During my trip to Germany and Austria, to attend the DTM race at the Red Bull Ring, I had the chance to interview BMW Works driver Sheldon van der Linde, following Saturday’s race. Despite not finishing in the top ten, and being the highest placed BMW driver at 11th, van der Linde was in good spirits and optimistic about the next day’s race. Since Sunday’s race has passed since then, we know he finished ninth, earning himself enough points to hold onto the lead in the driver’s standings.
In The Run To Secure DTM Title
On October 8, during the first race at the Hockenheimring, the 23 year old South African will have a chance to firmly secure his place atop the driver’s standings. If he holds that place following the second race at Hockenheim, he will win the 2022 season. And I’m rooting for him to do so, not because he races a BMW but because my interview with him made me realize that he’s an easy person to root for.
I asked van der Linde what his mindset was for the following day’s race and he was optimistic about taking another shot at the Red Bull Ring. “It’s hard to reset, but at some point it’s good to have two races,” he said. “If you have one race that’s bad on the weekend, you can always recover and make things right on Sunday, which is what I’m hoping to do tomorrow.”
He’s also uniquely aware of the specialness of being a BMW Works driver in DTM, considering the brand’s long history in the sport. DTM is important to BMW, as it’s always been a place for BMW to put its road car technology to the test. And BMW is important to DTM, as it’s one of the major manufacturers that participate and has been for decades. Those facts aren’t lost on van der Linde but, for him, it’s also personal.
Started Racing in South Africa
“For me it’s very special, because my dad started racing for them in South Africa, as a works driver,” he said. “I think BMW is one of the only brands [that has] motorsport in their DNA. You see it in their road cars, you see it in pretty much everything.”
Interestingly, Sheldon isn’t the only van der Linde to continue his father’s racing legacy. His brother Kevin also races in DTM, for team ABT Sportsline in an Audi R8. Sheldon is the younger of the two van der Linde brothers, which makes his current lead in the standings the ultimate in sibling bragging rights.
“Last year was actually the opposite,” he said with a coy smile. “It’s nice to switch it around finally.” Although, despite the sibling rivalry, both Sheldon and van der Linde couldn’t be more supportive and helpful for each other. After a hard day at the track, they can support each other and offer a perspective of someone who really has been there before. So even though one races for BMW and the other for Audi, their brotherhood comes first.
Testing the BMW M Hybrid V8
Van der Linde was also fortunate to be one of the test drivers for the BMW M Hybrid V8 which will begin its racing season at Daytona 24 Hours in January 2023. “The car is amazing to drive. It has so much downforce,” says van der Linde. “It actually reminds me of the DTM Class 1 racing cars and it has a lot of horsepower. With the hybrid technology is a different challenge and as a driver you need to balance the two as you drive. The electric powertrain changes a lot how you brake and accelerate. As a driver there is a lot to exploit and you as a driver you can make a difference. And I really hope to be part of the program in the future.”
Sheldon van der Linde has already accomplished so much in his career, winning more than one championship in South Africa. However, I’d very much like to see him take care of business at the Hockenheimring in a few days, as seeing his win the title would be very special for everyone; him, the team, and even the fans.