In 2022, Porsche competed in the DTM for the first time. In the 991-series Porsche 911 GT3 R, the KÜS Team Bernhard was already fighting for victories in its maiden DTM season, and even for the drivers’ championship right up to the season finale. Thomas Preining took the first ever DTM race win for Porsche at the Norisring in Nuremberg, and later another in Spielberg, Austria. This race-winning vehicle is now on display in the Porsche Museum – although it was actually already a total loss…
Porsche’s first DTM year started a little bumpy. Although KÜS Team Bernhard had a Porsche works driver at the wheel in Thomas Preining, four retirements from the first six rounds were recorded. At least a 13th place at the season opener in Portimao, Portugal, and a fourth place in Imola added a few points to the team’s tally. For team boss Timo Bernhard, who is used to success, this is naturally unsatisfactory. After all, he is a two-time overall Le Mans winner and triumphed three times at the Nürburgring 24 Hours alone.
On July 2, 2023, the time had come. Thomas Preining took Porsche’s maiden DTM victory at the Norisring, Nuremberg’s tradition-steeped street circuit. Austrian-born Preining thus secured an entry in the history books, as he secured a victory in style. With a four-second lead he crossed the line first in the seventh round of the season. Consistent points finishes and a victory at his home race at the Red Bull Ring meant that Preining in the Porsche 991.2 GT3 R even remained within striking distance for the DTM title.
But at the first race of the season finale at the Hockenheimring, this hope vanished into thin air. I was there myself for this race and was able to take one of the last photos of this car on the grid. Shortly after the start, David Schumacher in the Mercedes AMG touched the Porsche 911 GT3 R of Thomas Preining. The car hit the crash barrier in front of the Mercedes tribune and very high speed. Even the engine was torn out of the chassis. A terrible accident. Preining was able to get out uninjured, but Porsche’s first DTM winning car was irreparably destroyed.
However, the tradition-conscious Stuttgart-based company did not want to consign this historically significant vehicle to scrap metal. Instead, Porsche Heritage’s historic motorsport workshop rebuilt the 911 GT3 R in a new chassis. Coordinator of Historic Motorsport, Armin Burger, reported at the unveiling of the vehicle, “Our requirement for the restoration of the vehicle was to take as many parts from the original car as possible.” Together with KÜS Team Bernhard, Burger’s team transferred numerous components from the crashed race car in the new chassis.
Even the wrapping from the end of the season and the stamp from the technical inspection were preserved. The wiring harness, suspension parts, piping and dashboard also came from Preining’s victorious Porsche 991 GT3 R. Even the electronic control units had survived the extreme impact and could be reused.
Timo Bernhard also confirmed that the technicians in Weissach had done a good job. Being the racer he is, it’s not surprising, that the team boss did not miss the opportunity to perform the maiden run himself after the rebuild. The endurance expert’s verdict: “The drive felt great. The confidence in the 911 GT3 R was there from the first moment. It makes me proud that I was able to drive the car exactly where it was developed five years ago.”
During the so-called fire-up, the starting of the engine, the entire team got goose bumps.Timo Bernhard on the experience at the first start after rebuilding Porsche’s first DTM winning car
Thomas Preining’s winning car from the Norisring will now take its place in the collection of the Porsche Museum. The Porsche 991.2 GT3 R joins a total of around 750 cars, including some 250 racing cars, owned by the museum. From now on, the KÜS Team Bernhard 911 can be admired in the museum’s permanent exhibition.