Thomas Preining wins drivers’ championship during Qualifying
The finale of the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) dawned at the Hockenheimring in southern Germany on October 21 and 22. The pressure was on for Manthey EMA and Thomas Preining: Even before the weekend began, they were in the lead for the team and driver’s championship.
The tension was high for Thomas Preining in the Manthey EMA #91 on Saturday. After his successful run on his home track, the Red Bull Ring, the Austrian was leading the points and determined to defend his position. The starting grid was already in his favor: He started the race at the Hockenheimring from pole position. His teammate Dennis Olsen with car number #90 started from the second row – another strategically good position for the Manthey EMA team. The next Porsche drivers entered the race from further back: Ayhancan Güven started from 10th in the #24 Team75 Bernhard, his teammate Laurin Heinrich in the # 75 started from 15th. Directly behind him was Marvin Dienst in the #99 Toksport WRT in 16th position. The team also entered the race from 21st position with Tim Heinemann in the #9 car.
The teams started the formation lap behind the Safety Car in great weather conditions at the Hockenheimring. As soon as the starting lights turned green, all eyes were on Preining in the #91. The Austrian managed to get ahead of the competition right from the start, the second-placed Lamborghini got involved in a duel with Manthey EMA teammate Dennis Olsen in the green Porsche 911 GT3 R. The duel was quickly decided in the first turn: Dennis Olsen pulled up behind his Manthey EMA teammate and both pushed ahead in front of their pursuers. Meanwhile, the action in the back rows was just as exciting: Two cars collided slightly in the crowd, and the front panel of one vehicle was flung onto the start-finish straight.
The grid was packed at the back. Ayhancan Güven and Laurin Heinrich fell behind and were partly forced off-track by their opponents, while Marvin Dienst and Tim Heinemann managed to improve their positions. Expecially Tim Heinemann in car #9 was involved in a tough battle. Even after one lap, he was still caught up in a pack of cars and forced to dodge again and again, all the while trying to improve on his own position.
It also became clear why Ayhancan Güven in the #24 Team75 Bernhard was losing ground. He was noticeably behind in the early laps of the race and pitted within the first ten minutes of the race.
Said pit lane was opened 20 minutes into the race. Thomas Preining continued to increase his lead in the #91 Manthey EMA, while his teammate in the #90 completed his stop at the same time as Laurin Heinrich in the #75 Team75 Berhard. Several minutes later, the entire grid had completed their pit stops and Manthey EMA returned with the double lead. On the other hand, Tim Heinemann in the #9 car was less fortunate: His pit stop took noticeably longer. There seemed to be trouble.
After the pit stop, Laurin Heinrich in the #75 car made a stead push for a spot in the point rankings. His teammate Ayhancan Güven was forced to retire, followed shortly after by Toksport WRT driver Tim Heinemann. On the other hand, his teammate Marvin Dienst in the #99 car was on 13th position, and was had to keep an eye on the Lamborghini tracking him.
Meanwhile, the two Manthey EMA Porsche 911 GT3 were safely and somewhat relaxed in the lead. Thomas Preining even managed to radio back to the team to ask if his teammate was still behind him, and got an answer he was happy to hear: Olsen was still on second and his own pace was excellent.
So it was hardly surprising to see Thomas Preining and Dennis Olsen drive past the checkered flag in first and second place, respectively. Manthey EMA could already start celebrating on Saturday: The team championship was in the bag for them. Meanwhile, drivers’ championship was close enough to touch for Thomas Preining. The race on Sunday would be decisive.
A double victory is of course something special. It was the greatest goal we had throughout the year. We’re very proud of that.
The first day of the last DTM race of the year ended with the following positions for the Porsche drivers:
1. Thomas Preining, Manthey EMA #91
2. Dennis Olsen, Manthey EMA #90
10. Laurin Heinrich, Team75 Bernhard #75
13. Marvin Dienst, Toksport WRT #99
DNF Tim Heinemann, Toksport WRT #9
DNF Ayhancan Güven, Team75 Bernhard #24
Battle for every single point
Actually, Thomas Preining could relax after Sunday’s Qualifying: He had performed well and won enough points to secure the drivers’ championship. So, he entered the race once more from pole position in perfect weather conditions. However, his start the day before had been much better, and the second-placed Lamborghini and third-placed BMW managed to catch up quickly. The Austrian was soon under pressure from behind; the Lamborghini made light contact with his rear in the tight Hairpin turn. Luckily, Preining was able to stabilize his car. Even though he had already won the drivers’ championship, he was determined to give his best.
His Manthey EMA teammate Dennis Olsen started from the middle of the grid and was 15th after the start, but a vehicle part in the rear of his Porsche 911 GT3 R seemed to be smoking. Only the following race would show what this meant for him. Laurin Heinrich (#75) was in a better position for Team75 Bernhard on the second race day and could improve his position from 5th to 4th spot in the first laps.
Five minutes after the start, Christian Engelhart in the #19 Lamborghini was spun off track – the Safety Car entered the track. The following restart went well for Thomas Preining, while the other Porsche drivers went in for the attack: Dennis Olsen defended his 15th position in a highly competitive field. Ayhancan Güven (#24) could keep up after his stroke of bad luck on the previous day and only dropped from 9th to 10th. Marvin Dienst (#99 Toksport WRT) started from 24th position and improved onto 22nd.
Most of the grid exited into the pit as soon as it was opened. Thomas Preining stayed on the track to increase his lead. His teammate Dennis Olsen was one of the first in the pits. He returned to the same fiercely contested field and made several attempts on the damaged AMG in front of him. Laurin Heinrich also returned in an advantageous position – he was involved in the three-way battle for third place.
The race went to the pit crew the moment Thomas Preining entered the pits. If they could get the #91 back on the track ahead of all the other previously pitte cars, Preining would retain his lead. At first, the team managed the challenge successfully, but one lap later, René Rast’s team was just as quick and sent their driver back onto the track ahead of Preining. But the Austrian driver took advantage of his opponent’s new and cold tires – he retook the lead ahead of the pitted cars once more.
Keeping track of all the changes during this action-packed race was quite a challenge. At first, it was unclear why Tim Heinemann in the #9 Toksport WRT had to retire from the race. Later it was revealed that he had lost his diffuser during contact and struggled with an increasing number of problems due to the incident. Laurin Heinrich also dropped back to sixth after having been involved in the battle for third for a long time.
Meanwhile, Ayhancan Güven and Dennis Olsen had their sights set on a top 10 finish. They were locked in an intense battle with the car on 12th, with them on 11th and 13th respectively. All three were closing in on the BMW on 10th. Güven was forced to defend his position against Jack Aitken on 12th through several turns until he could no longer resist. It quickly became into a battle between Dennis Olsen for Manthey EMA and Ayhancan Güven for Team75 Bernhard.
While the bottom of the grid was fiercely battling for every single position, Thomas Preining gained a lead. The top of the grid generally started to loosen up, making it difficult for Laurin Heinrich in sixth to get close to the car ahead of his #75.
In the last minutes of the race, Mirko Bortolotti closed the gap to the leading Thomas Preining and upped the pressure against the Porsche driver. But putting pressure on someone was one thing – keeping it up was another. On the final lap, Bortolotti skidded into the gravel pit ahead of the start-finish straight and lost precious seconds as a result. Then it was time for celebrations: double pole position, double lead, and the drivers’ championship in 2023. Congratulations to Thomas Preining and Manthey EMA!
On the second day of the last DTM race of 2023, the Porsche drivers finished in the following positions:
1. Thomas Preining, Manthey EMA #91
6. Laurin Heinrich, Team75 Bernhard #75
12. Ayhancan Güven, Team75 Bernhard #24
13. Dennis Olsen, Manthey EMA #90
18. Marvin Dienst, Toksport WRT #99
DNF Tim Heinemann, Toksport WRT #9
And with this triple championship victory for Thomas Preining, Manthey EMA and Porsche, the DTM goes the winter break. See you in 2024.