Kelvin van der Linde not only made history at Kyalami on Saturday when he became the youngest driver ever to compete in a South African senior national championship motor race. He also stunned the establishment with a superb debut performance in the Engen Volkswagen Cup for drivers aged 27 or younger when he drove his Ferodo Volkswagen Polo Vivo to two fourth place finishes and third overall for the day behind experienced campaigners Devin Robertson and Kyle Barnes.
The third generation of the famous Van der Linde racing family to compete on the national stage after grandfather Hennie, father Shaun and uncle Etienne, all former national champions, the 14-year-old just made Motorsport South Africa’s requirement for a driver to have turned 15 by the end of June in his first year of senior competition. The grade 9 Dainfern College pupil turns 15 on June 20, by which time he will have competed in four rounds of the championship.
Van der Linde, who already has two national karting title to his name, had shown in Friday’s practice sessions that he was not overawed by the experience when he was consistently second fastest behind Ferodo Racing Team-mate Lee Thompson, a former Engen Volkswagen Cup champion competing in the Masters category and more than twice his age at 31.
Qualifying on Saturday morning was spoilt by a visit to the sand trap that resulted in a flat tyre after Thompson had gone off the circuit in front of him and dragged sand and grass on to the tarmac. After a visit to the pits to replace the wheel, there was just time to post a single timed lap which put him in 11th place on the grid and sixth in his category.
The Dainfern Estate youngster proceeded to demonstrate in the first of the two eight-lap races that he was not only quick, but could more than hold his own in senior company and the door handle-to-door handle hurly-burly of Volkswagen Cup racing.
He battled his way into fifth overall and fourth in his category at the finish, recording the third-fastest lap time in the process on the penultimate lap. Starting race two from seventh on the grid, Van der Linde finished a very creditable sixth overall and fourth in the VW Cup category after a coming-together with another competitor in The Bowl (turn 12) affected the handling of his car.
It was a massive overall performance for such a young driver and marks him as a future senior champion like his grandfather, father and uncle. Crowning his momentous weekend was the fitting accolade of Driver of the Day.
“It was an awesome weekend,” admitted the unassuming youngster. “I just wanted to do my best and show that I could handle my first senior race at Kyalami. It was a bit hectic in the fist race. There was a lot of bumping going on, but I just kept my head down and concentrated on holding my own. I really enjoyed myself and am happy with my overall performance. I’d like to thank Federal-Mogul and Ferodo for giving me my big chance and also my dad and grandfather for all their hard work preparing my car.”
The next round of the Engen Volkswagen Cup is at Killarney in Cape Town on April 2.
Issued on behalf of Vanderlinde Racing by Peter Burroughes Communications, telephone 082 899 0101, e-mail email@example.com.