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Van der Linde: Title Win ‘Took 300 Kilos Off Shoulders’

Sheldon van der Linde fulfills ‘childhood dream’ with DTM title…

Photo: Gruppe C Photography

Sheldon van der Linde said capturing the DTM title felt like taking ‘300 kilograms off his shoulders’ after a rollercoaster weekend that saw him realize a ‘childhood dream’ by becoming the first South African champion in series history.

Van der Linde beat Lucas Auer and Rene Rast to the 2022 title by finishing in third place during Sunday’s finale after starting sixth, leaving him eleven points ahead of second-placed Auer.

It came after a race on Saturday that saw his lead to Auer reduced to just two points, which in turn came off the back of a pointless weekend at the Red Bull Ring a few weeks ago.

The South African said after the race that the championship outcome freed him from immense pressure, noting he had gone through several sleepless nights leading up to the series finale.

“It’s very difficult to share my emotions right now because I think there’s a million thoughts going through my mind,” Van der Linde said.

“I really couldn’t sleep every night, a lot of sleepless nights this last week.

“For me, the best way to describe it right now is like really taking 300 kilograms off my shoulders because I had so much pressure the whole weekend.

“When you come in as the leader obviously everyone expects you to win the championship. It sounds super easy from the outside, but really there is so many factors that play a part.”

The Schubert Motorsport driver, whose squad also captured the teams championship this weekend, said the title was the fulfilling of a boyhood dream that he never thought would become reality.

“I’m just super, super happy for the team, extremely proud to finally win this championship,” he said.

“It’s been a childhood dream of mine ever since I was four, five years old. I remember sitting on the couch and watching the Schneiders and the Spenglers and Marco [Wittmann] as well, winning the championship in 2014.

“I always wanted to be there, it was always my dream, but it seemed so far away at that point in time.

“Coming from South Africa as a young boy, it’s extremely hard to really break through and really make it as a professional racing driver first of all, never mind being a champion.

“So for me, the first step was always to reach DTM and the next goal is naturally to be champion.

“So to finally achieve this, I don’t even know what to say. Unbelievable.”

Van der Linde Had “Zero Performance” in Opening Stint

The newly crowned champion fought his way from sixth on the grid to ultimately just beating Attempto Racing driver Marius Zug to the last spot on the podium, describing his race as ‘another rollercoaster’.

While his race looked a lot less dramatic than the battle fought between Marco Wittmann and Rene Rast, Van der Linde explained that he struggled greatly during the first stint and even pitted earlier than anticipated.

“I got a really good start and I went up the inside of Marius Zug into turn one but I took way too much kerb and I bottomed on the floor,” said Van der Linde.

“I had massive understeer and was lucky to get away without scratches or anything, but then I obviously lost positions.

“I looked in the mirror and saw Lucas [Auer] only two or three positions back, which was obviously not the nicest thing to see. I knew I had to keep my positions from thereon.

“I had Dev [Gore] and Marius [Zug] in front of me. They started fighting, which was good for me. I knew I had to take the opportunity to get past when they started fighting.

“Passed both of them into turn one and from then on I just really struggled with pace. I have no idea why.

“I had to actually tell my team to bring me in early for a pitstop because I had zero performance on that tire in the first stint, I was almost half a second or more too slow.

“When you have Lucas coming closer, it’s obviously not the nicest thing to see in the mirror. I told my team to bring me earlier than expected, so I think we boxed on lap nine and from there the car was a different car to drive just based on the tire.

“It was a long stint, I think we did 22 laps so it was natural that the tire deg would kick in and it really did, so to keep Marius behind me for the podium was a feat in itself.”

Davey Euwema is Sportscar365's European Editor. Based in The Netherlands, Euwema covers the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, among other series.

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