As if winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright wasn’t enough, Romain Dumas continued his streak of good form to take his second victory at the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb just one week later.
The Frenchman had a very successful June, winning two highly prestigious races in two very different prototypes. Nevertheless, he still sees similarities between the two events.
“It’s always a challenge,” Dumas told Sportscar365. “Pikes Peak is only one try, and you only have one time. If you have an issue, it’s all over.
“Le Mans is the same right now because if you have an issue, the competition is so high, the victory is over.
“In Le Mans with Porsche, we have more than 200 people working in the workshop but for Pikes Peak I have my team and Norma, so let’s say ten people maximum.
“It’s a little bit different but both challenges are very interesting.”
He took a Norma M20 RD Limited Spec-2016 run by his own team in conjunction with Norma Auto Concept to the top of Pikes Peak in 8:51.445 to become the first French driver to win the event twice.
“Norbert Santos, the boss of Norma, I’ve known for more than 20 years because he had a team when I was young and we were always friends,” he explained.
“I had never driven for him before but in 2012 when I decided to do Pikes Peak, it was clear than I needed to drive a Norma because it was always a very quick car for hillclimbs.
“Year after year, we improved the car step-by-step, and it’s been getting better and better now.
“I had already won it in 2014, and this year was a big challenge because we made a small prototype with four-wheel drive.
“It was completely new and going from Le Mans to racing at Pikes Peak with the Norma was not easy but at the end it was a bit of a dream to try to win both races.
“I knew that Le Mans would be harder than Pikes Peak, but it was a big challenge and at the end, all was good.”
Dumas, along with team-mates Neel Jani and Marc Lieb, won Le Mans this year after a shock failure for the leading Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Kazuki Nakajima with just four minutes on the clock.
“When it slowed down, I thought they had done it on purpose to try and avoid doing one more lap, but I was thinking they made a mistake in judging it,” he said about the stricken Toyota.
“When we saw the car was slowing down, the first person who said that they had an issue was Brendon Hartley. I told him, ‘No, on the pit box, they don’t look unhappy, they haven’t moved at all.’
“So we didn’t expect them to have an issue. But when I saw the sector times dropping by 20 or 30 seconds, I understood that something was wrong.”
It was an unexpected win for the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid, but still a very well-deserved one.
“In the first five or ten minutes you are really happy, and you cannot say you are sorry for them because you’re happy you won the race. But as I said straight away on the TV, I felt really bad for them because I know how difficult it is to win a race like that.
“It happened one time to me at the Nürburgring, when I DNFed after 23 hours and 59 minutes. This was in the Nürburgring 24, but not Le Mans: and Le Mans is something even more special.
“I felt very bad after that for them but it also shows that you cannot predict anything in motorsport. Like always, you can prepare, you can do a lot of simulation and sometimes more.
“Sometimes you have an issue after five hours or one hour, but sometimes you have it after 23 hours and 56 minutes. I’m very sad for them, but that’s a part of the game, unfortunately.”
After the LMP1 hybrids had all suffered from mechanical problems in the two FIA World Endurance Championship rounds leading into Le Mans, the battle for the overall win was always going to be very open and one very much of attrition.
“At the start, we were expecting Toyota to be a little bit slower than us, and actually in the first pit stop straight away we had an issue with the wheel nut,” Dumas said. “It would not come loose so we lost 40 seconds.
“In the end they were as strong as us. We had two punctures, they had one puncture, but at the end, it was just as tight of a match as ever.
“It was an incredible race. Now our competition is so high, it’s like Formula One for 24 hours.”
Leading the championship after Le Mans, the plan is clear for Dumas and his team-mates for the rest of the WEC season, which returns with the Six Hours of Nürburgring later this month.
“The aim is to win the LMP1 championship and try to win the manufacturers’ championship,” he said.
“The others are also strong and we don’t need to have mistakes but we need to do our job like we’ve done since the start of the year, and we need to see what will happen.
“Again, we have to take an advantage on the next two or three races, to try and score big points.”