Thomas Preining charged to victory for the 16th and final race in the 2023 DTM season at Hockenheim with Mirko Bortolotti in second place.
After Thomas Preining secured the 2023 DTM championship in qualifying, the attention was still on whether he could make it a clean sweep this weekend having taken both pole positions and the Race 1 victory so far.
SSR Performance Lamborghini driver Mirko Bortolotti was just six-thousandths-of-a-second away from the champion’s pole position time, after attempting to match him in yesterday’s qualifying, but had his fastest lap time deleted due to a track limits violation.
Nevertheless, the final hour of racing this season set drivers and teams fighting for the win around the 4.574 km Hockenheimring circuit, as last year’s champion Sheldon van der Linde started on the second row in his BMW M4 GT3.
As the lights went out for the final time this year, Preining fended off his lead with Bortolotti at the front, whilst S. van der Linde got the best of Luca Stolz by taking third position.
Behind them, the train of GT3 cars roared away staying close to one another and kicked up substantial dust, although it was last week’s Petit Le Mans GTD Pro winner Maro Engel who jumped up into sixth place, behind Stolz who was not able to retain his third grid spot during the opening laps.
A safety car was deployed after just five laps of racing, after the #19 Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2 of Christian Engelhart suffered an accident when Marco Wittmann’s BMW caught him on the rear.
He cruised to second place in yesterday’s race, and so this was a premature ending for him in the barrier, although he made it clear he was safe after the incident.
Rene Rast was the most notable gainer during the opening phase, having climbed to P11 from 23rd position.
After his destroyed Lamborghini was retrieved, the race got back underway with under 50 minutes of racing remaining.
Engel’s Mercedes-AMG was quickly challenged by Kelvin van der Linde’s Audi behind him, and the pair continued to race closely with one another for sixth place.
Thierry Vermeulen of the #69 Emil Frey Racing Ferrari lost several positions when he was forced off the track by Wittmann, who was given a black-and-white warning flag for the manoeuvre.
The #69 Ferrari 296 GT3 dropped to 12th position, and had Arjun Maini’s HRT Mercedes-AMG in his mirrors.
Twenty minutes into the race, the pit window opened for drivers to make their mandated pit stop for a set of new tyres.
Stolz and K. van der Linde made their early moves for the pitlane within the 20-minute window.
The front-runners stayed out, as Preining and Bortolotti fought for the lead and built a gap to third-placed S. van der Linde, before the Schubert Motorsport BMW driver made his trip to the pits.
Bortolotti pitted his Lamborghini on Lap 12 as Preining continued, and emerged on cold, fresh slicks from a well-executed pit stop.
Jack Aitken in the other Emil Frey Ferrari was amidst several tense fights in the midfield after many drivers, including himself, conducted their pit stops and remained in close proximity to one another.
Rast asserted strong pace amidst his surrounding rivals pitting before he did, maintaining his momentum as the triple DTM champion put in a redeeming drive from his underwhelming qualifying result.
Bortolotti’s earlier pit stop timing to Rast meant he warmed up the tyres sooner than the BMW driver, thus showcased an overtaking manoeuvre as the final pit stops were carried out.
The last drivers to pit were the SSR Performance Lamborghini teammates of Franck Perera and Alessio Deledda, as Perera waited until the very end of the pit window.
Elsewhere, Engel got himself in net-third place past Rast, who he built a gap upon shortly after he passed him.
Preining and Bortolotti were a second within another, as the field began to set personal fastest lap times.
Vermeulen was given a penalty lap three times for his collision with the #40 Audi of Mattia Drudi.
Right through into the final 15 minutes, Preining was under pressure from Bortolotti close behind, but the champion managed to keep his pace up in the #91 Porsche 911 GT3.R.
Preining eventually gained some space at the front, and the Austrian driver pulled 1.5 seconds ahead of the #92 Lamborghini of Bortolotti.
Deledda was ambitious upon a corner entry point, which led him to run into the dirt and the styrofoam billboards, although continued his way to the chequered flag.
After being crowned DTM champion this morning, he made it a clean sweep of both pole positions and race victories this weekend.
It was his third and final victory of this season and finished ahead of Bortolotti and Rast, who climbed 20 positions from 23rd on the grid.
Rast was a benefactor of Engel falling foul of a last-lap technical issue, where a bolt in the suspension of his Mercedes-AMG broke.
This allowed S. van der Linde through into fourth in the second Schubert BMW.
Engel wound up fifth, ahead of Laurin Heinrich’s Team75 Motorsport Porsche in sixth – Stolz finished in seventh, and Lucas Auer claimed eighth place.
Ricardo Feller claimed ninth position by the end, as Aitken rounded off the top-10 order.
The final Drivers’ standings leave the champion at the top on 246 points, and Bortolotti on 213.