Pikes Peak a highlight for the RD Rallye Team.
Along with his program with the factory Porsche Team and the 919 Hybrid in endurance racing, Romain Dumas had a very busy and emotional 2014 with his own team, RD Rallye Team. The season was highlighted by two victories in the legendary Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, including the overall victory, but also several successes in rallying.
2014 also saw the debut of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0l RGTs, the latest development from RD Label, a company which was launched early in the season. With his team boss hat on, the Alès native goes over the season that has passed.
Romain, what impressions are you left with of the RD Rallye Team as the year comes to a close?
I’m the type of person who is never satisfied, but the team had a very good year, and not just with me behind the wheel. It’s certainly one of the highlights of the season. More and more drivers are joining us, in various categories, and they each obtained good results. We have "pro" drivers like Germain Bonnefis who won at Rouergue in GT+ and Vincent Beltoise who won his class at Pikes Peak, but also "gentlemen drivers" such as Christian Schmitter, who was crowned French Mountain champion in GT, and Ange-Pierre Cordoliani in VHC. These gentlemen drivers adhere to the team’s professional approach and they get involved. It’s therefore great to see: we’re able to share this spirit of "only to win" which goes along well with the team’s philosophy.
Could you imagine the RD Rallye Team taking two victories at Pikes Peak when the 2014 season started?
Not really, and that was one of the big moments of the year! We returned to Pikes Peak because we thought we could take the overall win. Looking at it that way, it was mission accomplished, but it was also a lot of hard work. After the problems in 2013, we had no room for error. Our partners remained confident in us and we proved them right in their decision. It was a very stressful event that will stay very unique in my eyes. Two days before race day we were testing on a straight at a nearby speedway and come the start of the race on Sunday, after only a few kilometers, my tires were gone. It was a true battle every second of the way!
The surprise, if that’s really the word, came from Vincent Beltoise. I was hoping for a class podium finish for Vincent, who was making his debut at Pikes Peak. We prepared the car like it needed to be, and he had a great race. He’s the one who went and got that win. To both be at the finish on top of the mountain, and to both have succeeded in our respective goals was just fantastic! And what’s more, looking back, our little group of Frenchies went and won two different classes at Pikes Peak, which made history ! We really wrote an impressive chapter.
Was Pikes Peak the most difficult moment this year?
It was the most complicated in terms of timing because we took on numerous modifications on the Norma, and the organisation was different as well. To run two completely different cars at the other end of the world, under unique and challenging conditions such as Pikes Peak, is not simple. But we succeeded and we took a big step forward through this project.
The other program that allowed us to grow was the Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0l RGT, where the RD Rallye Team and RD Limited entities were directly working together. For the first time, we were developing and preparing a unique car, homologating it through the FIA, then shaking it down. Again, it’s a unique model as this GT3 RS 4.0l had never been seen in competition before! It’s the result of a lot of work and to see such a beautiful machine in rallying is a great point of pride for me.
You mention RD Limited. Has the creation of this label been what you had hoped?
In the past few years, with the team, we’ve acquired a certain amount of experience with Porsches in rallying, and we wanted to put this know-how in the hands of other drivers and/or teams. The results so far are interesting and positive. We are developing and preparing a large array of Porsches, but also specific parts with partners such as PKM Consulting in suspension work, and Matter when it comes to rollbars and safety bars. Definitely, other competitors besides RD Rallye Team benefit from all of our evolutions and developments. People are looking to work with us more and more, which shows that the word is spreading regarding our know-how. That’s the case in VHC where one of our cars finished top Porsche in the Historical Corsica Rally.
What’s the next step for RD Limited?
There are several. We are offering the Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0l for sale to be used in the RGT class. This comes along with all of the products we have already developed for the GT and GT+ rally classes. That’s one of our priorities for 2015. In the VHC, we’ve been preparing a 911 SC 3.0l Group 4 for gravel rallies for the past few months. Actually, why not see an RGT on gravel one day?!
Another avenue for us is hill climbing. We’re working on a new Porsche 911 GT2 (type 997) that fits the GTTS rules. So we will be working on a version with the gear shift paddles on the steering wheel as well as evolutions in the aero department. It’s a new step for us and it opens up a lot of exciting prospects for us !
And finally, what is the next challenge for team boss/driver Romain Dumas?
In the short term, it’s the back to back Dakar/Monte-Carlo! In the medium term, I have a lot of ideas in my notebook, both for RD Rallye Team and RD Limited. But those won’t be done in detriment to the quality of work that we do, so you also have to know how to compartmentalize as a result. Let’s say there are a few exotic rallies that are exciting to me…and perhaps new disciplines of racing. Circuits are not really on the list because that’s my ‘ day job’ as a pro driver. But if there is one thing certain, it’s that there will always be one constant : always be in a position to perform well.