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Romain Dumas in portrait: Porsche works driver and all-rounder

Hans-Dieter Seufert
Portrait of Romain Dumas
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M the Porsche Cayenne rushes into the hotel parking lot at a speed on the outskirts of Alès in southern France. A rather short, wiry man springs out of the black SUV and hurries with long strides to the entrance. The driver doesn't care that the heavy car is lopsided and occupies about one and a half parking spaces. French laissez-faire.

Allow me: Romain Dumas. Jack of all trades and hungry for racing. Dumas is someone who can never get enough of running. Which may be because he didn't get much driving when he was a young man - lack of money. Now in his late thirties, he is working on this pent-up demand - with an almost unbelievable mammoth program: He earns his living as a works driver at Porsche in the Endurance World Championship. 'That has absolute priority,' he says dutifully.

Then comes the freestyle program. It's huge: Dumas is competing in the World Rally Championship with his own Porsche 911, he drives historic rallies, including in a 911, of course. During the Pikes Peak hill climb, he cannoned himself to the summit at 4,300 meters in a 610-kilo sports car from Norma, equipped with a 540-hp turbo engine. At the queen of the desert rallies, the 'Dakar', he explores his psychological and physical limits. In between, he acquires sponsors.

Romain Dumas' elixir of life is restlessness

16-hour days are normal for Dumas. 'I often don't get home until ten in the evening - and then it's time for bed.' Restlessness as the elixir of life. Dumas is like a candle that burns at both ends. And why all the stress? Its fuel is the almost childishly naive enthusiasm for sport. Paired with a good portion of ambition and the certainty: 'A man needs a job! What do the works drivers do all day? Okay, they do sport. And then? Ha! That's not enough for me.'

Dumas is one of those contemporaries for whom the day could also have 25 hours. Because he not only drives his racing cars, he also prepares them himself. A few buddies help him with this. 'We are a good dozen people, including three full-time employees. All guys I know from school. We prepare my cars, but we also have customers.' Then Dumas shifts up a gear again: 'I predict: If you want a good Porsche 911 R for the World Rally Championship, you can't get past us.' Dumas and hisMy buddies are reminiscent of Asterix and the others from the small Gallic village, who so often showed the Romans where the hammer hangs.

The decision-making processes in the RD team (the initials stand for Romain Dumas of course) are short , the enthusiasm for the matter almost limitless - and the methods strange: 'On Boxing Day 2013 I was sitting with the boys and suddenly someone said: For our third attempt at Pikes Peak we will take a small prototype from Norma - and we will give it to it a 911 engine. ' No sooner said than done: 'We immediately removed the engine from a 911 Turbo. Only to see: Oops, the engine is almost bigger than the whole car. That doesn't fit together.'

' We build the engine ourselves '

For the Dumas team, however, this was no reason to despair:' We just have to get an engine quickly build it yourself ', threw one around,' pas deproblemème. ' A Honda four-cylinder served as the basis. 'The guys fiddled with a big turbo. I thought: It'll never work. The budget was ridiculous, only 40,000 euros.'

Lo and behold, the two-liter Honda was a bomb: '540 hp. Great drivability. And on the third attempt I finally won the overall classification. But the best thing about it was that one of my customers with a 911 also won the GT class. ' Then Dumas suddenly gets serious: 'Pikes Peak is dangerous. Almost no crash barriers, and you can drive up to 245 km /h. You should already know what you are doing.'

Sometimes Dumas seems a bit rushed and erratic. So that you could almost believe you were in the casting for a remake of a Louis de Funès comedy. Dumas doesn't like to be compared to the grand master of fidgety. 'Romain can get a bit angry,' says Timo Bernhard, his long-time team-mate at Porsche and Audi.

But just like the supposedly funny Mime de Funès was a rather curmudgeon contemporary in real life, like that Even with Dumas, the first impression is wrong. The southern French knows how to work purposefully and successfully. The statistics prove it. The list of his accidents is extremely short, that of his successes is even longer. The highlights: the victory in Le Mans 2010 with Audi, the triumph on Pikes Peak or recently the class victory at the Rallye Deutschland in the 911 GT3. He won the 24h race at the Nürburgring four times in a Manthey-911.

Romain Dumas and the numerous rally engagements

Dumas inherited his passion for rallying from one of his dad regional drift size in the 1980s. When the son wanted to emulate him, it first went wrong, that is, in the ditch. 'I drove with my lawyer,' he says. 'It didn't fit in the car. But we stayed friends.' Dumas looked around for a new co, and he found Denis Giraudet. 'He's 59 and he has 35 years of rallying experience.'

The savvy onePro directed Dumas to class victory at the German World Cup. A very special triumph for Dumas, because his toughest opponent in the GT category is François Delecour, rally vice world champion in 1993 and decried as a difficult character. 'I don't speak to François any more,' says Dumas, 'he's a little crazy.' Dumas makes the windshield wiper: 'François? Balla-balla!'

Less with the opponents than with himself and the technology of his vehicle, a buggy from MD with Ami-V8, Dumas had to face in January 2015 grapple at his first Dakar rally. It went splendidly. '19th place on the first day. Everyone was amazed. Me most.' But then the trouble started: 'On the second day I had to change both drive shafts and the steering. At 46 degrees in the shade. We had no more water. I was dizzy. I thought I was going to die. Or at least give up.'

But Dumas and Co François Borsotto, a Dakar veteran, bit through tough. The next difficult test came in the highlands of Bolivia: 'The engine drowned when we were crossing water. Locals towed us away. It's unbelievable how nice and helpful these people were. They didn't have anything and they gave us everything, tea and whatever to eat. It was Freezing cold, zero degrees, at 3,300 meters above sea level, and we were terribly frozen in our damp overalls. '

' The hardest thing I've ever seen in my life '

' What the hell am I doing here? 'he asked himself. But he didn't give up. He took advice from an expert in France via satellite phone. The V8 started again at two in the night. But the effort was in vain: three days later the buggy finally put down its guns. Failure. 'Will I drive the Dakar again?' He muses.

'I think so. But only with a works car or in a car I prepared myself. What happened this year was the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life. Something like that I don't need it anymore. ' Dumas is used to torturing himself. Until three years ago he ran marathons regularly. 'My best time was 3.14 hours,' he reveals. 'Not bad for an amateur. But now I don't run any more races.' Why? 'No time.'

'Somehow it kept going, even though I usually only had 20 percent of the budget.' Despite the notorious lack of money, the Frenchman Romain Dumas, born in 1977, stubbornly bit his way through the junior formulas. He has been a Porsche works driver since 2004. He won four times in the 911 of the Manthey team in the 24h race at the Nürburgring. In 2010 he won the Le Mans 24 Hours with Timo Bernhard and Mike Rockenfeller in an Audi R15 TDI. Dumas' partner Elysia is a social worker. The couple have a boy of almost two, Gabin.


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