Portrait of the champion René Rast
Stuttgart. His sunglasses are his trademark. White rims and coloured mirror glass – they could almost come from the hippy commune era.
But René Rast, who celebrated his second straight title win in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup in Abu Dhabi on Saturday is anything but Mr Razzle Dazzle.
“I’m more of a quiet type. But if there is reason to celebrate I don’t hold back,” says the 25-year-old from Steyerberg in Germany. And he grins as cheekily as a student who places a drawing pin on his teacher’s chair and waits for him to sit down.
At the wheel of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup fielded by VELTINS Lechner Racing, he took off into the season as the clear favourite.
But the year started slowly. At the season-opener in Istanbul he finished fifth, and in Barcelona he had to settle for seventh.
“That was nothing like the start I imagined,” he says, “but it was no reason to panic. Perhaps we were too confident after winning the title in 2010.” Naturally he felt the pressure from the huge expectations – but he didn’t lose his composure. “I approach every race cool and calm, anything else doesn’t work.”
His patience paid off:
In Monaco he was back in force with his first win of the season. This success in the glamorous world of the rich and famous was well deserved with drivers having to change gears 34 times per lap through the twisting labyrinth of Monte Carlo.
René Rast explains:
“That is an incredibly difficult task. But when you’re handed your trophy in the Royal Box you quickly forget about it.”
For the title defender, this success in the Principality on the Cote d’Azur was the spark he needed after such a slow start to the season. With his win on the legendary Nürburgring-Nordschleife, where the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup ran as part of the inaugural Porsche Carrera World Cup – the greatest Porsche race in history with 100 competitors from 25 countries – he celebrated the biggest success of his career.
“Winning this race was an unforgettable experience,” he says about his tour de force on the rain-sodden famed race track. “I’d never driven a Porsche on the Nordschleife prior to this and the conditions were really challenging. The key to success was that I didn’t make one mistake.”
After these two victories, René Rast was the hero of the hour in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup. And in Silverstone as well he proved unbeatable: On the legendary race track in the British Midlands he celebrated his third consecutive win. This catapulted him into the points’ lead. When the world’s fastest international one-make series returned to the Nürburgring for the 200th race in its successful history, René Rast was again the man to beat, and in typical Eifel conditions he continued on his winning streak with victory number four.
“That was a perfect race,” he remembers. “With regard to the championship, that was a great weekend for us.”
One of his greatest strengths is his boundless confidence. Even in critical situations he rarely loses the overview.
“René is not someone who makes silly mistakes when he’s under pressure,” says Kuba Giermaziak, who fought him hard for the title right to the final race in Abu Dhabi.
That is something the new champion has over all his rivals. “I believe in myself and I know what I can do,” he says. “Inside I’m just as tense as my opponents, but I just don’t show it on the outside.”
That is typical of René Rast:
He doesn’t regard the fierce competition in the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup as a problem, but more as a challenge. And it was with this attitude that he competed as a tiny tot. At the age of four he contested his first race – in an electric car on a supermarket car park in Steyerberg. His opponents were good and twice his age, but still he won. Rast made a minor detour to motocross before his uncle put him in a kart. From this point on, he focused seriously on his racing career: 2003 and 2004 he contested the Formula BMW, 2005 he won the VW Polo Cup.
He climbed aboard a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup for the first time in 2007, and a year later was crowned champion of the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland. In his first Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup season he won most of the races, but concluded the year as runner-up. In 2010 he took home the championship.
On the way to successfully defending his title he was at times in the lead on the Hungaroring on the outskirts of Budapest, but technical problems with his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup forced him into retirement. Although he lost the points’ lead, he didn’t lose sight of the title.
Promptly at the race in Spa-Francorchamps, where he settled for second place (“if I don’t see a chance I’d rather leave it”), he was back at the top of the table.
And again in Monza he didn’t take any risks, saw the flag in second and was more than happy:
“Things look good for the championship,” he said. “Now we just have to be up near the front in Abu Dhabi and we should have it in the bag.”
He turned this comparatively simple tactic into deeds in the United Arab Emirates capital – and took home the title.
In a review of the season in which he secured pole position three times and the fastest race lap twice, he comments on…
… successfully defending the title:
“I’m simply thrilled and relieved. It’s difficult to describe what it means to have won this championship two times in a row. This year was even tougher than last season because there were more drivers competing who were good to take the title. To do this despite experiencing a difficult start to the season is fantastic.”
… the key to success:
“That is undoubtedly our streak of four wins. These successes were an enormous boost for our team and rather sobering for our opposition. We earned so many points through these wins that we didn’t have to take unnecessary risks at every race, but could be satisfied with second place.”
… his most wonderful win:
“There are two victories that shine over the others: Monaco and the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. Winning the race in Monaco in front of this unparalleled backdrop is something quite special for every race driver. And to be the first winner of the Porsche Carrera World Cup, the greatest Porsche race in history, will always be a highlight of my career. They were two extraordinary races this season that I won.”
… his VELTINS Lechner Racing team:
“It’s a team that every driver wishes for. We all clicked right from the start and we never had any real problems. And if things did get difficult, like at the beginning of the year when the first races didn’t go as we thought, we all found a way to overcome these hurdles. Now we know there are no problems we can’t solve.”
… his strengths:
“My main strength is surely my consistency. I’m quick on all tracks. There is not one circuit where I would say it doesn’t suit me. Moreover, I don’t make many mistakes. I spend a lot of time analysing data. Often I’ll lie awake in bed and think about how I can become even quicker.”
… his dreams:
“To land a works cockpit is the dream of all race drivers, mine as well. I hope that this dream will be fulfilled one day.”