Kelvin van der Linde is aiming to launch a renewed title bid in his third DTM season with ABT Sportsline, adding that the team “hopes to hit the ground running” after he spent the opening half of last year’s campaign on the back foot.
The South African is back with the Thomas Biermaier-led team for a third consecutive year, returning as part of a two-car stable that also features Audi factory driver Ricardo Feller.
By his own admission, van der Linde struggled during the opening half of what would turn out to be a winless 2022 season.
While brother Sheldon kickstarted his title-winning campaign with a double victory at Lausitzring, and teammates Feller and Rene Rast both climbed the top step of the podium at Imola, the 26-year-old had to wait until race nine at the Nürburgring to secure his one and only podium of the year.
When asked by Sportscar365 if he hopes for better fortunes and aims to be back in title contention, van der Linde replied: “Definitely. I mean, last year, that was the plan too.
“We just got off to a very shaky start to the season, unfortunately, where we made some changes to the car over the winter break because we got an Evo update to the Evo II.
“We went in the wrong direction completely, philosophy-wise.
“By the time we fixed that for Nürburgring and all these races, at the end of the year, when we were competitive again, you never recover from this.
“So, we’re hoping to hit the ground running in this season, and that’s so crucial in DTM. You have to, every race counts.
“We didn’t have that baseline last year, and that’s the reason why we weren’t fighting for it in the end.”
Van der Linde explained that the difference in performance was down to a different choice of setup direction for the crew working on his No. 3 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo II.
“Naturally as a team, you try to always run the same car setup,” he said. “For whatever reason, at the beginning of last year we went three separate ways.
“You saw that, sometimes Ricardo was very quick and sometimes Rene was very quick but I never really was able to match.
“I also had a couple of highlights, like at the Norisring with pole position.
“But never really consistently able to fight at the front. Once we adapted, we kind of ditched our philosophy and went to what Rene and Ricardo were running.”
The switch paid off with a memorable race at the Nürburgring, where Kelvin followed brother Sheldon home in a one-two finish.
“I think that’s where we found our direction again, more or less,” he noted.
“We made some small changes within our engineering group, which brought some fresh air from outside.
“I felt more comfortable and that was continuous progression also for this year which gives me a lot of positivity going into the season.”
Van der Linde Enjoying “Manufacturer Flexibility” with ABT
Van der Linde’s third DTM campaign will be his first since leaving Audi Sport following an eight-year stint as a factory driver for the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer.
“I think I had a great time at Audi, we had so much success at the Nordschleife,” Van der Linde said.
“It was just time for me to try something different. There was no real sense of future certainty there, and I wanted to try something different.”
Following his Audi exit, he has signed on with the Kempten-based squad he contested last weekend’s Nürburgring 24 with.
“I’m for the foreseeable future with ABT as an official ABT driver, which gives me that manufacturer flexibility which I wanted, just in this crossover phase, which I’m calling it pretty much,” he said.
“So I still get to do DTM, which really was important for me to stay in the championship.
“I get to do a new project [at the N24] with Lamborghini, try something new, I think the project could be a great success if we keep working like we are.
“And I wanted to get a foot in the door with Formula E, that was very important for me.
“With ABT coming back it was a perfect match, which at the same time also ended up giving me three races of experience now, which helped me a lot.”
“That’s I think the only thing you can really do nowadays as a race driver, and try to show that versatility, which I believe I’ve developed over the years.
“Driving different race cars, did some LMP2 stuff in the past. So just setting yourself up in that way gives you options for the future.”