After a year away racing in Formula E, the Abt Audi driver had a tough return series return in Portimao as he scored no points, and admitted that he found his R8 LMS Evo II “quite difficult to drive” on his way to eighth at the Lausitzring in Saturday’s race one.
But after his mechanics worked late into the evening on an “upside-down” change to the set-up, Rast qualified a strong second on Sunday and felt “much more comfortable in the car” on his way to third in the race, just 1.817s behind winner Sheldon van der Linde.
“I’m obviously happy with the podium and the points, but I’m the most happy about what we achieved from yesterday to today,” he said.
“The car yesterday was quite difficult to drive, and I spun maybe almost five or six times.
“Today was much more easy, I had a much better car, the boys worked overnight and switched the set-up from left to right, from upside-down and made huge steps.”
Asked to explain the changes, Rast said it was a “completely different philosophy” that will give him “a foundation for upcoming weekends”.
“I feel much more comfortable in the car, still need to fine-tune here and there but we saw that the direction is the right one, and that’s very positive for the next weekends,” he said.
He later added: “After Portimao, I wasn’t really confident. Now I am much more confident, obviously also more motivated to collect more points and hopefully more podiums”.
Abt team boss Thomas Biermaier conceded that the team is “not quite where we want to be yet” but was delighted with Rast’s result.
“We still have some work to do to really understand the Evo II,” he said.
“But I am incredibly happy for Rene. He earned his first podium with hard work, his whole crew did a good job.”
Rast’s teammate Ricardo Feller rebounded from a puncture that caused his retirement in race one to claim seventh in race two, but 2021 DTM title challenger Kelvin van der Linde failed to score in either race after what he called an “extremely difficult weekend”.
The South African qualified mid-grid on both occasions, retired from race one after an opening lap trip through the gravel caused a vibration, and in race two made an extra pitstop to switch back to his starting tyres - thus saving a set for the next round at Imola – when it became clear that points were not on the cards.
"We will build up Kelvin again after this weekend," added Biermaier. "We will do everything we can to get him back to his old strength at Imola."