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Why DTM champion Preining has foregone use of #1 in 2024

Reigning DTM champion Thomas Preining will not use the number 1 plate on his Porsche for his title defence this year.

Thomas Preining, Manthey EMA Porsche 911 GT3-R

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

The Austrian driver will continue to carry his preferred 91 number on his Manthey EMA-entered 911 GT3 R in 2024, despite having earned the right to flaunt his champion status as part of the DTM rulebook.

Current BMW driver Rene Rast was the last champion to not race with #1 on his car, electing to continue with his signature #33 after the first two of his three title-winning campaigns (he didn’t defend his third title in 2021 following the DTM’s switch to GT3 rules).

Explaining his rationale, Preining told Autosport’s sister title Motorsport-Total.com that he is starting the year from scratch and needs to win the title again to consider himself the ‘current champion’.

"I already said in Hockenheim: Now we'll be champions for two months and then we'll be nothing. That's our way of thinking," he said.

"We now have to earn number 1 again and work at least as hard as last year - with the same focus. That's why we're driving with number 91 this year and not with number 1."

This year will mark Preining’s third campaign in the DTM, having first entered the series in 2022 with Team Bernhard 75.

He was instrumental in Porsche’s maiden success in the DTM last year, as the Volkswagen Group marque clinched the drivers’, teams’ and manufacturers’ treble.

But while his 2023 title has raised his stock within Porsche, which now has a new flagship sportscar programme in the World Endurance Championship and the IMSA SportsCar Championship, Preining said it was his call to continue in the DTM over taking up a bigger opportunity in LMDh.

The 25-year-old, who has completed three tests in the Porsche 963, explained: “At the moment the focus is entirely on the DTM , and that was also my wish. 

“I have to thank Porsche: They gave me a free choice and I chose the DTM because I really enjoy it, because I feel comfortable there, because I work very well with the team and because I want to defend the title."

Preining said he also enjoys the sprint format of the DTM, with each race lasting just over an hour and featuring a tye change in between.

 "It's all about the qualifying, it's about the duel, wheel to wheel the whole race,” he said. “I just think that's great. And there's currently nothing that's above that for me this season. It's my big one. The goal for 2024 is to defend the title or to win it again."

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