Van der Linde remains with Abt for DTM after leaving the Audi factory pool

Audi’s long squad that won five titles with the brand between 2002 and 2009 has, as expected, been reduced to two cars following the departure of René Rast to BMW, but both teams have retained the championship three times. . 2022 season.

Despite retiring from Audi’s factory driver pool, van der Linde’s involvement was not in doubt as he has been racing for the team’s Formula E arm since regular driver Robin Frijns’ hand injury in Mexico.

Two-time ADAC GT Masters champion and double Nurburgring 24 Hours winner van der Linde explained to Autosport that he is now “brand neutral” and is under contract to race for Abt across its various programmes, which there will be a Nurburgring 24 Hours attack with. Lamborghini this year.

He said his “difficult decision” to leave Audi was prompted by “no greater future perspective on certain programs and a continued reduction in factory involvement” in GT racing.

With “no clear direction for new programs coming” in sports car racing, as focus shifts towards its Formula 1 combination with Sauber for 2026, van der Linde believes the time is right to cut ties and says he plans to race an R8 LMS. GT3 evo II was completed independently of Audi.

“This is not just an Abt deal, it’s basically an extension of what I’m doing with them in Formula E,” he told Autosport.

“There will be additional projects within that sphere, as I say, within that role as an Abt driver throughout the year, so you could call me a full-time Abt driver right now in every role that I do.

“I’m brand neutral, so you’ll see me driving for different manufacturers throughout the year.

Kelvin van der Linde, Team ABT Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3

Kelvin van der Linde, Team ABT Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3

Photo by: DTM

“In DTM the factory has nothing to do with me and it’s just a decision on our part to do things as we want to do it for DTM.”

Van der Linde challenged for the 2021 DTM crown on his way to an eventual third in the points, but slipped to ninth last season after a winless campaign capped by pole at the Norisring and second to brother Sheldon at the Nurburgring.

This year he will be surrounded by a new group led by Leon Wippersteg, who was brought into the team on a consulting basis in 2022 after regular engineer Marc Roca was sidelined by COVID.

Having worked with the former Team Phoenix and Toksport WRT Wippersteg engineer during Aust Motorsport’s race-winning 2017 GT Masters campaign, van der Linde is confident he can mount a strong challenge.

“It’s like picking the guys we want to have and the guys we think we can be very successful this year, because it’s a big year for us and we want to start off on a good footing to try to make it to the championship. ,” he said.

“From a personal point of view we work very well together, so we think we can give it a shot.”

Feller, who retains Audi factory status, enjoyed a strong rookie season in 2022 after winning the ADAC GT Masters title the previous season.

Ricardo Feller, ABT Sportsline Team

Ricardo Feller, ABT Sportsline Team

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

The Swiss won the safety car race at Imola from pole and also finished third in the first race at the Nurburgring, but slipped back to 15th in the standings with a run of seven races without points to close the season.

Team boss Thomas Biermaier hailed his drivers as “among the fastest GT3 drivers in the world” and believes their experience with the Pirelli tires that the DTM will use this year from GT Masters will be an added advantage.

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“They got on very well with us from day one and they work perfectly together,” Biermaier said of van der Linde and Feller.

“What’s more, they’re cool guys who fit in well with ABT Sportsline. And they have a lot of experience with the DTM’s new tire partner, which is a factor that shouldn’t be underestimated.

“I’m sure, with Kelvin and Ricardo, we can continue our success in the DTM.”

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