Kelvin van der Linde stuns at Nurburgring 24
South African driver Kelvin van der Linde pulled of a heroic drive to wrest a historic Nurburgring 24 Hour victory from the jaws of defeat for the Land Audi team alongside German drivers Christopher Mies and Markus Winkelhock and US driver Connor De Phillippi.
Van der Linde had led through his previous double stints Saturday evening and Sunday morning when he took the number 29 Audi R8 LMS over in the lead for the final shift after he and his teammates had kept the car out front for 125 race laps, or about 3,172 kilometers. But the car developed a sensor problem shortly after Kelvin took the wheel and he was forced to crawl back round to the pits where the team quickly reset the Audi’s electronics.
All that dropped the number 29 Audi that had dominated the race down to third, some three minutes off the lead as van der Linde headed back out with tears of frustration over a certain victory lost, flowing in the Land team pit.
They turned out to be crocodile tears as opportunity knocked, when a late shower saw parts of the track wet and others dry. The Land team took a dramatic decision — only after the car was delayed once again by a sloppy final splash-and-dash fuel stop — to switch to wet rubber. That saw van der Linde emerge out of the pits in fighting spirit tas he set off after the leaders, who were out on track on dry rubber.
The Johannesburg driver threw caution to the wind as he scythed through a litany of back-markers struggling on a treacherous surface, even taking to the grass verges to make critical passes as he chased down a seemingly impossible dream. But those risks and that decision paid off handsomely when van der Linde first passed a struggling Nicky Catsburg’s BMW M6 for second on track and then took the lead to pull off a quite incredible victory when Rene Rast's leading Audi dived into the pits for wet rubber with a lap to go,
Van der Linde, Winkelhock, de Phillippi and Mies’ Land Audi R8 LMS ultimately completed 158 laps to dramatically beat Richard Westbrook, Markus Palttala, Nicky Catsburg and Alexander Sims’ BMW M6 GT3 by 29 seconds, with Robin Frijns, Marcel Fässler, René Rast and Nico Müller third in another Audi R8 LMS. It was the Land team, van der Linde and De Phillippi’s first; Christopher Mies’s second, Markus Winkelhock’s third and Audi’s fourth Nurburgring 24 victory.
Nurburgring 24 Hour Results
1: Van der Linde/Winkelhock/de Phillippi/Mies (Audi R8 LMS) 158 laps
2: Westbrook/Palttala/Catsburg/Sims (BMW M6 GT3) +29.418
3: Frijns/Fässler/Rast/Müller (Audi R8 LMS) +50.622
4: Farfus/Wittmann/Blomqvist/Tomczyk (BMW M6 GT3) +6’54.159
5: Engel/Christodoulou/Buurman/Metzger (Mercedes-AMG GT3) +7’10.835
6: Christensen/Siedler/Luhr/Bachler (Porsche 911 GT3 R) +1 lap
7: Krumbach/Keilwitz/Weiss/Kainz (Ferrari 488 GT3) +1 lap
8: Seefried /Imperatori/Dusseldorp/Dumbreck (BMW M6 GT3) +1 lap
9: Van der Zanden/Götz/Arnold/Alzen (Mercedes-AMG GT3) +1 lap
10: Martin/Basseng/Eng/Sims (BMW M6 GT3) +1 lap