The opening race of the DTM weekend at the Norisring was won by Thomas Preining who scored Porsche’s first win in the championship. In the crash-filled race, the #24 Küs Team Bernhard Porsche 991.2 GT3R was one of few drivers to not got caught up in accents. He was followed over the finish line by Dennis Olsen in the #94 SSR Performance Porsche 991.2 GT3R making it a Porsche one-two victory.
A good start meant Kelvin van der Linde held on to the lead coming out of the first corner, despite Thomas Preining making a move but overshooting his breaking point and slotting back into second. Right behind them, Arjun Maini got turned around causing a pileup with Marco Wittmann, Sheldon van der Linde, Nico Müller, Dev Gore and David Schumacher all suffering severe damage to their cars and bringing out the safety car.
Quick clean-up by the marshals gave the drivers still plenty of time to race – or so it seemed.
While his first attempt to take the lead failed, Preining was successful the second time around, overtaking Van der Linde into the Grundig Kehre.
Throughout the following laps, Preining held the #3 Team Abt Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3 at arm’s length while Dennis Olsen in the #94 SSR Performance Porsche 991.2 GT3R began pushing René Rast’s #33 Team Abt Audi R8 LMS GT3 for third place, forcing the former DTM champion into defensive action a number of times.
More drama happened 14 minutes into the race when Esteban Muth was rear ended by the #6 GRT Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Alessio Deledda at the end of the start-finish straight at high speed, spinning the #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 into the wall and then into the rear of DTM debutant Franck Perera in the #19 GRT Lamborghini Huracán GT3 taking both of them out.
The full course yellow that followed opened the pit window that saw all cars make their single mandatory stop. Forced to wait for oncoming traffic after his stop, Van der Linde lost several places dropping him back to third behind the new race leader Rast who had Preining right on his rear bumper.
Going back to green, Dennis Olsen had clearly set his sights on the lead as he tried to go around the outside of the hairpin but coming up just short and only moving up to third from fourth place. More successful was Preining’s very deep outbraking manoeuvre on Rast that handed him the lead. But, once again, things went awry further down the field when the slightest of touch of Mirko Bortolotti’s #63 GRT Lamborghini Huracán GT3 sent the #88 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing of Maro Engel crashing into the wall on the backstraight causing yet another caution.
At the tight, two-wide restart, Olsen was able to wrestle second place away from Rast in the run-up to the first turn.
By now, half-lap sprints had become the norm in the race so when the field went back to green it was no surprise that another safety car period followed shortly. This time it was caused by the unsuspecting Lucas Auer who got hit from the back by the #37 Alpha Tauri AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 of Ayhancan Güven and turned around in the Schöller S. Seconds later, in the final chicane, Bortolotti and Kelvin van der Linde came together, pushing the Audi into ‘KVDL’s’ teammate Ricardo Feller and causing suspension damage to the Lamborghini and Van der Linde’s Audi.
17 minutes remained on the clock when the field got the green light again, this time keeping it relatively clean until the chequered flag.
Eyeing the lead, Olsen missed the apex of the first turn as he attacked the equally late-braking Preining and dropped back to third behind Rast. The Norwegian wasn’t just going to sit back and accept third, putting pressure on Rast and in the scramble hitting the #3 Audi – to no effect other than angering the stewards who handed him an official warning.
Meanwhile, Laurens Vanthoor had closed in and in turn began putting pressure on his teammate momentarily overtaking him but on the same lap having to let Olsen by again. That proved to be the only danger from Vanthoor, as Rast quickly picked up pace and together with Olsen left the group led by Vanthoor, Philipp Eng, Maximilian Götz and Ricardo Feller behind who were left to fight over fourth place.
Through all the crashes and accidents, Thomas Preining was one of few who kept it clean and made no mistakes. Having affirmed his leading position at the last restart, the Porsche took off and remained unchallenged at the end of the 55 minutes plus three laps race to bring home his and Porsche’s first DTM victory.
René Rast had nearly secured second place when coming out of the final hairpin on the penultimate lap he went in too hot while Dennis Olsen nailed his exit and took second place to make it a Porsche one-two win.
Fourth place went to Laurens Vanthoor’s Porsche who had to deal with an eager Philipp Eng on his rear wing for the final green flag running, the #25 Schubert Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 pilot having worked his way up from the midfield to fifth.
Maximilian Götz finished sixth, ahead of Luca Stolz in the #4 Mercedes-AMG Team HRT, Ricardo Feller in the #7 Team Abt Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3, Mikhail Grenier in the #55 Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing and Clemens Schmid in the #85 GRT Lamborghini Huracán GT3 rounding out the top ten.
Race 2 starts on Sunday at 13:30 CEST and is preceded by the two-part qualifying at 9:50 CEST.
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