11 Aug 20
06 Jul 20
Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s Rene Rast strapped into the Audi e-tron FE06 for the first time last week, as he and team-mate Lucas di Grassi spent two days at the Lausitzring in Germany, getting up-to speed and shaking off the lockdown rust ahead of Formula E’s unprecedented nine-day six-race showdown in Berlin.
“I’m very happy with how it went and there are a lot of differences compared to what I’m used to,” said the double DTM champion. “The race runs went really well and I had to adapt my driving style a lot. Managing energy is not that easy to get to grips with in the beginning, but it was all a positive learning experience.
“DTM and Formula E are completely different. When you jump in the Formula E car you notice the power delivery right away – and obviously the fact it’s an open-wheel car. It moves a lot more due to the all-weather tyres and it’s a completely contrasting sensation in terms of driving.
“Both are very challenging but I feel Formula E cars are one of the hardest to drive. It’s a big test for me but I hope to be up to speed soon.
“I have two days on-track under my belt and we’ll have a few more simulation days to come before Berlin.”
The German has competed before in Formula E - indeed, in Berlin - but that was four years ago, in Gen1 machinery.
Much has changed and he knows there’s a lot to learn in a short space of time, though the 33-year-old feels the quick-fire races could potentially act in his favour.
“I had some experience in Formula E in 2016 and since then I’d always been looking on at the championship with one eye so it feels good to be here,” said the 33-year-old.
“I think it’s a good time for a newcomer to jump in. There’s never been so many races in such a short space of time so it’s just about taking advantage of that and learning. It means I can gain a lot of experience very quickly.
"I think it’s a good time for a newcomer to jump in. There’s never been so many races in such a short space of time so it’s just about taking advantage of that and learning. It means I can gain a lot of experience very quickly."
“With just one or two days rest in-between the rounds, preparation will be key – there isn’t as much time as there would usually be to discuss things with engineers. If you arrive at a circuit well prepared, you just have to switch on and nail the laps.
“We need a lot of good communication, as well as a lot of good planning to really be in the right place at the right moment – and to extract full potential because the body will be tired at the half-way stage. You need good people around you to help you support you.
“That’s what has helped me win championships and races in the past. It’s a different kind of racing in Formula E, so I do feel like a rookie, but let’s see how it goes when we’re up and running. I did one race in Berlin back in 2016 and I felt exactly the same then.”
The double - and reigning - DTM champion is one of the leading lights in European motorsport. Anybody who can step into Germany’s storied touring car championship and win the title at the first time of asking is an undoubted talent.
Even so, he’s under no illusions as to the challenge that awaits him in August, given a packed calendar - full of Audi Sport commitments as one of its select group of drivers - and the fierce competition offered up by 24 world-class drivers and 12 leading teams in Formula E. Points and progress are his tentative goals.
“I know the series is very tough and challenging. It’s not only the quality of the drivers, but the teams have very high standards too – there are a lot of manufacturers operating at a high level.
“It’s one of the most competitive championships out there and I’m very happy to be here – counted as one of the best racing drivers we have in Europe, at least.
“Doing six races in nine days with Formula E and 12 total over 23 days across my commitments with Audi Sport is a very big challenge that I don’t believe any driver has done before. I worked it out and I’ll be at home for just four days in August, so it’ll be very tough.
“It’s difficult to set any concrete goals with Berlin just a few weeks away but I feel my main goal should be to score some points and make progress over the run-in.”
Arriving in Berlin, representing one of his country’s motor racing giants is something Rast is relishing. He aims to fly the flag high on home turf.
“I’ve worked with Audi for the last five or six years. Obviously, as a German, it’s a very privileged feeling.
“I remember in 2015, there were 20 or more drivers in the stable and now there are still eight. Next year, there will be even less and I’m very proud to be a part of that select group.
“Representing Audi in Berlin, on home soil, is a double privilege. I will try to fly the flag as best I can.”
11 Aug 20
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