We speak to Romain Dumas, who will drive Ford’s 1973bhp Supervan 4 up the Goodwood hillclimb
If you’ve got a crazy one-off special that needs pedalling, who are you going to call?
Romain Dumas, of course – a man who has carved a reputation for himself as much by driving the extreme all-electric Volkswagen ID R prototype up Pikes Peak and Goodwood’s hill faster than anyone else as for winning top-level sports car races at Le Mans, the Nürburgring and Sebring.
So it is that Ford turned to him when it needed a pilot for its Supervan 4, which is nominally based on a Ford E-Transit but in reality has 1973bhp on tap (more than the three previous Supervans combined) and a 0-62mph time of under two seconds.
After a short shakedown nearby on Wednesday, Dumas admits he’s “at the start of the project” in terms of getting a feel for what’s possible – and after a first charge up the hill, with power restricted to around 1500bhp as they build up pace and respect the damp conditions, he was honest about the task ahead.
“For sure, it’s an exciting project,” he said, beaming. “When you have a crazy project, it seems to be my phone that rings, but I’m pleased about that!
“The most striking thing is that despite its dimensions, and especially the wheelbase being so long, it feels like a race car already.
“That’s a great first step, but I hope with a few more runs, we can start to really unlock the performance. There’s a long way to go yet.
“In terms of comparing it to the ID R? It’s a little bit different – incomparable, really. We’re at the start of the project, and you’d be comparing a bespoke race car with a two-tonne van.”
As such, he doesn’t expect to be troubling his hill record of 39.9sec (which eclipsed Nick Heidfeld’s 41.6sec set in a McLaren Formula 1 car) or even fighting for the overall fastest time this weekend.
His first – tentative – run netted a time closer to a minute, but he estimates (while stressing they haven’t done any simulations) that a time of 50 seconds will be possible when the power is dialled up, the Supervan tuned in and the weather kinder.
That would have been good enough to place him sixth overall in last year’s shootout, vying for the spot with a Praga R1 race car and clear of a Toyota Corolla BTCC racer. Quite a result, given those dimensions and the weight deficit.
“Ten seconds is a lot to be missing, but let’s see: it feels like it might be possible,” says Dumas.