The next title
Slowing down in South Africa
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.
“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.”
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.
Successful family of racing drivers
Plenty of talent, plenty of sacrifice
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.
“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.
New home in Germany
Promotion at Audi
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.
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.”
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, 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.
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