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Ricard Conversations: René Rast

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Is there anyone who doesn’t think that Rene Rast is one of the most exciting endurance drivers currently on the scene? Rast had a stellar 2013 with the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT squad, proving on occasion after occasion his searing pace and ruthless racing instinct.

RR is now about to bring his talents to LMP2 as he is confirmed to be racing at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours with the Sebastien Loeb Racing team’s Oreca-Nissan. Sam Smith caught up with Rene after his initial taste of the Oreca at Ricard this morning.

Make no mistake this affable and engaging German has the talent to be a genuine sports car sensation over the next few years.

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Rene, how are you adapting style wise to more downforce and less weight now you are driving an LMP2 car here?

“Of course you have to adapt as it is completely different to a GT car but actually after a few laps you get the rhythm ok and it becomes a bit easier to find the right braking points and where to push. For sure you notice the downforce at first but then it becomes normal. Still there is a lot more to come from me.”

How did the deal come about? What are the details?

“Actually I was not involved too much in the talks but I just got a call from Audi saying you are doing Le Mans with Sebastien Loeb Racing and that was it. Naturally I am happy to be going to Le Mans. It will be my first time on the legendary circuit and it has always been a dream to race at the 24 Hours.”

Apart from two years in Formula BMW you have little experience of racing anything other than GT cars. Is the lack of experience with high downforce cars a disadvantage for you?

“Possibly but I will catch up! I did Formula BMW as you say in 2002 and 2003 but apart from that I have no big experience of this kind of downforce. However the characteristics in term of the grip levels are similar to DTM which I have done quite a few tests in, so actually it is not so much of a disadvantage for me.

What about tyre management, Rene? Any noticeable differences here?

“Well I am yet to do a big stint in the car. I just did a handful of laps this morning so it is difficult to say about tyres and I also think there is a different compound this year from Michelin so we will have to see.”

What are you expecting from your first time at Le Mans?

“Well you always go out to win don’t you? But even though I have not been to Le Mans I know that it is not a normal race. There are obviously so many things that can and usually do happen at Le Mans, not just over the race but the whole week. It will all be new to me but I have heard so much about it even from my new team mate here Jan Charouz who has done it a few of times. I don’t know what to expect but whatever it is I will do my best in the cockpit.”