Kelvin van der Linde and Mattia Drudi will start for Audi at the Formula E rookie test in Marrakesh. A day after the fifth round of the series on February 29, the two youngsters from South Africa and Italy get one day to gain experience…
At the incredibly thrilling season-opening round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC), Audi Sport fell short of its own expectations. After racing cars from seven different manufacturers had qualified in the top ten, Audi headed into the Bathurst 12-hour race feeling optimistic. However, setbacks hampered…
It’s official – Patric Niederhauser (27, CH) and Kelvin van der Linde (23, ZA, both HCB-Rutronik Racing) have wrapped up the ADAC GT Masters drivers’ championship at Hockenheim with a second victory of the campaign, and with two races to spare. The Swiss-South African pairing have rounded off a strong season in which they made their mark early on.
Team principal Fabian Plentz, whose HCB-Rutronik Racing outfit is contesting its first season in the Super Sports Car League, was full of praise: “Kelvin and Patric complement each other incredibly well. They offer mutual support and are not at all competitive towards each other. That is the absolute key to success here. They have delivered big time. It was clear to me from the start that Kelvin should be one of our drivers in our ADAC GT Masters debut season. We then looked for the right partner and found the ideal person in Patric.”
The way the season has developed thoroughly vindicates Plentz’s choice. Niederhauser and van der Linde made their first podium appearance in the opening race at Oschersleben. On the subsequent weekend at Most, they booked pole position on Saturday and converted it into a first win of the season, which was enough to take them to the top of the championship table, a lead which they were then to retain through to the end of the campaign. There ensued a long wait for the second win which eventually came on Sunday but, by virtue of regular Top Five finishes, the HCB-Rutronik Racing pairing steadily established a points cushion. The ADAC GT Masters has been contested every year since 2007, but this is the first time in its history that the outcome has been decided in advance of the final weekend.
The Niederhauser and van der Linde story began two years ago. “Patric and I were team-mates at Aust Motorsport in 2017, but unfortunately we weren’t sharing a cockpit at the time,” says van der Linde. “I could already see that he was a top talent. We always wanted to do something together, and this year we’ve had that opportunity.” Niederhauser adds:” We had already built a friendship back then. The chemistry is just right between us. He is a really good friend.” The two newly crowned champions see consistency and good qualifying results as the key to their success. “Because we’ve almost always started at or near the front of the grid, we have been scoring points on a regular basis,” explains van der Linde. “This consistency has been a very important factor in winning the title.” Teammate Niederhauser agrees: “Except for Zandvoort, which was the only place we came away from empty-handed, we consistently finished in the points. We’ve rarely been the absolute fastest on a weekend, but we have always got the maximum out of the situation.”
While Niederhauser is lifting an ADAC GT Masters championship trophy for the first time, it is the end of a five-year lean spell for van der Linde who comes from a racing family in South Africa – his father and grandfather were both national touring car champions in their time. After previously winning three titles in a row in Volkswagen one-make cups in his home country and in Germany, van der Linde made an instant impact on first entering the ADAC GT Masters. In only his debut season of 2014, he and future DTM champion René Rast won the title – quite a feat for a newcomer to the series, and especially for an 18-year-old. To this day, he still holds the record for being the youngest champion: “After that, I had what were probably my two toughest years and did not have the right car with which to compete for the title. I was in contention with Aust in 2017 and with my brother Sheldon at Land-Motorsport in 2018. It was apparent that, with the right material, it was still possible to have a say in the destination of the championship. Now, as we see, it has all worked out again with this second title.”
Unlike his team-mate, who made his way into touring and GT racing at an early age, Niederhauser aspired to a career in formula racing for a long time, winning the Italian Formula Abarth in 2011 and also notching up race wins in GP3: “My dream was to race in Formula 1. But it was difficult to make your way in formula racing in Switzerland which is not a car-producing country. My aim was to become a professional racer and earn a living from motorsport, which was easier in touring and GT racing. I then contacted Lamborghini in 2016, who inducted me into their junior programme.” Niederhauser made his debut in the same year in the ADAC GT Masters, to which he remained committed in 2017. He returned to the Super Sports Car League in 2019 after a successful season in Asia: “I might well have had the opportunity to race in the ADAC GT Masters in 2018, but conditions were such that I would not have been able to compete up front, because the field is of such a high calibre and everything has to be just right to succeed. A little dream of mine came true, though, last December when HCB-Rutronik Racing rang me about the possibility of sharing a cockpit with Kelvin.”
Last weekend, the opening event of the ADAC GT Masters season took place in Oschersleben. In changeable weather, with a record fan attendance, HCB-Rutronik Racing made its race debut in the series and impressed with a podium finish in the first race. South African Kelvin…
It’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks, so here’s a quick update on what’s been happening.
My ADAC GT Masters program was announced, where I will be driving for HCB-Rutronik Racing alongside a good friend and someone I rate very highly, Patric Niederhauser.
It’s a new and ambitious team that caught my attention in 2018 after a visit to their workshop.
We come into GT Masters knowing that is now widely regarded as the most competitive GT3 championship in Europe. With 31 high quality lineups confirmed, it’s going to be a great year of racing!
Our Nürburgring 24 program kicked off with VLN. This is a very important part of the development leading into the big race in June.
It’s where all manufacturers try new development packages, as in our case, the brand new Audi R8 LMS Evo package. Even though it feels very similar across one lap, many things have changed setup-wise and the engineers need to have a solid set of data to work with in order to fine tune our car for the race.
The ‘Green Hell’ has also had some new asphalt added to it. I’m not a big fan of it, because it has taken some character away from the track. The bumps and crests are what made the Nordschleife so special, and then on top of that, we also lost the traditional graffiti marks on some parts of the track, which made the track a real art to drive in wet conditions.
All that is now gone but I’m sure the graffiti will return quite quickly. And as for the bumps and crests, we’ll have to wait a few more years! (LOL)
Directly after the VLN, we flew to California to try and defend my California 8 Hours crown, which I won back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.
With 16 pro and factory-backed cars on the grid, I knew it was going to be super competitive race.
We unfortunately ran into a setback early on in the weekend when a tire strategy mistake meant that we missed out on the Pole Shootout. We tried to save one set of tires for the race but doing Q2 on used tires, which then backfired horribly on us.
Nowadays with the BoP being super accurate and everyone being on their A-Game, there really is no more room for errors or misjudgment.
Despite the tough qualy, we hoped that we could fight back with clever strategy in the eight-hour long race.
To our disappointment, the race went green for a full eight hours! It was something that is quite unusual in endurance racing, but that just shows the quality of the field we had. It was an eight-hour sprint.
We did manage to fight our way up to fifth at some stage in the race but we were put on the back foot when Markus fell ill and had to get out of the car 40 minutes into his stint.
Shortly after that our right-rear damper lost all its pressure which meant we were forced to do the last three hours with a very poorly behaved race car.
Despite that, we fought on and were lucky to come home in the points for 7th.
The IGTC hasn’t started too well for us this year. We are still fine tuning the new Evo-spec car and hopefully for the next rounds in Spa and Suzuka, we will be back on it and will be able to repeat our podiums from 2018.
I’m now back at the airport as I write this article and have a very exciting few weeks coming up.
GT Masters starts with our first official test next week in Oschersleben and then its directly to Monza for the first round of the Blancpain GT Series.
I’m very excited for those and cant wait to get the European season started. See you there!
Audi Sport customer racing holds a record in the Intercontinental GT Challenge, the world’s most prestigious GT3 racing series. The Audi R8 LMS has been unbeaten to date in the California 8 Hours in the United States. Following two straight victories, Audi is now aiming…
Spectacular finale at the fourth and final round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC): At Laguna Seca/USA, Audi Sport customer racing turned a nine-point deficit into an 11-point advantage to secure the title in the manufacturers’ classification for the third consecutive time. This was thanks to a double victory at the California 8 Hours.
“What a fantastic race. Last year we were the hunters, this year we were the hunted. The race developed an exciting dynamic – over the entire eight hours, in fact. It was incredibly close amongst the frontrunners and it was completely jumbled amongst the brands. At the end of the day I can only thank our team most heartily. With a fantastic strategy they put us back in the game. I dedicate this victory to our team. It was a very special moment to cross the finish line flying the Audi flag today.”
The Audi Sport Team Absolute Racing celebrated a superb podium in the Suzuka 10 Hours this passed weekend. Audi Sport drivers Christopher Haase/Kelvin van der Linde/Markus Winkelhock brought their #6 Audi R8 LMS home in third place after the ten hour-long race. The 47th running…