South African motor racing prodigy Kelvin van der Linde has won the Driver of the Year award for the 2014 International Automobile Federation’s (FIA) Young Driver Excellence Academy. In a graduation ceremony at the Paul Ricard circuit in France on Thursday (July 17), the 18-year-old Grade 12 student at Dainfern College was presented with a trophy and certificate at the culmination of a seven month programme that included five different workshops attended by 10 young racing drivers from eight countries. Van der Linde was the official representative of the African continent.
The Young Driver Excellence Academy is an initiative of the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety and Sustainability and Van der Linde earned his place on the 2014 Academy after an intensive selection process that involved events around the world at the end of 2013. Each FIA National Sporting Authority (NSA) including Motorsport South Africa nominated a driver to attend the selection process. Five qualifiers were chosen and were joined by five wild card participants.
The Academy offers a fully funded training programme to help develop the participants’ motor sport careers, while increasing safety skills and promoting fairness and responsibility on and off the track. Drivers benefitted from the expert tutelage of former Formula One driver Alex Wurz of Austria and former World Rally Championship co-driver Robert Reid of England.
According to the Academy, Van der Linde, the 2012 South African VW Cup champion and 2013 European VW Scirocco R-Cup champion – he is the youngest to have won either of these titles – impressed not only with his speed on the circuit, but with his willingness and enthusiasm to engage with the Academy programme, which is aimed at developing and improving motor sport safety and sustainability and promotes excellence and achievement in all areas of motor sport. He also demonstrated a strong appreciation and understanding of key safety aspects of the Academy throughout the year.
Van der Linde, who currently leads the ADAC GT Masters Championship for GT3 sports cars in Europe at the halfway stage in a Prosperia C. Abt Audi R8 with German co-driver Rene Rast, was thrilled to be named Academy Driver of the Year and is excited to continue implementing the lessons he has learnt. He said: “I’m really speechless right now – to come to the Academy as the African representative where, despite being a large continent, racing is still growing and to win this is amazing. I came here with an open mind ready to learn and gave it my best. It’s great to win and receive this trophy, but the real work starts now.”
That work includes a return to the real world and catching up on his matric prelims at Dainfern College. He missed the first three exams because of last week’s final Academy workshop in France and will be working hard to catch up this week. “While a motor sport career is what I have chosen for myself, I realise the value of completing my school education and intend to achieve as good a matric result as I can.”