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Kelvin van der Linde is one of Audi Sport’s most successful drivers. The South African residing in Germany pursues his victories and titles in the Audi R8 LMS with determination and cleverness – far beyond the cockpit. For the young champion from Johannesburg, family and home are the most important energy sources.

12/18/2019 Reading Time: 8 min

Portrait Kelvin van der Linde

KELVIN VAN DER LINDE

THE NEXT TITLE

In the 2019 racing season, Kelvin van der Linde, born in 1996, becomes ADAC GT Masters Champion for the second time after 2014 – together with the Swiss Patric Niederhauser, with whom he took turns at the wheel of the Audi R8 LMS. Another great success of the Audi Sport driver from South Africa: the top spot in the Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC) in the 2019 Suzuka 10 Hours, which earned Audi Sport its first international victory in Japan. Kelvin van der Linde in an Audi R8 LMS GT3 claimed it together with the two Audi Sport drivers Dries Vanthoor and Frédéric Vervisch from Belgium.

 

For Kelvin van der Linde, the final highlight of the 2019 racing season is the IGTC finale at Kyalami. After 37 years, it marks the first 9-hour race for sports cars to be held again in South Africa, and for the first time, he races there as an Audi Sport driver in front of his compatriots: in an Audi R8 LMS sporting a ‘zebra’ livery in honour of the host country. “I’d never expected to be competing in a home race as the driver in an international series one day, and it’s really cool to wake up in your own bed on a race weekend for a change,” he says. Unfortunately, after nine turbulent hours of racing, after having led the race, after a puncture, hectic pit stops and a drive-through penalty, van der Linde and his fellow Audi Sport drivers Vanthoor and Vervisch, the other two ‘flying Vs’, just finish in eleventh position.

Kelvin van der Linde playing golf

SLOWING DOWN IN SOUTH AFRICA

Kelvin van der Linde with a lion

In the wild: Kelvin van der Linde on a safari tour near Johannesburg

Like every year, Kelvin van der Linde spends the major part of December and the beginning of the year at home in South Africa: in Dainfern in the province of Gauteng, located on the Jukskei River between the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, where he grew up in the vicinity of a golfing estate. Together with his brother Sheldon he went to school there day in day out, usually taking the wheel of the family’s own golf cart himself. His parents and grandparents are still living there today.

Kelvin van der Linde with a cheetah

Majestic creature: Kelvin van der Linde up close with a Cheetah

“The natural environment we have in South Africa offers many opportunities for unwinding from the full-throttle life I lead during the racing season in Europe,” he comments. “That’s why the time I spend there at the turn of the year is so important for me. A wild animal safari, for instance, or relaxing with my family and friends are the best ways for me to unwind. For me, there are no better holidays than coming home to South Africa.”

Kelvin van der Linde with his family

Grill master: Kelvin van der Linde preparing the “braai” (barbecue) together with his family

Actually, chilling out is something Kelvin van der Linde only does during his winter holidays in the South African summer – like during a tour of a wildlife park near Johannesburg on the grated pickup bed of a mini truck, where he’s particularly impressed by the cheeky lions, and pets one of the tamed cheetahs later at the basecamp. “During the season that starts as early as in mid-January with my first commitments for Audi Sport customer racing, I’m a racing driver 24 hours a day seven days a week,” he emphasises. “There’s no time to take a breather. The competition in GT racing today is so close and tough that you have to give it your all. Otherwise you can’t constantly do your job as a racing driver on the highest possible level and be successful at it,” the Audi Sport driver adds.

Kelvin van der Linde with his family

SUCCESSFUL FAMILY OF RACING DRIVERS

Just like his brother Sheldon, who is three years younger, Kelvin van der Linde is a natural born racer. Their grandfather, Hennie van der Linde, was one of South Africa’s most successful touring car drivers, with five national championship titles and 57 races in succession to his credit. Their father, Shaun, was South African champion in touring car and single-seater racing. Shaun’s brother, Etienne, Kelvin and Sheldon’s uncle, even managed the leap into the German Formula 3 Championship and European Formula 3000.

“From early childhood on, it was normal for me to be at a race track, but it was also always something special,” Kelvin van der Linde recalls. “I’d be sitting in my father’s racing cars and turn the steering wheel, and whenever I wanted to look across the wheel I’d have to stand in the seat.” Right after having learned to walk, he’s attracted by the smell of engine oil and brake dust in his parents’ garage and later by videos of Daddy Shaun’s races, racing games on the computer and, ultimately, kart practice and racing weekend after weekend. All this is a lot more thrilling for him than any toy or school book, party or going out with buddies might be. “Although I also enjoyed playing tennis I always just dreamt of motorsport,” says Kelvin van der Linde, for whom it’s clear that “becoming and being a racing driver was never really a deliberate choice but is my destiny.”

Kelvin van der Linde with his helmets

PLENTY OF TALENT, PLENTY OF SACRIFICE

Kelvin and Shaun van der Linde on racetrack

Fond memories: Shaun and Kelvin van der Linde at the Zwartkops Kart Circuit

Kelvin van der Linde starts kart racing at the age of eight and – usually as the youngest in the field – instantly becomes a winner and champion. Right from the beginning, the first of the third van der Linde generation in motorsport religiously heeds his father’s most important advice: “Always give your best!” At 16, Kelvin wins his first title in a touring car, in the South African Volkswagen Polo Cup. Afterwards, the talented teenager ventures the near-8,500-kilometre leap from South Africa to Germany. “The VW Scirocco R-Cup as part of the DTM supporting programme was the most sensible choice for us at the time,” he says. Old contacts between his uncle Etienne and Germany and, above all, the support by his father, Shaun, and his mother, Bernadine, make this bold project possible.

Kelvin and Shaun van der Linde

Pit lane: Kelvin and Shaun van der Linde at Zwartkops

“My parents made a lot of major sacrifices for me and my younger brother. I’m very, very thankful for that, and we’re very, very happy that in our case, unlike those of many other families, motorsport panned out,” stresses Kelvin van der Linde. “It was difficult for all of us, including the boys,” his father adds. “Because we were constantly away at race tracks there weren’t many other things for them to experience.” Their boys’ hobby also costs the parents a lot of time to be spent with friends and for leisure. But the shared focus on racing binds the family together even closer. That’s why today, when their sons Kelvin and Sheldon come home during the winter season, the van der Lindes always like to go back to familiar places such as the race track at Zwartkops in Pretoria, which besides the world-famous circuit at Kyalami is the region’s other large motorsport venue. That’s where their two sons even did their first laps in karting.

Volkswagen Golf on racetrack

NEW HOME IN GERMANY

Kelvin van der Linde on the podium

On the podium: Kelvin van der Linde on his way to the 2013 Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup drivers’ title

“At first, my biggest problem in Germany was not being able to speak German yet,” Kelvin says, recalling the year of 2013. He also initially felt like a stranger to the impressive DTM paddock which the Volkswagen Scirocco Cup belonged to at the time. However, the 17-year-old youngster’s self-confidence grows with each of his victories and, above all, his surprising title win. “In addition to racing, Kelvin flew back and forth between Europe and South Africa more than twenty times in order to finish school,” Shaun van der Linde says with pride. “I didn’t want to quit school like many other young racing drivers,” comments his oldest son.

Kelvin van der Linde

New home: Kelvin van der Linde getting ready to hit the road for another race weekend with an Audi RS 4 Avant*.

By now, Germany has become a home away from home for Kelvin van der Linde. He shares an apartment with his brother Sheldon in Kempten. His fellow racing driver and compatriot Jordan Pepper has also moved in as a lodger. “I now know a lot of people in Germany who are like a family for me,” Kelvin reveals. Today, he speaks German as fluently as his mother tongue Afrikaans and English, South Africa’s other official language.  

Fuel consumption combined*: 9.2 l/100kmCO₂-emissions combined*: 211–210 g/km

Fuel consumption combined*: 9.2 l/100kmCO₂-emissions combined*: 211–210 g/km

I constantly strive for improvement and perfection.

Kelvin van der Linde

PROMOTION AT AUDI

Kelvin van der Linde and René Rast

Champions 2014: René Rast and Kelvin van der Linde in the ADAC GT Masters

With the 2013 Scirocco R-Cup title win and the prize money for it in his pocket, Kelvin van der Linde is promoted to the ADAC GT Masters. Together with René Rast, who has since become a two-time DTM Champion, he competes in the Prosperia C. Abt Racing privateer team in 2014. Christian Abt, the former touring and sports car driver from Kempten, is the team’s principal, who has long positively noticed the new racing talent from South Africa. Van der Linde and Rast perfectly harmonise in one of Christian Abt’s three Audi R8 LMS cars. The rookie from South Africa and the experienced German driver unexpectedly become champions. “I probably reminded René of his own career. At any rate, he totally supported me right from the beginning and is one of my best friends today,” emphasises Kelvin van der Linde.

Kelvin van der Linde and teammates

Winners of the 2017 Nürburgring 24 Hours: Connor De Phillippi, Christopher Mies, Kelvin van der Linde and Markus Winkelhock

His second title win in a row convinces Audi Sport customer racing: in 2015, Kelvin van der Linde is inducted into the circle of Audi Sport drivers. Following two intensive years of learning, the then 20-year-old South African posts his next major success in the spring of 2017: “Clinching victory for Audi in the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring in difficult conditions in the rain as the driver of the final stint remains an absolutely unforgettable, eternally impressive experience.”  

 

Kelvin van der Linde with Patric Niederhauser

Champions 2019: Patric Niederhauser and Kelvin van der Linde in the ADAC GT Masters

Equally unforgettable is his first and so far only joint season in the same racing category together with his brother Sheldon: in 2018, the van der Linde duo finishes the ADAC GT Masters runners-up with just a one-point deficit under the banner of the brand with the four rings. For Kelvin van der Linde, the second title win in the 2019 ADAC GT Masters marks his so far greatest success: “This time, I was the seasoned pro and able to contribute far more knowledge and experience to the new HCB-Rutronik team and apply it on track. When I clinched my first ADAC GT Masters title in 2014 I was just the junior alongside the far more experienced René Rast.”

 

“I constantly strive for improvement and perfection,” says Kelvin van der Linde, putting his work ethic as a professional racing driver in a nutshell. After five years, the Audi Sport driver from Johannesburg is regarded as one of the world’s most experienced GT sports car drivers. Kelvin van der Linde also continuously optimises his diet, physical and mental training. Regularly scheduled sauna sessions to make his body more adaptable to the often extremely high temperatures in the closed cockpit of the Audi R8 LMS are a case in point.

Sim racing setup

Expert: Kelvin van der Linde’s sim racing setup at home in Kempten

Sim racing, on the other hand, the virtual racing on a computer screen, tends to be more of a way to relax for him. “It’s the best way for me to unwind,” Kelvin explains. After a weekend on the race track, he meets online with colleagues he’s friends with – Formula One drivers Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, and sports and touring car expert Nicky Catsburg. “We all have the same equipment and the same chances, but our focus is on having fun rather than the competition,” says van der Linde. The Audi Sport driver and technology enthusiast has by now even advanced to a level where he participates in the development of sim racing programs.

Kelvin van der Linde

ABSOLUTE MULTITASKER

Kelvin van der Linde at home

“I also have a very keen interest in modern technology and the new media,” relates Kelvin van der Linde, “especially photography and digital photo editing.” For the multi-talent from Johannesburg, all this is a pastime rather than additional work. Just like learning the ropes of business life, which is why his father Shaun is sure that “Kelvin would be able to do a great job in any business he’s interested in.”

Kelvin van der Linde next to his car

Perfect ambassador: Kelvin van der Linde and an Audi R8 V10 plus* from Audi South Africa

Due to his worldwide successes in GT sports car racing, Kelvin van der Linde has also long evolved into a popular brand ambassador for Audi South Africa. “Car presentations and public relations are great fun for me and also mean a lot of responsibility,” he says. His role model as a modern ambassador of the automotive industry and motorsport is no lesser than six-time Formula One Champion Lewis Hamilton.

Fuel consumption combined*: 13.4 l/100kmCO₂-emissions combined*: 306 g/km

Fuel consumption combined*: 13.4 l/100kmCO₂-emissions combined*: 306 g/km

Audi R8 LMS on the racetrack

Bathurst 12 Hours: The classic in Australia is a race that Kelvin van der Linde would like to win (pictured here at his 2019 Bathurst participation)

Kelvin van der Linde is also an acknowledged driver coach for customers of Audi Sport customer racing, although he admits: “I’m a good front-seat passenger only to a limited extent.” He clearly has a greater knack for taking part in the development of further optimisations of the Audi RS 3 LMS TCR model and the GT4 version of the Audi R8 LMS. However, scoring new victories for Audi Sport customer racing remain his top priority: “The Bathurst 12 Hour and the Daytona 24 Hours are especially high on my list.”

KELVIN VAN
DER LINDE

Kelvin van der Linde
Kelvin van der Linde with giraffe
Kelvin van der Linde on golf cart

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