his first LMP2 title in the American Le Mans Series with Penske’s Porsche RS Spyder.
“Over the winter I still felt the urge to do Le Mans in LMP2 and when this opportunity with Alpine came I just took it,” Dumas told Sportscar365.
“Alpine is a big name and has always been well-known in France, so it’s great to join them.
“It was a very last minute, but it’s a very good team and excellent opportunity.”
Despite his more recent wealth of experience gained in the Audi and Porsche LMP1 programs, Dumas said he still needs to adjust to the intricacies of the new-look LMP2 class and the new Alpine-badged Oreca 07 Gibson he will share with Matt Rao and American Gustavo Menezes.
“Besides the Prologue at Monza I didn’t do any testing, so I’ve done very little laps,” Dumas said. “It’s a bit different compared to LMP1, especially in terms of braking, because there’s no energy recuperation.
“I will get my very first set of new tires during the race [today], so I’m excited to see what will happen. I think there will be a lot of surprises.”
The new generation of LMP2 cars received a boost in performance, a change that he’s welcomed with his return to the class.
“The LMP2s are really quick, but we run on customer tires,” Dumas said. “The cars would go even quicker if we had development rubber.”
The Frenchman felt that the cars offer a more pure experience for the drivers.
“For the drivers it’s great, you really have to push. Five or six cars can win easily; it’s all-Oreca so everybody has the same performance,” Dumas said.
“You can make the difference with setup and how you manage the tires, but this I don’t know so far.
“It’s a good battle with four cars within one tenth of a second.”
Le Mans might even be an easier weekend according to the versatile driver, as the test day will give him more valuable mileage.
Dumas will also contest the Nürburgring 24 as an factory Porsche GT driver with Manthey Racing later this month.
He won the opening round of the VLN series and will line up alongside Frédéric Makowiecki, Patrick Pilet and Richard Lietz for the Eifel endurance classic.
“After the Nürburgring 24 Hours we will see if there will be any additional outings,” Dumas said. “I’m doing a lot of VLN races this year. I like the track and this kind of race.
“I’m occupied with my own rally program and Pikes Peak just after Le Mans and this takes up a lot of my time.”
Dumas has never limited himself to racing in just one category and has set himself the goal of pursuing the FIA R-GT Cup this year, a rally title dedicated to GT cars.
“It’s only five rallies, but in the past I was never able to complete it because of some clashes. This year I can do it,” he said.
“If we continue with our Porsche rally car, we’ll have to change over from our current 997 to the new 991 at the end of the year. It’s a completely private program though.”