For some it will forever remain a dream to be victorious around one of America’s iconic racetracks, but this is merely the latest ticked box for South Africa’s Sheldon van der Linde in his successful international racing career.
Along with his Montaplast by Land-Motorsport teammates Connor de Philipi and Christopher Mies, he won Class GTD in the 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda race at Road Atlanta on Saturday, October 7. The trio competed in an Audi R8 LMS GT3.
Van der Linde tells us how the opportunity to participate came about: “During August 2017 Land-Motorsport contacted me regarding the possibility of competing in the Petit Le Mans race as they needed a FIA Silver-rated driver to partner Connor and Christopher. During September we commenced with testing which saw me meeting the team’s requirements and my subsequent confirmation as part of the driver line-up for the race.”
With the anticipated excitement also came a fair share of nervousness as Van der Linde explains: “I was indeed very eager to impress. Not only was this my debut for the Montaplast by Land-Motorsport team, but also my introduction to the highly competitive American IMSA Championship. I had my fair share of nerves leading into the race weekend. Our initial practice session times along with the professional approach by the team saw my confidence build up rapidly.”
The trio constantly found themselves within the Class GTD top-five throughout the four practice sessions. The team nominated Van der Linde as the driver to post their qualifying time and he repaid their confidence by posting the fourth quickest time in the class to secure the twenty-sixth spot on the overall starting grid; a mere 0.169 of a second slower than the top Class GTD qualifier.
The race regulations dictates that the driver participating in qualifying must also compete the first driving stint for the race. Van der Linde started in tricky conditions on a wet circuit. After his first one-hour stint, he handed over the driving duties with the team occupying fifth position in the class. At the halfway point of the race, it became apparent that the team had the overall package and pace to contest for the lead, but a host of full-course yellows and safety car periods made it difficult for the drivers to get into a rhythm and stretch the gap at the front.
The team however remained within the top-five throughout this period. With them occupying fourth position, Van der Linde started his second stint which saw him behind-the-wheel for two consecutive hours. During this period he took the lead in the class and built up a comfortable margin over their rivals to set up a victory for the team. With 382 laps around the 4.1 km circuit completed over the 10 hour race distance they also finished in sixteenth position overall.
An elated Van der Linde shares his thoughts after the race while looking towards an exciting future ahead: “It’s a dream-come-true to have won one of the biggest races in America and a massive boost for my career going forward. Naturally after a result like this I’ve found my place within the amazing team Montaplast by Land-Motorspot and I can only thank them for investing so much trust in a young driver like me to compete in such a big race for them.”
Published by: Reynard Gelderblom
Picture Caption: The Montaplast by Land-Motorsport team victoriously competed in their Audi R8 LMS GT3
Photography by: Tim Upietz
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