(Motorsport-Total.com) – Why does a car manufacturer like Audi voluntarily part with one of its best drivers after twelve years together? That’s what many fans wondered after the Ingolstadt-based company announced on Tuesday that Rene Rast, three-time DTM champion, is leaving the company early despite a work contract that was valid until the end of 2023.
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Audi Head of Operations Rolf Michl with Rene Rast in front of his three DTM titles
“Audi is preparing its entire motorsport program for electrification,” says Audi’s new chief operating officer, Rolf Michl, who has been in office since April. They then sat down with Rast and his manager Dennis Rostek for a “candid discussion” about what they wanted to achieve in the future.
“Of course, Rene has a few goals, he wants to set the course for a few new events. And at the moment Audi cannot give him an offer for next year,” Michl explains why no agreement can be reached.
There is no prospect of Rast in Audi
What he means by that is clear: the LMDh work program originally planned for Rast, in which the 35-year-old wanted to fulfill his dream of overall victory at Le Mans, was stopped because the Dakar project was too expensive. Audi left Formula E in 2021, which is still very profitable for drivers.
The only remaining factory project in the Dakar Rally currently has no sporting interest for Rast because he has no experience in the off-road sector. And Audi’s plans for Formula 1 are not an issue, as the entry into the first class is not planned until 2026: Rast will be almost 40 years old by then – and has little experience in the single-seater sector.
After 12 years: Rene Rast says goodbye to Audi
Three-time DTM champion Rene Rast can look back on a successful career with the Audi brand. More DTM videos
That only leaves GT3’s partnership with Audi Sport Customer Racing – but Rast is keen on that. “Our main goal is always to give the professional racing driver the opportunity for further development,” says Audi Operations Manager Michl. Rast was able to provide that before, but not anymore.
Detachment “too difficult from a personal point of view”
According to Michl, the separation from Rast, who is about to switch to McLaren in Formula E, is not without sadness. “We have reached the decision to separate our professional partnership at the end of the season and next year. It is very difficult from a personal point of view because we are not just talking about a driver here, we are talking about a driver. a long-time friend.”
Ultimately, however, respect for Rast and his work led to the decision to let him go: “We would like to give you more opportunities to develop further in the race,” says Michl. But the friendship would continue in the future – there were also “a few thoughts” for the current season.
Rast fights back tears
Rast himself talks about “an emotional and difficult day” – and fights back tears. “Audi Sport made me the driver I am today. I’ve had a lot of good times here – and I want to thank everyone for their efforts. Everyone has had my back and helped me.” Even in difficult times, “we always encouraged each other,” he says.
At least the memories of the successful era will remain forever, according to Rast: “I’m just grateful that Audi Sport gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dreams as a racing driver. To be a three-time DTM champion is something special. And even when I’m old, I’ll remember those moments .”