SOUTH Africa’s Kelvin van der Linde snatched a dramatic victory in the closing stages of the Nurburgring 24 Hour race for the Land Audi team, alongside German drivers Christopher Mies and Markus Winkelhock and US driver Connor De Phillippi.
Van der Linde and his teammates had dominated the race which started on Saturday at the famous German circuit, and led for 125 laps. However the Audi R8 LMS car developed an electrical problem just before the final hour shortly after Kelvin took the wheel on Sunday, and he was forced to crawl back to the pits where the team quickly reset the Audi’s electronics.
This dropped the car down to third, some three minutes off the lead as van der Linde headed back out with seemingly all hopes of victory lost. But opportunity struck with a late rain shower that left parts of the track wet and others dry.
The team took a gamble to switch to wet rubber while other cars stayed on slick tyres, and it was an inspired decision: the Johannesburg driver scythed through to retake the lead on the treacherous surface, scoring the team’s first victory.
The Land Audi completed 158 laps, finishing 29.4 seconds ahead of the BMW M6 GT3 of Richard Westbrook, Markus Palttala, Nicky Catsburg and Alexander Sims. In third place, 50.6 seconds behind, were Robin Frijns, Marcel Fassler, Rene Rast and Nico Muller in another Audi R8 LMS.
Kelvin, part of the famous Van der Linde racing family, became South Africa’s 2012 Volkswagen Polo Cup champion at the age of just 16. Kelvin then went to Germany where he won the 2013 European Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup and grabbed Audi’s attention before promptly winning the 2014 ADAC GT Masters title driving an Audi R8, aged 18.
Another South African entered in the race was 20-year old Jordan Pepper, who qualified 13th in his Abt Team Bentley Continental GT3. Pepper, who shared the car with the German trio of Christian Mamerow, Christer Jöns and Christopher Brück, retired early after hitting the barriers due to a brake problem.
Kelvin van der Linde gambled on wet tyres to take a dramatic victory.