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Intercontinental GT Challenge

ABT “In a Safer Position” for Second N24 With Lamborghini

Kelvin van der Linde looks ahead to ABT’s second N24 attempt with Lamborghini…

Photo: Gruppe C Photography

Kelvin van der Linde believes Red Bull Team ABT is in a “more relaxed position” ahead of its second Nürburgring 24 attempt with Lamborghini, having put a big focus on improving reliability after last year’s race.

Van der Linde and Lamborghini factory drivers Jordan Pepper and Marco Mapelli have all returned to the lineup of the No. 27 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO2, which finished ninth overall last year.

That came after an initially promising performance, which included third place for Van der Linde in Top Qualifying, was derailed by a puncture for the South African in the second hour of the race.

Lamborghini was not the only brand to suffer tire issues last year, but like Porsche, Van der Linde appeared confident that those problems have been adequately tackled.

“It’s definitely a big step forward in terms of, I think, reliability,” he told Sportscar365.

“I think that we ironed out a lot of the issues we had last year. I think it was clear there was maybe some issues on several different cars regarding tires.

“It was not just a Lamborghini issue, it was a bigger issue at that time. I think we’ve overcome those hurdles, we look to be very reliable this year.”

Van der Linde noted that the Thomas Biermaier-led squad has spent the time since its maiden N24 outing with Lamborghini “finetuning” parts in an attempt to achieve greater durability.

“It’s like small details, which probably at the end of the day don’t make a big performance difference,” he said.

“They’re finetuning parts, things that we saw that were basically not lasting Free Practices, races, just kind of like making sure that they develop in the right way.”

When talking about specifics areas of improvement, Van der Linde explained that the brakes were a “big topic” that ‘needed a bit of work.’

Brake problems proved to be something of an achilles’ heel for Lamborghini’s EVO2-spec GT3 challenger in its first year of competition, which also impacted Iron Lynx during the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa.

“It was less of an issue here because braking is not as bad as in Spa,” Van der Linde recalled.

“Spa, obviously, much more dependent on very aggressive braking. Here’s a much more flowing circuit, so you never really have massive braking zones where the brakes overheat.

“It’s a different story, but nonetheless, it still was a bit of a thing. Cooling was an issue. It’s all these little details that we just worked on. Just with experience, you kind of fine-tune everything.

“I wouldn’t say it’s things that would make us a second or two seconds a lap quicker, but it’s something where you say, ‘Okay, we’re going into the race here, and we can kind of touch wood and know that we’re going to make it to the finish.

“Whereas last year, we started the race hoping that things are going to last or not going to break.”

These improvements have contributed to a confidence boost for the team, with Van der Linde hinting that ABT has taken steps forwards compared to 2023.

“We’re in a safer position, yes,” the South African said. “I would say a more relaxed position.”

Despite that, the 27-year-old remained cautious about making any predictions for the race, as the N24’s unique nature means “it changes all the time.”

“Last year, we thought we’d be in the hunt until the end, and had a puncture after two hours and then the race is kind of done, so you want to be very cautious of your expectations when you come here,” Van der Linde said.

“For sure, when you only have one car in the fight, it’s different to having three or four works cars. It’s just different.

“But we have to play our strengths. We’re a small group, so therefore, we’re also more flexible on our decision-making, strategic calls, stuff like that, which takes a longer time in the bigger works teams.

“I think we’ll be competitive. I mean, I don’t want to lie and say we’re not going to be.

“I think we have a good package, there’s no question, but there’s a lot more than just being fast at the Nürburgring that counts, to be honest.”

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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