René Rast is writing DTM history: The Audi driver secured the title in his first full DTM season – the last time this feat was achieved was 24 years ago by the Italian Nicola Larini. In 2018, the German was the first DTM driver ever to net six straight victories.
Rast is only the seventh driver in the history of the popular touring car racing series to have won the prestigious title in his rookie season. Before the 2017 season, the native of Minden had only contested three DTM races. In July 2016 – literally overnight – he stood in for Adrien Tambay at Zandvoort with Audi Sport Team Rosberg. With no preparation whatsoever, Rast left such a good impression that in the 2016 finale at Hockenheim he was asked to stand in for Mattias Ekström. Finishing in sixth position, Rast scored his first points at his second DTM race, thus earning himself a permanent position in the Audi DTM squad.
Twelve months later, Rast snatched the DTM title from Mattias Ekström on the finish straight. “René drove an incredible 2017 season,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass. “It was not without reason that we signed him on to our DTM squad and expected good performances of him. Yet no one expected him to be in contention for the title in his first DTM year – and ultimately win it. Not even René himself. His basic speed was one of the decisive factors. In 2017, he was the best qualifier.”
“My aim was to become the best rookie,” says Rast of his maiden season in the DTM. “I wanted to learn, to earn points regularly, and always finish well. Who’d have thought before my first season that I’d be in contention for the title? That’s why I had nothing to lose at the final round. I tackled the weekend without any pressure and was overjoyed when it all worked out.”
Then suddenly, at the beginning of the 2018 season, nothing seemed to work at first. He hit a low point with a spectacular flip at the Lausitzring. After a difficult start to the season for Audi, Rast ranked 15th after nine races, 104 points behind the leader. Still, with a spirited pursuit, the Audi driver managed to earn 100 points from winning seven races, the last six of them in a row. At the end of the season, Rast was a mere four points shy of defending his title.
Not surprisingly, Rast’s expectations for the 2019 season are high. “My clear goal is to regularly climb to the top of the podium and to stand there as champion at the end of the season.” He is very excited about the new season: “With the new engine and Aston Martin joining the series as a new manufacturer, we are heading into new territory. No one really knows what will happen. These are exciting times for the DTM.”
After testing the new Audi RS 5 DTM mounted with the more than 610-hp two-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine, he is just as impressed as his teammates. “As a racing driver you’re always thrilled to have more power. When you put your foot down and the turbocharger kicks in, you get this huge grin on your face. The DTM has never been faster.”
René Rast’s unusual career within the Volkswagen Group led him from the Polo Cup all the way to Le Mans and now into the DTM. He won the Porsche Supercup, run as support to Formula 1, an incredible three times. Since 2011, he has raced under the banner of the four rings. At the wheel of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 sports car, he is regarded as a benchmark and a guarantee for success. His victories in the 24-hour races at Daytona, Spa and on the Nürburgring underline this, as do his title wins in the ADAC GT Masters – and now the DTM. At the beginning of 2018, Rast contested his first “Race of Champions” event of the world’s best race drivers and together with Timo Bernhard won the Nations Cup for Germany – proving once again that he is in a class of his own.
René Rast has opted out of racing with the DTM champion’s number 1 on his car. He prefers to continue driving car number 33, the number that brought him luck in his debut season. “I think 33 looks cool and it’s easy for me to remember a double digit.” Rast is a pragmatist through and through.
Once again, the livery of his company car has changed: from black in 2017 to red in 2018 and now white for 2019.
With his partner, Diana, and their son, Liam, who was born shortly before Christmas in 2016, the German lives in Bregenz on the Austrian side of Lake Constance. He has a simulator at home on which he regularly practices for the DTM.
In everyday life, René Rast drives an Audi SQ7 TDI. “With a child we need a little more space, so the SQ7 is ideal,” says Rast. It did not take him long to get used to the role of a family man and father. “Having a child is fantastic. I love spending time at home. It gives me strength for my next outings on the race track.”