"We will witness even better races"
The new Audi RS5 DTM made its public roll-out at the beginning of the tests at Vallelunga, Italy. At the circuit located to the North of Italy's capital, Rome, in difficult weather conditions, René Rast started into the critical stage of the preparations for the 2018 DTM season that will be kicked off on 05th and 06th May at the Hockenheimring. DTM.com asked the champion to describe his first impressions. What is the impact the aero changes make on the handling of the champion's car?
After the Vallelunga tests you are perfectly prepared for wet races, aren't you?
(laughs) It would be great if we raced throughout the year in these conditions. But seriously: I tested on Saturday in extremely wet conditions. In the morning session we couldn't go out at all as the rain was too heavy. It stopped falling around 15:00hrs but the track didn't dry and we drove on wets to the end of the session. That was anything but ideal for me but you have to cope with the conditions. After all, I'm not able to influence the weather.
Have you been able to test different setup versions in the difficult conditions? How many laps did you complete?
I did about 100 laps. Quite a lot in consideration of the adverse weather conditions. This allowed us to test numerous setup versions. The car isn't all new but we have got an altered aero package. Therefore, we used the chance of testing absolutely anything we have got for wet conditions. And it goes without saying that we also slightly focused on the wets and finding the right air pressure for every condition.
Last year, Mattias Ekström and Jamie Green contested the Vallelunga tests. This year, you and Green drove to Italy for the first tests with the Audi RS 5 DTM. Who chooses the drivers?
That's rather simple at Audi. The two drivers that secured the best championship positions in the previous year may go testing. And as Mattias retired Jamie moved up to second position.
Did you also keep an eye on the performance of your competitors??
Particularly during the first outing you try to see if they opt for a different approach and how well they are set. But basically you first of all focus on yourself.
The downforce is reduced, the suspension simplified. What is you conclusion following the tests? Where are the differences compared to last year's car?
As I solely drove in the wet making comparisons isn't easy. The car handles similarly. We lost slightly in the aero aria but an appropriate setup can make for a good driveability.
You also tested the reduced downforce during the first virtual tests in the simulator. Could you detect a difference in these tests?
Yes, even a big difference. If you drive the new car just five minutes after having driven the old one you realise the difference right away. But when you enter the new car and accustom to it you quickly forget how the old car handled.
What did change in particular?
Due to the reduced aerodynamics the cornering speeds are lower. You have to brake somewhat earlier and can't take so much speed into the corner. If you enter a corner at the speed you used last year you possibly could get into slight difficulties. But these are just peanuts.
Will this result in once again improved equal opportunities for the drivers?
Definitely. Due to the fact that more control parts are used the vehicles of the different manufacturers resemble one another more than they did in the past. Therefore, I expect the racing to be even closer than it was in the past. Therefore, we will witness even better races and more overtaking. And it could be that the reduced drag will result in higher top speeds at the end of the straights.
Could you pleased describe your schedule in the weeks up to the season kick-off at Hockenheim?
On Tuesday I will travel for a week to New Zealand - for a sponsor. From there I will fly right to Florida, USA, to contest the Sebring 12h Race. Afterwards it's nearly later March. Then I will spend two days in Team Rosberg's simulator before I make a trip to the Nürburgring to contest a VLN race before it's time for the ITR tests at Hockenheim, from 09th to 12th April. As you can see, my schedule is rather tight.