From hell to heaven
On lap 21 of the race at Circuit Zandvoort on Sunday, Arno Zensen was close to despair. It was a déjà vu for the principal of the Audi Sport Team Rosberg. Would René Rast’s strategy again fail to come to fruition? In the race on Saturday, fellow Audi driver Nico Müller had crashed into a tyre stack at the exit of the Gerlach corner on lap 20. It was Rast who paid the price. He was unable to turn into the pits in time for the tyre change. The field was brought back together again, his entire margin was gone. The champion’s race was over. Now, in the race on Sunday, nobody but the second Rosberg protégé, Jamie Green, punted BMW driver Bruno Spengler off the track. The safety car was deployed at the circuit in the dunes. At that time, Rast was again leading the race from Gary Paffett.
“I was totally nervous in the car. This couldn’t be true. And when I passed turn 1, there was no car there at all. ‘What is going on here’, I thought,” Rast said. After his experience from the previous day, he had now already turned into the pits at the end of the opening lap. “That had to do with what happened yesterday. But today, we were also in a better position. We knew that Gary wouldn’t be taking too many risks. For him, winning the race wasn’t important, he wanted to score points and finish on the podium. After all, I knew the situation of being the championship leader. Therefore, we opted for this strategy. The plan was to have a good pace in the early stages and virtually overtake him. That worked out.”
Until it came to the restart, confounded from Rast’s perspective. Now, however, the German fiercely defended his leading position until the finish. “After the experience from yesterday when I also drove in front of him for a long time, I thought that I could again stay ahead of him when the restart would work out. Today, it was more difficult, because he used DRS. On the straights, he closed up every time and made a slight attempt in turn one. There, I had to close the door a bit. That was tough because my tyres weren’t the best after the safety car. That cost me a few tenths, the train of drivers behind me got closer as a result.”
Audi was overjoyed with its first win of the season and so was Rast with the fourth victory in his 30th DTM race. “That was a great feeling today. That is sheer emotion. I can hardly find words to describe it. Prior to the race, I didn’t expect this at all. In qualifying, Gary was half a second faster. After so many mishaps and accidents in the past few weeks, I am glad to be back on the podium,” said Rast, who had started the race from third place on the grid.
Thus, Rast scored more points on this race day than in the nine preceding races together. With 49 points, he is now the best-placed Audi driver in ninth place of the drivers’ standings. Within 24 hours, he went from hell to heaven and fate turned around for him. Rast will probably always cherish the memories of the Zandvoort circuit. “This is where I arrived overnight two years ago to get some DTM experience in my first race. Here, it all started, my DTM career, so to say. I always like coming to Zandvoort. Even though I made a few mistakes last year and the pace wasn’t good. Therefore, I hadn’t expected a win. Of course, that it worked out, is mega.”