Photo: Audi Mediacenter

René Rast “surprised” after opening struggles at Spa-Francorchamps

Reigning DTM champion René Rast had a difficult day at the wheel of his Audi RS 5 DTM at Saturday’s season opener at Spa-Francorchamps.

Rast qualified in third place on the grid, but tyre degradation issues marred his race, only managing to salvage fifth place at the chequered flag.

Rast was very competitive in the qualifying session, finishing third just 0.264 seconds behind fellow Audi driver Robin Frijns. At the start, the Team Rosberg driver briefly overtook Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline’s Nico Müller for second place, but soon started to lose ground to the leaders as his tyres started playing up.

“I had a good start and I wanted to take it easy in the first stint,” explained Rast. “But, at some point, the tyres just gave up.”

The reigning champion was the first to perform his obligatory tyre change on lap ten, but the change didn’t solve his problems.

“The second stint was even worse, I did just six or seven laps and I said that I had to pit again, nothing could be done,” he added.

Rast was the only driver to perform a two-pit stop strategy, coming for his second change on lap 20, a strategy that, in the end, worked for him.

“The third set was very good,” he said, “and I was able to push hard all the way until the end.”

The Audi driver finished fifth in the race and is fifth in the championship, 16 points behind Müller.