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No points on DTM comeback: Rast does not continue where he left off
it’s certainly not how Rene Rast would have imagined his DTM comeback. After a retirement on Saturday and a twelfth place on Sunday, the three-time champion leaves a DTM weekend without points for the first time since Norisring 2018. And this despite the fact that an Audi won in Portimao – and of all his longtime Audi title rival Nico Müller with Rosberg the team with which Rast won all his DTM titles.
How was that possible? In the first qualifier, Rast was the best Abt pilot in eleventh place directly behind Müller and then fell victim to the chain reaction at the restart that was triggered by leader Mirko Bortolotti’s problem.
On Sunday, he lost in 13th place half a second to pole vaulter Müller. It’s a world apart when the top 24 are within a second, despite the tire advantage – Müller had an extra fresh set available due to his retirement the day before.
Even Gore Faster: Did Rast play on the wrong team?
His fast Abt colleagues Kelvin van der Linde and Ricardo Feller could not keep up with the flying Müller either. But what Rast and his team should think about: Even Rosberg payer Dev Gore, who was often overwhelmed in 2021, started a spot ahead of Rast on Sunday. This clearly shows that Rosberg has improved markedly over the winter.
But wasn’t the Abt squad at the Audi warehouse clearly number 1 most recently since switching to GT3 cars in the DTM? And Müller, who had to switch from Abt to Rosberg last year and had a year to forget there, clearly on the losing track?
Works driver Rast must have thought the same thing in late 2021, when he risked a DTM comeback after Audi’s Formula E exit, even though the series was no longer dependent on his beloved Class 1 cars, but on the GT3.
Rast really wanted to see Abbot
Instead of returning to his longtime successful team Rosberg, he expressed his desire to drive for Abt at Audi, which blocked Müller. Because Audi Sport is allowed to place one work driver in each of the two supported teams – and it is important that the teams are equally staffed.
DTM Portimao 2022: Müller ends a dry period
After his retirement on Saturday, Rosberg driver Nico Müller got his long-awaited victory in Sunday’s race. Behind him will be AF Cors’ Felipe Frage and Grasser’s Mirko Bortolotti. More DTM videos
Rast’s desire was understandable, for “‘Abte” had challenged him in 2020 in the last Class 1 year like never before: With Müller, the Audi refiner’s team already looked like the sure winner before Rast won the championship with a display of strength still turned. And also in 2021, Thomas Biermaier’s team ran for the title with Kelvin van der Linde, while Müller went down on Rosberg.
What role does Modling’s departure play?
But in the last few months, there have been a couple of incidents that not only made Rast sleep poorly last night, but that have deprived him of sleep for a long time: Florian Modlinger, the chief technology officer, left the Abt team at the beginning of . 2022 after four years.
And he was best known for his excellent setups. That must have been absolutely bad news for Rast, because after years in Audi’s rival team, he experienced last year at the Audi factory in Formula E what Modlinger, who is now leading the Porsche Formula E campaign, can do.
When I asked Rast about the personals before the weekend, he said, “Since we have not had a race yet, I can not say whether we have managed to be back at the same level.” The longtime BMW and Audi engineer was one, “who was in the leadership role and clearly specified. Now we have to regulate it internally, but I think we can do it.”
Rosberg invested more than Abt
After the first race, it does not (yet) look like that. But Rosberg has also clearly improved. For after the frustration of 2021, Kimmo Liimatainen’s team knew they had to invest to get back to the Abt.
And so between the end of the 2021 season and the start in Portugal, a total of eleven private test days were completed, and intensive work was done on the qualifying performance that apparently paid off. For comparison: Abt had four private test days, but not with one, but with two cars. The tests were also not insignificant because the new Evo package of Audi R8 LMS changes at least a few parameters on the vehicle that you need to adjust to.
Break in its third title win in 2020 with the Rosberg team zoom
Of course, you have to wait and see if Rosberg’s strong form and Abt’s weakness also show up at the Lausitzring – incidentally one of Müller’s parade tracks – for last year you were strong at the start of the season in Monza before crashing into Lausitz. But Monza covered the Rosberg problems last year – while Portimao is not an atypical course.
LMDh-Aus as the next resting hit
But Rast is not only in a difficult situation in DTM: Because his original plan to return to Le Mans with the Audi from 2023, which he has been dreaming of for years, seems to have fallen through.
Because, according to our information, the project was not only paused but also stopped due to the Dakar car, several things need to be changed for the upcoming edition, which affects the Audi Sport budget. For Rast, this is the next serious setback, because if Audi Sport can not offer him anything other than GT3, then his factory contract, which was signed at the end of 2021, will also be invalid.
For DTM is no longer a factory program – and in the future Rast would have the role of a classic pool driver at Audi, paid per. First and foremost, however, it is important to free oneself from the current crisis – and turn to the road to success in DTM. The meticulous Mindener, known for flipping each stone three times, has often proven he can do it.