Photo: DTM Media

René Rast: “This is the biggest achievement of my racing career”

Audi Sport driver René Rast crossed the line in second place at Hockenheim to become the 2017 DTM champion, a notable achievement in his first full season.

Rast had a rushed debut in the series last year, standing in for the unwell Adrien Tambay at Audi Sport Team Rosberg on the second day of racing at Zandvoort and, later in the season, standing in for Mattias Ekström at Team Abt at the season finale at Hockenheim. His good performance in helping Audi to secure enough points to win the manufacturers’ title, granted Rast a full-season drive for 2017.

“My goal was to become the best rookie,” said Rast. “I wanted to learn, regularly score points and always finish a race well.”

Rast arrived to the last round of the season with a 21-point deficit to Ekström, and chose to give it his best effort: “In the finale, I actually couldn’t lose any more. I approached the weekend without pressure and now am overjoyed that it all worked out.”

The Team Rosberg driver started the last race of the season 14 points behind Ekström. Despite driving a strong race to finish second, Rast wasn’t sure he’d done enough as he finished the race. “Crossing the start/finish line and seeing the chequered flag I didn’t know if I was champion or not,” Rast said. “All I got from the team was that I was second and I thought ‘OK, we didn’t win the championship.”

“After Turn 1 I was quite upset, to be honest and, then, somebody started to scream in the radio that we were the champions, and I was in tears,” said the 2017 champion.

“This is a feeling I can’t really describe. I suppose it will take two or three days or even weeks to sink in. This is one of the best days of my life and the most important of my racing career so far, and this is one of the biggest achievements I’ve ever had.”

Rast suffered a problem with his car in the initial stages of the race, as a cockpit part fell over his steering wheel, but fortunately was able to overcome the problem to drive a competitive race: “At the exit of Turn 1 the car jumped a bit and a LED light on the windscreen came loose and it was distracting me, as it was coming on the steering wheel. I tried to grab it and put it somewhere else but it always came back. So I ripped it off and sent it elsewhere in the car, but the cable was still in my view and, for the whole race, I had this cable hanging over my steering wheel. So I just focussed on the race and try to manage it.

Dieter Gass, Head of Audi Sport, had words of praise for his latest recruit: “René drove an incredible season. But that he’d be battling for the title right in his first DTM year – and even winning it in the end, that’s something no-one really expected, not even René himself. One of the decisive factors was his basic speed. He was the best qualifier this year.”