“I’m going all in,” said Thomas Preining after qualifying. “I’ll be doing my very best to get to the front.” It was an ambition that didn’t quite come off for the Porsche driver, as he had to settle for P3 after starting from fourth on the grid, but he was at least the beneficiary of some bad luck for his main title rival Mirko Bortolotti. The numerous Austrian fans who had decked out the grandstands in red, white and red celebrated the podium finish of the man from Linz as if it were a home victory. “This is a very emotional moment for me, in front of so many fans who support me. It was one of the best racing weekends of my career,” said Preining. He now travels to the DTM finale as championship leader, having opened up a lead of 10 points.
As in previous years, the end-of-season visit by the DTM to Spielberg thrilled the thousands of local fans – changeable track conditions, bold tyre selections, wheel-to-wheel duelling, non-stop overtaking and an incredibly tense battle for the championship. The DTM heroes as well as the contestants in the partner series delivered thrilling racing on the track. Off it, the programme of activities was no less entertaining. Fans were able to stroll around the paddock and join the pitwalk, admiring the cars at close quarters. And in the DTM Fan Zone, they were able to mingle with the drivers.
This spectacular event also attracted a number of sporting celebrities to Spielberg like Cornelia Hütter and Katharina Liensberger. At the VIP talk on the kronehit event stage, Nicole Schmidhofer talked about the time she broke the record in the final of the Speed Ski World Championships in Vars with a measured speed of 217.59 km/h. Former skiing champion Marcel Hirscher meanwhile acted as chauffeur in the 640hp Audi R8 LMS GT2 ‘race taxi’, taking delighted passengers at high speed around the race track. “Skiing remains the sport that I am better at. But everyone stayed safe,” Hirscher joked and admitted: “It was incredibly cool to get such a chance when you’re not an expert!”
Even though the DTM weekend brings the 2023 motorsport season at Spielberg to a close, there is some consolation to be found in the 2024 race calendar. Because next year (27th ‑ 29th September 2024 to be precise), the distinctive GT3 cars with their throaty roar will once again be accelerating around the Red Bull Ring – perhaps with an Austrian as reigning DTM champion on the grid?