Kelvin van der Linde, the 17-year-old motor racing phenomenon from Dainfern in Gauteng, racked up yet another memorable milestone in his young career with victory in race two of the opening round of the ADAC GT Masters in Oschersleben, Germany on Sunday.
Sharing a Prosperia C Abt Audi R8 with Germany’s René Rast, 27, the 2013 Volkswagen Scirocco R Cup champion and 2013 South African Motor Sportsman of the Year became the youngest ever GT Masters pole-sitter (in race one) and race winner.
The two Prosperia C Abt Audi drivers dominated Sunday’s race to come home 2,4 seconds ahead of the Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by Christian Engelhart (27) of Germany and Dutchman Jaap van Lagen (37). The race got off to a dramatic start with a pile-up ahead of the first corner which immediately brought out the red flags. All seven drivers involved emerged relatively unscathed.
After a 30-minute delay, the race was restarted but over a reduced distance, with the time now limited to 48 minutes. Rast, still in pole position, led off strongly; the pursuing pair of Austrian Dominik Baumann (21) in a BMW Z4 GT3 and Van Lagen in the Porsche were preoccupied with a private battle for second position. Van Lagen prevailed but was unable to pose any sort of threat to race leader Rast.
At the mandatory pit stop, Rast handed over to co-driver van der Linde with a two-second cushion, and the youngster then brought the car home safely ahead of Engelhart and Van Lagen. Baumann and German Claudia Hürtgen (42) were third in the BMW, 3,1 seconds in arrears. The debut performance by the 17-year-old South African could hardly have been more impressive: he not only became the youngest ever race winner in the series but also claimed one of the two pole positions in his own right.
“I found the first half hour of the race quite nerve-wracking and was a bit concerned when I took over as race leader, as I didn’t know if I could hang on to P1 after the pit stop,” confessed Van der Linde. “But I then found myself further in front and just focused on finishing the race and managing the lead.
”I’m very grateful to Christian Abt for the opportunity to drive his car in the ADAC GT Masters. This is a mega step up for me in my motor racing career and I am very happy to have helped the team get the new season off to such a good start. The team gave René and I a great car this weekend.”
“Kelvin drove a fantastic race, didn’t make any mistakes and withstood massive pressure from the opposition,” said an admiring Rast. “Apart from that frightening incident at the start, it was a relatively straightforward race. I opened up a gap on the Porsche but never quite managed to shake him off.”
Prosperia C Abt Racing, winners of the team prize in 2013, fielded three Audi R8 LMS ultra cars in the first round of the high-profile international series. Van der Linde and Rast started from the pole position claimed by the South African in car #10 in Saturday’s opening 1-hour sprint race. They put in impressive performances in their first appearance together and at the chequered flag were just 0.307s behind the winning Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 of Germany’s Max Buhk (21) and Max Gotz. Engelhart and Van Lagen were third in the Porsche.
The other two Prosperia C Abt Racing Audis, the #12 RT8 Audi driven by Markus Winkelhock and Stefan Wackerbauer and the #11 car shared by Nicki Thiim and Fabian Hamprecht, were forced to retire from both races.
Van der Linde and Rast will contest all eight rounds of the series, which features races at famous circuits like Zandvoort in Holland and the Nurburgring and the Hockenheimring in Germany. Their competition includes Porsche 911 GT3s, BMW Z4 GT3s, Chev Camaro GTs and Chev Corvette GT3s, Ford GT3s, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3s and Nissan GT-R GT3s.
They now lead the championship with 43 points to the 33 of Engelhart and Van Lagen and the 25 of Hürtgen and Baumann.
The next round of the championship is at Zandvoort on May 10 and 11.