Returning to the DTM after a year away from Formula E, Abt Rast mounted a solid title challenge with one win, six podiums and three poles in the updated Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II.
He ended up 15 points short of the crown in his final season with the brand, finishing third in the standings behind future BMW brand-mate Sheldon van der Linde and second-placed Lucas Auer (Mercedes).
There were serious complaints from Audi about the series’ BoP at Hockenheim last weekend after Rust struggled to finish fifth in the opening race, with the marque’s racing customer boss Chris Reinke telling Autosport that the situation on saturday was a “farce”.
Audi later received a larger air restrictor ahead of Sunday’s showdown, while Mercedes and BMW’s performance was pegged back in response to their podium blocking.
If Rast, who finished second in the race behind BMW’s Mark Wittmannwhen asked if the BoP change was enough to boost Audi’s racing prospects, he said: “I think it was quite obvious.
“It’s not easy for these decision makers to have the measurements right all the time, so it’s not like they did a bad job. They are also trying their best.
“Our last Audi victory was at Imola, it was five rounds ago. We were always in the mix but never competitive enough to win races at our own pace, which is obviously a bit disappointing.
“But I think we did everything, we scored points, we didn’t make any stupid mistakes.
“I always stayed on track, made the right strategies. In the end it wasn’t enough, but that’s how it is sometimes.”
Rust was beaten to victory in the final race by Whitman
Photo: Alexander Traynits
Rast needed to win Sunday’s final race at Hockenheim after claiming pole position to have any chance of wresting the crown from van der Linde, but conceded the lead at the start to the speedy Wittmann.
Unable to gain track position, Rust passed the two-time champion for a lap and that put him on his tail after they both made their mandatory stops.
Rust and Wittmann then entered a close scrap for the win and slapped wheels several times before Rust finally made the move at Turn 12.
It was all for naught, however, when Rust crashed into Turn 5 on the next lap, allowing Wittmann to come back and take his first win of the season.
Rust said he enjoyed the battle with Wittmann and would have liked to fight him for the rest of the race, but felt he lacked the pace to keep up.
“It was fun being scared of Mark,” he recalled. “He came out with cold tires on the track and I was confident I could go, which I did and we fought hard.
“But I think it was tough, but fair, even though we touched a lot of times. But that’s what we want to see in DTM, hard racing. Everything was under control.
“It’s a shame that I could have continued like him to fight until the end of the race like we’ve done in the past. Maybe with DRS and push to pass it would have been possible, but we weren’t fast enough and at some point I made a mistake.
“I had to push like crazy to get past him, I went through the grass and he passed me on the straight. But it was a matter of time, if not this lap, then the next, he would have passed me.”
Three-time champion Rust finished the season third in the standings behind champion Van der Linde and Mercedes man Auer
Photo: Alexander Traynits
The 2022 season marks the second time Rust has lost the title since joining the series with Audi in 2017, with his only loss coming in the 2018 season to Mercedes’ Gary Paffett.
However, the 35-year-old feels he and the Abt Audi team can still be satisfied with what they achieved during their first season together in the GT3 DTM era.
“After finishing second in the last race of the season, we can still be proud of what we did, maximizing almost every weekend and still third in the championship,” Rust said.
“It’s not bad. I’ve finished all five of my DTM seasons on the podium, so I’m very happy with that.”