Kelvin van der Linde says he’s facing “different circumstances” this year in his quest for a third consecutive victory in the California 8 Hours, with variables in race strategy and Audi’s GT3 Evo at play in this weekend’s Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli round.
The South African, who teamed with Pierre Kaffer and Markus Winkelhock to win the inaugural IGTC race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 2017, backed it up with another win last year, alongside Christopher Mies and Christopher Haase in a Land Motorsport-run Audi R8 LMS.
While returning to the German squad this weekend, with the hope of remaining undefeated at the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit, van der Linde realizes there will likely be new challenges this time around.
“Every year it’s been a bit different,” he told Sportscar365.
“There’s been different circumstances, like this year where we won’t have much traffic. So it will be a completely different race again, I think.
“We just need to take it as a new race and make sure we’re prepared.”
The 20-car field for Saturday’s race will feature predominately GT3 machinery, including the series debut of the new-for-2019 Evos from Audi and Acura, as well as the all-new Porsche 911 GT3 R.
While the Audi has typically held the upper hand at Laguna Seca, van der Linde believes this year’s edition will be a closer-fought race, with the influx of new GT3 manufacturers and additional teams.
“I do think we’re still suited to this track but it’s difficult to say with the Evo package,” he said.
“We had some surprises at the races we done so far.
“Hopefully we get a positive surprise this time around. But definitely, with more manufacturers coming, let’s see what they can do. I think the Honda will be very strong.”
Van der Linde believes tire management will again play a crucial role in the race, with the Evo’s advancements in that area to potentially help their chances this weekend.
“That’s one of the areas we really focused on, in trying to get the car a bit better on the long runs,” he said.
“We were already quite good with that already but compared to Mercedes, that was an area we wanted to bridge the gap a little bit more. I think we can do that now.
“This is one of the more abrasive surfaces we go to, so it will be a good test with the new car.”