Road to Hockenheim: René Rast
The fans may look forward to witnessing a real DTM festival, in the season finale at Hockenheim – and to thrilling motor racing up to the last corner of the final lap. With Paul Di Resta, Gary Paffett (both Mercedes-AMG) and René Rast (Audi), three drivers travel to Hockenheim with realistic chances of winning the title. DTM.com takes a close look at the title contenders’ individual courses of the season.
The 2017 champion had to cope with every kind of ups and downs, this year. A poor start into the season at Hockenheim where he scored just 10 points was followed by a spectacular accident in the second race meeting, at the Lausitzring. On lap six of the Saturday race, Rast’s Audi RS 5 DTM became airborne, flipped over – and encountered serious damages in the incident. Thanks to DTM’s high safety standards Rast survived the crash virtually unharmed but couldn’t contest the Sunday race, nevertheless. It could have been worse but for the first time in 2017, Rast had to leave a race venue empty-handed.
In the Saturday round of the Budapest meeting, the Audi ace was just pipped in the battle for the podium and finished fourth, in the end, but on the following day had to settle for finishing 10th. At the Norisring, Rast once again failed to score. In the Netherlands at Zandvoort, Rast seemed to be on the way to making it to the podium with an aggressive strategy – he wanted to pit for his obligatory tyre change only late in the race but a safety-car period destroyed Rast’s plan and the gap he had opened on the rest of the field was history. The result: once again no points despite an impressive performance. With nine races contested, Rast consequently had just 23 points on his tally and held 15thposition in the championship.
Rast is positive character and emanates optimism with every gesture. But certainly, the term title defence wasn’t part of his vocabulary, at this point in time.
But then, overnight, things took a turn for the better. Rast started into the Sunday race at the North Sea coast from third position on the grid and celebrated his first win in the season. At Brands Hatch he kept on scoring by finishing fourth and third and the competition began to keep an eye on him. “Did you see his pace in the last races?” Gary Paffett, one of the title contenders, rhetorically asked at the end of the race weekend in the UK.
The Misano weekend began with a setback for Rast. He was third on the grid but was involved in a restart collision after a safety-car period and forced into early retirement. On Sunday, however, he compensated for the Saturday result by finishing third – his third podium – and adding another 15 points to his tally.
Words can’t describe the 31-year old’s achievements in the following two race weekends. “Terms such as ‘incredible’, ‘amazing’, awesome and ‘historic’ could be heard in paddock, afterwards. In his home meeting, at the Nürburgring, he scored the maximum points available by securing both poles and winning both races. And to even up the ante he also won both races at Spielberg. The competitors were massively impressed and Rast was back in the fight for the title.
Prior to the season finale at the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg, Rast’s gap to championship leader Paul Di Resta amounts to 30 points. There still are 56 points to be scored in the two qualifying sessions and the races and therefore, Rast’s chances of stealing the top position are slim – but they exist. And don’t forget: in 2017 he travelled to the season finale with a 21-point gap to championship leader Mattias Ekström – and the rest is history.