South African driver beats challengers from across Africa to top regional qualifier.

South African driver beats challengers from across Africa to top regional qualifier.

After an intensive three days of tests and evaluations at the Gerotek Vehicle Testing Facility, near Pretoria, South Africa’s Kelvin Van der Linde has earned selection to the FIA Institute’s 2013/2014 Young Driver Excellence Academy.

Van der Linde, 17, won his place on the fully-funded Academy programme after demonstrating his ability not just on the track but also in terms of fitness and understanding of safety and vehicle dynamics.

There were three judges on the selection panel – Kate Robson, representing the FIA Institute, Norbert Filippits, representing Academy training partner TTI, and Richard Leeke, representing event host Motorsport South Africa. As soon as it was known that Van der Linde was in consideration for the win, the South African judge removed himself from the final selection procedure. Van der Linde was the unanimous choice of the other two judges.

He now has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of previous participants in the Academy who have gone on to drive in Formula One and the World Rally Championship.

But there were no losers in Africa, as each of the other young drivers, who had been nominated by the national motor sport authorities in their own countries, gained invaluable knowledge and experience to help them in their careers.

Van der Linde said: “It’s a big honour for myself, my country and my continent to be able to go out and compete against the elite of the world. It’s a major step and I realise I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.”

Steve Miller, Chairman of Motorsport South Africa, which hosted the event on behalf of the FIA Institute, added: “It was an honour for Motorsport South Africa to host this event and my thanks go out to the team that have put the event together. Obviously, I’m also delighted that the judges chose Kelvin as the winner but it is clear that all the drivers benefitted from the experience.”

On the final day of the selection event the 12 drivers were whittled down to five, who competed in a shoot-out on track. They included Cole Bond (Zimbabwe), Cristian Bouche (Mozambique), Tejas Hirani (Kenya) and Mark Sternagel (Namibia).

Ultimately, the choice of Van der Linde as the regional winner was based not only on the shoot-out result but on all-round skills displayed over the three days. He now joins Lithuania’s Ignas Gelzinis, the winner of the European regional event, and Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Bamogaddam, winner of the Middle East and Mediterranean event, on the Academy programme. They in turn will join the winners of the Americas and Asia Pacific selection events taking place at the end of the month and three additional wild card entries to form the eight of the Academy.

Beginning in December, the next Academy provides a fully-funded training programme which aims to help drivers develop their motor sport careers, whilst increasing safety skills and actively promoting the principles of safety, fairness and responsibility on and off the track.

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