The meteoric rise of teenage motorsport sensation Kelvin van der Linde continues, with the announcement today (Tuesday, January 27) that he will be an official GT driver for Audi Sport in 2015.
The 18-year-old from Dainfern, Johannesburg, will thus defend his 2014 GT Masters crown assured of the best possible support from the manufacturer’s in-house motorsport department. He will once again campaign an Audi R8 LMS Ultra in what is Germany’s premier sports car series, which comprises eight rounds and includes races in Holland and Belgium. He will also drive for Audi in select endurance races.
Says Van der Linde, who will relocate to Germany at the end of February in preparation for the opening round at Oschersleben on April 24: “A contract with Audi Sport is another big step forward, and an important development in my objective to make a career out of motorsport. I’m privileged that Audi and VW Group as a whole have placed such faith in me in recent years, and I look forward to driving for them in 2015 – and beyond. I’ve worked extremely hard to reach this point in my career, and my family and I have made many sacrifices on many levels. I’m thrilled that it is all paying off.”
Van der Linde’s career started in karting at the age of eight, and he proved his natural ability when he graduated to saloon car racing and promptly won the Engen Polo Cup title as a 16-year-old. This earned him a drive in the Volkswagen Scirocco Cup in Germany which he went on to dominate, winning the title. The prize money Van der Linde earned made it possible for him to secure an Audi R8 seat in the GT Masters series as a Junior driver with Prosperia C.Abt Racing (sharing with René Rast, who has since moved up Audi’s ladder), one of Audi’s top customer teams. Victory alongside Rast last year made him the youngest-ever series champion – this despite writing Matric at the same time.
In 2014 Van der Linde was also the youngest ever winner of the FIA Institute’s Young Driver Excellence Academy, an initiative to identify and nurture young talent, and supported by the global motorsport controlling body, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile.
“I’m already looking forward to this year’s challenges – GT Masters is very competitive with many of the big automotive brands using it as a platform to promote their sports car lines. The immediate objective therefore is to defend the title for Audi. Who knows, a successful season could lead to an Audi seat in LMP1 endurance racing or DTM in the future. Either would be like a dream come true, but I am just happy to be where I am right now, and I’m loving every moment.”