The 34-year-old Frenchman, who will contest his home round of the FIA World Rally Championship this week, finished fifth overall at Le Mans this year as part of the Audi factory team in the awesome 3.7-litre V6 turbodiesel R18 prototype, although his finest hour came in 2010, when he won the endurance classic.
Not only that but for the last three years he’s been competing in the GT category of the French Rally Championship with a Porsche 911 - and he also took some time off to enter the historic Tour de Corse and the epic Pikes Peak hillclimb in America, where he finished a stunning second.
Now it’s time for something completely different, as he takes the wheel of a MINI John Cooper Works WRC on Rallye de France Alsace, just like another famous racing Frenchman, Yvan Muller.
But at least Muller has roughly the same sort of engine powering both his rally car and regular racing car. Dumas doesn’t even have the same sort of fuel. In fact the Audi R18 couldn’t be any more different to his office this week.
For a start, the Audi weighs 900 kilograms, the MINI 1230 kilograms. The Audi puts out 540 horsepower, the John Cooper Works WRC around 300. But the biggest difference is top speed: just short of 380kph for the Audi, compared to the MINI’s 200kph or so - but it all depends on gearing.
In terms of acceleration off the line they are much closer: around 3.6 seconds from 0-100kph for the Audi, less than a second more for the MINI. The MINI wins when it comes to traction, thanks to its four-wheel drive system (the Audi is rear-wheel drive). The MINI is also a lot easier to see out of: visibility is a big problem in most sports prototypes.
The power delivery of the two cars is curiously similar, but that’s because they are both turbocharged, so all the torque comes at the bottom end of the rev range (a stark contrast to Dumas’s French championship Porsche 911 GT3, where nothing of any great interest happens below 5,000 rpm). But can you handbrake turn an Audi R18 around a hairpin? We’d love to see somebody try...
There’s a lot to learn, but Monsieur Dumas isn’t fazed. “I can’t wait to get started as I have a real passion for rallying,” he says. “I’m going to try and be as well-prepared as possible, but my basic philosophy stays the same: I want to enjoy myself, be as competitive as I possibly can, and see where I end up compared to the big names.”