Romain Dumas says he has “no doubts” on the potential of Volkswagen’s all-electric prototype that will tackle this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, stating that an EV is the “best you can have” for maximizing performance in high altitudes.
The three-time and defending race winner was confirmed last week as the driver for the German manufacturer’s factory effort, which will mark its return the world-renowned hill climb for the first time since 1987.
Dumas will drive a specially built all-wheel drive electric prototype in quest breaking the current class record for an EV, a 8:57.118 time set by Rhys Millen in 2016.
“After the last years with my own team, for sure, when I got the phone call from Volkswagen on if I’d be interested, I was straight away very happy and enthusiastic,” Dumas told e-racing365. “It’s very nice to be with a factory like that.
“First I needed to ask Porsche if they would allow me to do it. But if I was able to do it with my own car in the past, it was no problem to get the green light.
“I think it’s a good chance for us to develop a new technology.
“There’s already been some electric cars in Pikes Peak but Volkswagen wants to do well, so I can only be excited by that.”
The project, led by VW’s former WRC team manager Sven Smeets, has been on a tight development schedule since the program’s announcement late last year.
Dumas said they expect to begin testing at the end of April, initially in his hometown of Ales in France, where they have baseline data from the Norma-built hill climb cars to compare with.
“We’re for sure quite late on the program,” he said. “But I think it’s good to understand already the battery system and the procedures. It will take quite a long time.
“But I’m a big fan of rally and I know what they did [in 2016]; I have no doubt about the car.”
The two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans overall winner and former LMP1 world champion, with Porsche’s 919 Hybrid, believes having an all-electric car will be a significant benefit.
Unlike normally aspirated engines, which lose power at high altitudes, electric motors do not have any drop in performance.
“I’ve struggled with my petrol engine in the last few years, so if I had the choice, I would have to go with electric,” Dumas said.
“With the altitude, it’s the best you can have; you don’t lose any power or performance.
“It’s a short run, around 9 minutes or less, so you can have a lot of power. It’s not like Formula E right now; we will not have to manage power.
“It’s why I like that. For performance, it’s the best you can have, even if you have the disadvantage of the weight [for batteries].”
Dumas said he’s also been able to lend his experience to the groundbreaking project in new ways.
“We will use everything that I know from the last years,” he said. “It was funny as the last few years was not always easy to do Pikes Peak, LMP and rally and so on, but at the end of the day, it looks like it paid off.
“All the experience I have from there, Volkswagen has already gotten all that I can give. But it’s like when we started the LMP1 [program] at Porsche. It will take some months to [fully develop].
“It’s really cool. I’m also fully involved also in terms of the technology and all of the meetings.
“That’s also very nice because I like that. But for sure, when you arrive on the [entry] point of the electric stuff and so-on, I’m still only a driver and not an engineer!”