Kelvin van der Linde says he and Attempto Racing now have the Blancpain GT Series championship in sight after scoring a breakthrough maiden victory at Zolder last weekend.
The South African and co-driver Steijn Schothorst took advantage of penalties for front-runners Grasser Racing Team and Belgian Audi Club Team WRT to score their first series wins as well as the team’s first victory.
It comes just a few weeks after the German squad announced its switch to Audi machinery after running Lamborghinis, Porsches and McLarens in recent years.
“A new year is always very interesting when you come in with new expectations and a new team,” van der Linde told Sportscar365.
“Attempto only figured out that they’d be with Audi about six weeks ago, so it’s been really last minute to get everything together and get the engineers prepared, and the whole package to what it is.
“The positive side is we have a good base line and we have a lot more to come as the experience grows for the team, the engineers and mechanics. There are a lot of positives to look forward to.”
The win in Race 2 at Zolder, the first Sprint Cup round of the season, came after a fourth-place finish in Saturday’s first race and puts van der Linde and Schothorst at the top of the standings.
With a full 16.5 points in Race 2 and 7.5 from Race 1, the pair has a 3.5-point buffer over Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart after the opening weekend.
“The expectations have definitely taken a turn now,” van der Linde said. “We’re first in the championship so we’re definitely in the hunt.
“Both of us have never been to many of the tracks on the calendar except for Nürburgring where I’ve been, so it will be a challenge during the year, as it was here.
“We seem to cope with it OK here so let’s see if we can keep that momentum.
“Yesterday (Race 1) was already [Attempto’s] best result in Blancpain, so we were already very happy with the result yesterday.
“We put everything in to get that result, so we thought that was already a good feat for the weekend.”
The reigning Nürburgring 24 winner admitted he didn’t expect to do much better than his fourth position in Race 2.
Drive-through penalties for Bortolotti and Dries Vanthoor took their two front-running cars out of contention, allowing Attempto to inherit the lead.
Schothorst successfully defended from Michael Meadows in the final stages of the race to take victory by over six seconds.
“Coming to the track this morning, I didn’t really expect that we would be in the position that we are now,” van der Linde said. “Starting from P3, that was our goal.
“We did a lot of practice before the race with driver swaps, and because there are lots of new regulations this weekend, we try to keep our side clear.
“You have to be in it to win it and you have to be there to take advantage of it when others make mistakes. We put a lot of emphasis in our preparation and at the end, motorsport is a team business.
“The mechanics need to be on point, the drivers need to be on point, and the regulations need to be understood.
“We managed to tick all those boxes today, and that’s what gave us the win.”
Van der Linde says the team is buoyed by its strong performance in Belgium, heading to the first Endurance Cup race at Monza later this month.
“Monza will be great, we have a really strong lineup with both Schothorst brothers,” he said.
“With the new qualifying format on average lap times, it could be really in our favor to get up the grid.
“We’re very positive and very motivated for the full season.”