17-year old South African racing prodigy victory Sheldon van der Linde scored an emphatic double victory on his international race debut in the opening round of the Audi Sport TT Cup at Hockenheim, Germany over the weekend. Double SA Engen Volkswagen Polo Cup champion and Audi Sport Race Academy bursar, Sheldon beat a competitive international field including former F1 driver Scott Speed and WRC star Andreas Mikkelsen en route to victory at his first attempt in the prestigious series.
Having qualified second on the grid, Sheldon won the first race before doubling up with a spellbinding performance in the second race. “I’m speechless right now,” a delighted van der Linde admitted on the first race podium. “A win on my international race debut — this is the best day of my life!”
The weekend started positively for the Dainfern teenager when Sheldon trounced the field in Friday practice, before putting it on the front row of the grid in spite of a red flag causing him to abort his qualifying hot lap. Still van der Linde was delighted: “Second in Qualifying! “I’m really happy with that on my debut in Hockenheim — now I just can’t wait to race!”
Young van der Linde ran second off the first race start and bided his time until the third lap before out-braking pole man Dennis Marschall to move into the lead before clearing off to an ultimately comfortable debut victory. “I had a really good start and then passed Dennis on the third lap,” Sheldon confirmed. “But to do this on my Audi Sport TT Cup debut is just incredible.
“It simply doesn’t get better than this – South Africa on top of the podium and a win in the opening race of the 2016 Audi Sport TT Cup season in front of thousands of fans — what a surreal moment!”
It got even better though as Sheldon started the second race in third, moved into second at the first turn before once again disposing with Marschall for the lead on the second lap and then clearing off into the distance as he consistently added a half a second a lap to take a dominant 7.5 second victory and carry home a healthy early championship advantage.
Sheldon was also overwhelmed by the positive reaction from back home to his incredible weekend. “I truly feel blessed with all the love and support I’ve received from everyone today! “Thank you all so, so much!”
The Audi Sport TT Cup, which runs as a curtain raiser to the DTM German Touring Car series, is a recognised feeder series to the DTM, GT, Le Mans and other leading international race championships, with the next round of the series at the tight Norisring 28-29 April.
Foto: Sheldon van der Linde races to victory on his Audi TT Cup debut