Rene Rast was destined to spend the whole thing of his skilled racing profession with Audi. In spite of everything, the partnership had yielded a lot success throughout a wide range of championships that it will have solely been pure for Rast to proceed with the German producer till he determined to hold up his helmet. Furthermore, he would have probably been supplied an ambassadorial position by Audi afterwards, making certain he would have earned a profitable wage even after retirement.
But a sequence of occasions have compelled Rast to abruptly go away Audi after this season, with a 12 months nonetheless left on his contract, and be part of direct rival BMW as a manufacturing facility driver from 2023.
The explanations behind his exit from Audi are quite a few however mainly Rast couldn’t see a long-term future on the Ingolstadt model, particularly within the wake of its resolution to halt its highly-anticipated LMDh challenge in the beginning of the 12 months. Together with DTM rival Nico Muller, Rast was attributable to lead the event of the automotive that may have taken Audi again to Le Mans for the primary time since 2016, and the mentioned LMDh programme was the premise of a two-year contract he signed in October of 2021.
With the challenge deserted, Rast was going to overlook out on an opportunity to characterize himself at a world stage and construct on his performances in a pair of outings in Audi’s LMP1 automotive again in 2015. For a driver as hungry for fulfillment as him, not being given a possibility to struggle for outright wins at Le Sarthe was a dealbreaker.
Nevertheless it wasn’t simply the absence of a World Endurance Championship programme centred round Le Mans that prompted Rast to leap ship. Audi was out of alternate options to seek out Rast a compelling choice in different championships, definitely within the long-term if not within the close to future.
The marque’s manufacturing facility group in System 1 doesn’t come on stream till 2026, by which period Rast can be nearing 40 years of age. Plus, an absence of expertise in petrol-powered single-seaters means Audi would haven’t any motive to contemplate him for a race drive, particularly when it may discover drivers extra suited to this position elsewhere.
And that’s not all. The following-generation Audi R8 for the street will ditch its inner combustion engine in favour of electrical energy, casting doubt over the way forward for the marque’s buyer sport actions in GT racing. A second Evo replace of the Audi R8 LMS GT3 was launched solely this 12 months, however it’s unclear what’s going to occur when the present mannequin completes its homologation run. Doubts about the way forward for Audi Sport would have definitely diminished the attraction of a long-term GT programme for Rast.
Conflicting doubts about Audi’s long-term future in racing pushed Rast into BMW’s arms
Picture by: Alexander Trienitz
Fortunately for the German, although, Audi understood the scenario he discovered himself in and agreed to launch him from his contract on the finish of the 2022 season. A particular farewell ceremony was additionally held at Neuburg an der Donau in Germany, the place two of his title-winning DTM Class One vehicles have been additionally showcased.
In truth, Rast’s departure from Audi has been so amicable that he even acquired permission to check BMW’s personal LMDh automotive at Aragon earlier this month, whereas he stays technically contracted to Audi till 31 December 2022.
Audi’s former head of manufacturing facility racing Andreas Roos has been central to luring Rast away from the Ingolstadt-brand, having joined BMW this 12 months as the pinnacle of all its motorsport operations. Rast and Roos first held discussions a few attainable transfer to BMW in the course of the IMSA race weekend at Sebring in March, the place Rast was competing for G-Drive in an LMP2 automotive. The talks between the 2 escalated from there and Rast was formally named a BMW manufacturing facility driver on 22 August, per week after his exit from Audi was confirmed.
Having his former boss Roos at BMW means he could have a confidant to work with in a brand new atmosphere, particularly within the wake of the criticism levied at outgoing Audi Sport boss Julius Seebach, who will likely be changed by Rolf Michl from 1 September.
Each Lucas di Grassi and Mike Rockenfeller indicated that they didn’t obtain the identical assist below Seebach as his predecessors Dieter Gass and Wolfgang Ulrich, shortly after their contracts with Audi weren’t renewed on the finish of the 2021 season. Furthermore, it was below Seebach’s reign that long-time GT affiliate WRT determined to go away Audi from 2023, mockingly to hitch forces with BMW like Rast.
After leaving Audi, WRT will run BMW’s manufacturing facility programme in WEC from 2024, and Rast is anticipated to steer the marque’s first assault at an general Le Mans win since 1999. The German driver has spent this 12 months racing for WRT within the LMP2 class of WEC, and as such is already up to the mark with prototype equipment in racing circumstances.
And naturally, there was the latest LMDh take a look at as Aragon, additional boosting his preparations for 2023. It’s on the again of this latest prototype expertise that Roos urged that Rast may make race appearances within the BMW M Hybrid V8 in IMSA subsequent 12 months, earlier than his anticipated commencement to a full-time seat in WEC in 2024. It’s probably that he may very well be slotted into BMW’s line-up at one of many 4 Michelin Endurance Cup occasions in IMSA subsequent 12 months, the place further drivers are required on high of the common two-driver crew.
Rast seems to be set to be one of many names driving for BMW’s incoming LMDh programme
Picture by: BMW AG
The precise particulars of Rast’s 2023 marketing campaign can’t be labored out till subsequent 12 months’s calendar is launched, however the German driver can be anticipated to participate in a number of GT races – and a return to the DTM within the BMW M4 hasn’t been dominated out.
Rast’s 2023 programme with BMW must slot in together with his System E schedule, having signed a take care of newcomer McLaren that has taken over the operating of the Mercedes group.
Rast earned loads of plaudits for his fast adaptation to the quirks of FE in 2020, when he changed the ousted Daniel Abt in Audi’s line-up alongside di Grassi. This earned him a full-season marketing campaign the next 12 months and, though a victory remained elusive as Audi solely completed fourth within the groups’ standings, he impressed then-Mercedes FE chief Ian James sufficient to signal him up for the 2023 season.
Rast will, nonetheless, have to attend some time earlier than having the ability to bounce into the Gen3 automotive and start preparations for his return to System E. Because of the Brackley group switching from a manufacturing facility operation to a Nissan powertrain buyer after being taken over by McLaren, nor Rast or his unannounced teammate have been capable of full any operating simply but. A group of senior McLaren personnel will attend a joint producer take a look at in September to carefully comply with the progress of powertrain provider Nissan, earlier than deciding learn how to use its personal allocation of take a look at days.
For Rast this implies he can prioritise his duties within the DTM, the place he’s at the moment locked in a good championship battle with the likes of Lamborghini driver Mirko Bortolotti, future BMW squadmate Sheldon van der Linde and fellow Audi driver Muller. A fourth title within the sequence would definitely be a becoming strategy to pull the curtains on his stint as an Audi driver, and probably his time within the DTM itself.
However irrespective of who lifts the championship trophy at Hockenheim firstly of October, Rast will go down in historical past as one of many most interesting drivers to ever race for the revered German model.
If solely Audi had determined to proceed in System E or undergo with its LMDh challenge, it will have been writing a brand new chapter in its profitable partnership with Rast…
Rast acquired a fond farewell from Audi
Picture by: Audi Communications Motorsport
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