Manthey EMA Porsche’s Thomas Preining became the first Austrian DTM Drivers’ Champion by securing pole position for Race 2 in Hockenheim.
After Preining’s victory in Race 1 on Saturday, championship-contender Mirko Bortolotti needed a mighty qualifying to see the championship go on to be decided later today in Race 2.
Preining entered the session with a 27-point advantage, meaning Bortolotti needed Preining to finish outside the top three positions in qualifying and the bonus points available, whilst landing a top two qualifying spot himself to reduce the advantage to at least 25 points.
In cool conditions, serious lap times weren’t put on the board until the closing moments.
Bortolotti laid down the gauntlet with two provisional pole times, breaking into the 1:36s barrier on his final attempt in the #92 SSR Performance Lamborghini Huracan EVO 2
However, Preining had the last laugh, snatching pole and with it the 2023 DTM Drivers’ Championship by sixth-thousandths of a second in the #91 Porsche 911 GT3 R.
After a teary radio exchange with colourful language, Preining pulled into pit lane, with Bortolotto the first to congratulate the new champion and last year’s champion Sheldon van der Linde quick to congratulate the Austrian shortly thereafter.
Preining’s time of 1:36.800s will go down in DTM history as a championship-winning time, with Bortolotti set to join him on the front row for the final race of the year, with a time just 0.006s back.
Luca Stolz secured third place in the #4 Team HRT Mercedes-AMG GT3, 0.201s back from Preining’s time, with 2022 champion S. van der Linde in fourth for Schubert Motorsport, with the #1 BMW M4 GT3 driver 0.228s off of pole.
Laurin Heinrich rounded out the top-five for Team 75 Motorsport in the #75 Porsche with a time of 1:37.048s.
Thierry Vermeleun led the line for the Ferrari 296 GT3 drivers, landing sixth spot in his #69 Emil Frey Racing machine with a time of 1:37.069s.
Seventh went to Kelvin van der Linde, the South African lapped the Hockenheimring in a time of 1:37.075s in the #3 ABT Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II, making him the fastest Audi driver of the session.
Eighth went to Christian Engelhart in the #19 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini, with a time of 1:37.110s.
Ayhancan Güven in the #24 Team75 Motorsport Porsche and Maro Engel in the #48 Team Mann-Filter Mercedes rounded out the top 10.
“I’m just extremely happy, I can’t even, I don’t even know what I feel, to be honest,” Preining said in pit lane after securing the title.
“A dream became a dream come true.”
Preining and the rest of the DTM field will sign off for the 2023 season with Race 2 later today, which commences at 13:30 local time (12:30 BST).