What make the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb so legendary?
Romain Dumas: There is no other race like it in the world. Firstly, the landscape is breathtaking. Then there is the fact that you start at an altitude of 2,900 metres, and 20 kilometres later you have reached 4,300 metres. Nowhere else do you climb so high in a racing car. In the past, the race has sometimes been cut short, because it has been snowing at the summit. Another part of the fascination is certainly the fact that you only have one attempt. If you have any kind of problem, you have to wait another year for the next opportunity.
What fascinates you personally about this race?
Dumas: When I was a boy, Volkswagen, Audi and Peugeot were battling it out on Pikes Peak. The race was considered a big deal in my homeland of France; almost as big as the 24 Hours of Le Mans or the Monaco Grand Prix in Formula 1. I used to dream of one day taking part in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
What qualities do you need as a racing driver to be successful on Pikes Peak?
Dumas: The course is comparable to the legendary "Nordschleife" of the Nurburgring: plenty of fast corners and barely a straight section where you can relax. Only Pikes Peak is even more dangerous than the Nordschleife, because many places have no crash barriers. As such, you can never push yourself to the very limit. I would say that you need the precision of a circuit racer combined with the fearlessness and improvisational talent of a rally driver.
You have been participating in the race several times, already. How did you manage to turn your dream of competing at Pikes Peak into reality?
Dumas: My job as a works driver at Porsche gave me the financial means. In 2012, a few friends and I drummed up support and that was it. The first time I entered, I was so thrilled that I could no longer keep away from this mountain. The fact that I have since been able to celebrate three victories with my very own team is so much more than I had ever dreamed of as a young boy.
Which part of the course holds the key to success?
Dumas: The course is made up of three completely different sections. There are still trees by the side of the road after the start. Medium-fast corners await here, which must be taken at approximately 150 or 160 km/h. The middle section consists almost solely of hairpins; the speed here is relatively low. The final section looks like the surface of the moon; just rocks, no trees. As a result, you have no tangible reference points for the course; many of the corners are blind. At the same time, the speed is high. This section of the course is the most difficult and commands the most respect from the driver. In order to win, you need a car that works well in all three sections.