Rast was due to continue his relationship with Audi for several years and already had a deal for the 2023 season, but was released from his contract to pursue other opportunities following the Ingolstadt-based marque’s decision to abandon the LMDh project he was leading.

The 35-year-old will now drive for BMW in 2023 and will also return to Formula E with McLaren after one full season with Audi in 2020-21.

Rust said he will look back fondly on his time with Audi and the success they achieved together, adding that he will be grateful for the role it played in building his tenure.

“I am the driver I am now thanks to Audi Sport,” explained Rast after finishing second in the Hockenheim DTM finale last weekend, cementing his third position in the standings.

“They provided me with the car and the teams to win championships, especially the three DTM championships, as well as many other great races, the Daytona [in 2012]Spa [2012 and 2014] and the Nürburgring [also 2014] we won together.

“I always enjoyed working with everyone, in the factory, in the team, very grateful for 10-12 years in the end. Yes, it was a good time.

“Obviously, I would also like to put a fourth, fourth on the resume [DTM] name.

“I’m very grateful for what Audi has done for me, for my career. So everything ends in one moment.

“I was ready for this moment and we finished it the best we could.”

Rust admitted that during his last appearance with Audi at Hockenheim, he was emotional, but morally prepared for the fact that the manufacturer gave it up amicably.

“It was definitely an emotional weekend,” he said.

“There were a lot of times when I thought about it, especially in the morning in qualifying and also jumping into the car for the last time in the race.

“But I was able to prepare for that scenario, so it wasn’t that difficult. But I still had to fight many times.”

Having first joined Audi in 2011 as a fresh-faced driver, Rast quickly made a name for himself in GT3 racing, winning the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, the 24 Hours of Spa and the ADAC GT Masters title in the ’14 season.

Following his success in GT cars, Rast won the DTM title at his first attempt in 2017 and added two more championship titles to his tally at the end of the Class 1 era in 2019 and 2020.

Returning to the series this year after his season in Formula E, he took his 25th career win at Imola and added six more podium finishes to take his tally to 46 in just five seasons of racing, his most successful Audi driver in history to participate in the series.

Asked to name his favorite memory from working with the German manufacturer, Rast said he will always remember the moments that followed his first DTM success in 2017, when he beat brand-mates Matthias Ekstrom and Jamie Green to the crown.

“I would say crossing the start/finish line in 2017 [is my Audi highlight]” Rust said. “It was definitely a roller coaster moment.

“In 17 in the DTM final Mark [Wittmann] won. He crossed in front of me, I finished second and I was expecting everyone to be screaming and yelling like “yeah, you’ve won the championship.”

“But there was dead silence and nobody said anything. And I said, ‘We just lost the championship.’

“So I asked, ‘What happened?’ Because I was sure that we would become champions.

“Then it took 10-15 seconds. That moment obviously stayed in my memory forever, and I think it’s a special moment that I’m having with Audi.”

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