Thomas Preining has had some action-packed weeks. He hadn't even properly celebrated his DTM victory yet when he began to travel to the island state Bahrain. The goal: the 7th race of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Just one day after the race, he would take a seat inside the Porsche 963 #5 for the so-called Rookie Test. We spoke to him beforehand.
Question: First of all, congratulations on winning the DTM championship titles! It’s been one highlight after the other for you recently: first the championship, now the Rookie Test in Bahrain. How are you feeling about it all?
Thomas Preining: I'm feeling quite good. I can consider myself lucky, but I have to admit that I did not have much time to celebrate. The Monday after the finale, I immediately headed into the simulator, after that, I was invited as expert for the Formula 1 in Mexico by an Austrian TV channel, and now I'm here in Bahrain. So I didn't get much time to process. But it is my greatest success so far, and was also very important to my family.
I can only speak for myself, but a lot of pressure just evaporated - my entire career cost a lot of sweat and tears in the past 15 years. And in a moment like that you're just relieved and think, "That was worth it."
I remain as hungry as before, but it was a great moment.
Question: The last time you were in Bahrain, the race ended prematurely for you. Now, you’ll be fielding the Porsche 963 #5 in a test. What are your thoughts on your development as a driver during this time?
Thomas Preining: A lot has happened in this time. It was a good race back then and we were always among the top three contenders until my colleague got involved in a collision - it was sad to see. We had chances of winning.
In the meantime, I've driven two years in the DTM and participated in multiple endurance races. Particularly the time I spent in the DTM has given me a lot and I could grow into the role of a title contender. I was already involved in the battle for the title in my first DTM season and even though that did not quite go as we would have liked it to, I learned a lot which I could apply this year.
You learn something new everywhere: With every day on the track, with every interaction with the team and every moment you think about improving yourself. That just adds up over time and you become well-rounded.
Question: When and how did you learn that you‘ll be driving the Porsche 963 in Bahrain?
Thomas Preining: I learned about it even before the official announcement. I was really ecstatic. Like many other drivers, I let people know that I'm interested in racing to win at Daytona and Le Mans. This is a very good first step to take.
Still, I don't feel like I'm under pressure. I'm quite satisfied with my current program. Sure, it would be great to add something to it, but for now, I'll take a peek.
Question: What is your goal for the test?
Thomas Preining: Generally, it will be entirely new to me to drive a prototype. So my first goal will be getting to know the vehicle - and of course, it's pretty complex. And I don't only mean the energy system, but also the many possibilities for the driver and teams to change something about the car while driving. In terms of setup and software, much is new to me. I will have to see on Sunday, how the drivability of the car changes the moment I adjust A or B (laughs).
There are some interesting challenges and novelties coming my way. I'm looking forward to them and feel well-prepared.
Question: Let’s gaze into the future for a moment: Where will you be in five years?
Thomas Preining: I want to race the biggest international races and win of course (winks). Le Mans, Daytona, Spa and Nürburgring - I want to win the first spot on the podium in these four big races. Quite a few share that goal, but no one managed it so far. But I'm still young and hopefully still have a few years left in my career. The earlier you get started in driving demanding races and getting up among the leaders, the higher are the chances of reaching that goal.
I don't know, if I will be able to achieve that, but I will give it my all. I have better chances at Nürburgring and Spa due to the field being a bit larger. Luckily, Porsche has returned to the WEC and IMSA, and can get a lead in both Daytona and Le Mans. I would love to be involved there to get add that to my resume.
'Le Mans winner' doesn't sound too bad.