ASSEN, NETHERLANDS – Sheldon van der Linde became the first South African to win a German Touring Car race on Sunday when he made use of the rain and difficult track conditions to work his way up from 14th on the grid at the Assen circuit.
It was a chaotic race, but a flawless drive and perfect team strategy put the South African’s Team RBM BMW M4 race car in front. Audi’s Robin Frijns and Nico Müller took second and third spots respectively. Fellow South Africa Jonathan Aberdein was the highest qualifying BMW driver in sixth, but ended up finishing 13th.
Heavy rain had set in shortly before the race started, and Loïc Duval (Team Phoenix Audi) took the initial lead after pole-sitter Rene Rast (Team Rosberg Audi) got off to a slow start.
Van der Linde made his compulsory pit stop early and afterwards had a clear run which saw him move up into the lead after his rivals made later pit stops.
Then came the heavy rain, and an accident involving Fabio Scherer, which resulted in the race being red-flagged. Luckily van der Linde was able to hold on to his top spot after the restart.
Van der Linde did not hold back on expressing his excitement on social media after the race:
“HOLY SH***T. LOST FOR WORDS. WE WON from 14th on the grid!!! You absolute freaking geniuses. Thank you BMW. Thank you fans. So special to share my first win with you all today. On cloud nine.”
During the post-race interview, Van der Linde said a dream had come true:
“We never would have expected it at the start,” the 21-year-old said.
“This shows that anything really can happen. The weather was really strange the whole weekend. We were able to get the maximum out of the race and my team had a fantastic strategy today. The car was amazing in the wet.”
BMW’s motorsport boss Rudolf Dittrich was impressed with the way Van der Linde used the slippery conditions to his advantage:
“What a fantastic win for Sheldon van der Linde! Congratulations to him and BMW Team RBM on a brilliant performance in these difficult conditions. The early pit stop combined with Sheldon’s flawless drive paid off perfectly. He had a free run so was able to make up a lot of time and positions.
“He also mastered the restart extremely well as the leader and more than deserved the first victory in his DTM career.”
Well done van der Linde, you’ve done South Africa proud!