Preining got a chance to sample Porsche’s new prototype racer at the Bahrain International Circuit earlier this month, with the German manufacturer having nominated him for the World Endurance Championship rookie test following his impressive title-winning campaign with the 911 GT3 in the DTM.
Completing 82 laps of the Sakhir circuit that also hosted the WEC finale, the 25-year-old posted a best time of 1m1m50.603s in the factory, Penske-run 963 LMDh, which was just two tenths shy of what race driver Laurens Vanthoor managed during a short eight-lap run that was aimed at setting a baseline for the car.
That was despite Preining focusing almost entirely on long runs and not doing any low-fuel runs, which meant that he finished the test two seconds off the pace set by Robert Shwartzman in the Ferrari 499P LMH car.
An immediate graduate to WEC or IMSA SportsCar Championship’s top class next year is unlikely for the Austrian, but there could be more vacancies in Porsche’s LMDh line-ups in 2025 for which he could be considered a suitable candidate.
Asked if he could see himself racing the 963 in 2025, Preining told Motorsport.com: “I can definitely imagine. We didn’t really speak about my future yet. I’m still very busy this season. I was doing DTM in Hockenheim and then I went to Mexico for F1.
“Now I’m here and then I go to Macau. I will keep travelling for a long time but we need to find time to speak about these things.
He added: “Definitely [the test] was always something I was interested in.
“Of course it’s also one of my dreams to compete and try to win at Le Mans and Daytona. It’s natural. This is the way to go, for sure.”
Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images
#51 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Lilou Wadoux, #5 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Thomas Preining, #33 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R: Antoine Doquin, #46 Team WRT Oreca 07 – Gibson: Valentino Rossi, #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 – Hybrid: Josh Pierson, #2 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R: Nicolas Varrone
Preining clinched the 2023 DTM title while driving for Manthey EMA, a tie-up between Porsche’s former works GTE Pro team and Australian GT outfit EMA.
Manthey has been selected as Porsche’s official team in WEC’s new LMGT3 class next year and will field a pair of 911 GT3 Rs in the series next year, the same car with which Preining won the DTM title.
Preining said LMGT3 is “something on the table for sure”, but says no decision has been made regarding his exact programme for 2024.
The Austrian is expected to return to the DTM for a third season next year in a bid to defend his title.
“I don’t know the calendar to be honest,” he said. “LMGT3 is not something we have spoken about yet.
“For sure the focus has been on the DTM until Hockenheim, then the focus switched to this and now the focus switches to Macau, so there is not much room to think about next year.”
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
Champion Thomas Preining, Manthey EMA
Preining came through the ranks via Porsche’s one-make championships such as the Supercup and the Carrera Cup, before getting his big break to compete in the ADAC GT Masters in 2019.
He moved to the DTM in 2022 and helped lead Porsche to a drivers’, teams’ and manufacturers’ treble in only the second year of the marque’s participation in the series.
Porsche motorsport boss Thomas Laudenbach was full of praise of Preining following his title success in the DTM, but was coy when asked if he could be competing in prototypes in the future.
“Well done for Thomas Preining,” he said. “He is one of our factory drivers, which is nice. It’s just great to see how somebody grows with us, coming through our one-make series and it’s just nice to see, ‘okay, look now he’s won his first big title together with our brand.
“And that’s also one of the reasons why we’re giving him the opportunity here to do the rookie test. And of course, it’s our second season in DTM and therefore to win the manufacturers title is also very important.