Kelvin van der Linde has praised Audi Sport Team Land for successful strategy calls which allowed it to bounce back from two drive-through penalties to win Sunday’s California 8 Hours.
Race engineer/strategist Peter Baron’s decision to pit early then drive through the pit lane to reset stint lengths while other cars completed their stops helped van der Linde, Christopher Haase and Christopher Mies to take the race win.
It was a strategy that the team also employed at the Total 24 Hours of Spa but had a much bigger impact in the Intercontinental GT Challenge season finale.
Land finished ahead of the No. 19 WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3, with a 1-2 finish and maximum points netting Audi its third straight IGTC manufacturers’ championship.
“We really won the race from the pit wall,” van der Linde told Sportscar365. “The guys did a fantastic job to stay calm.
“At the beginning of the race, after the penalties, we did feel a bit of pressure to come back, and it was not easy because track position is really important here so we knew we had to get that track position right.
“One full course yellow played into our favor a little bit and we got track position, and then Haase and Chris [Mies] did fantastic jobs. I’m just thankful to everybody.
“For Audi to come back and defend that title is fantastic.”
The South African won last year’s inaugural running of the race, in a Magnus-run car he shared with Markus Winkelhock and Pierre Kaffer.
He says this year’s race was a lot more challenging, with double the field and difficulties with traffic and visibility.
“Last year, we were the hunters, but this year we were hunted a little bit in the last stint,” he said.
“Both years, I had fantastic teammates and car crews which really gave me the material to deliver and for that, I’m extremely thankful.
“I would say it was even harder than last year. The last stint, also with the sun directly in my view, it was very tough. I really had to focus, I actually went off once, mid stint when I started to relax a bit.
“That’s when then mistakes creep in so I just quickly reset and started pushing again because you can’t sit back for one lap here.”
Haase, meanwhile, downplayed his disappointment in not being able to fight for the drivers’ title, which ultimately went to Tristan Vautier.
A race-ending rear driveshaft issue with 90 minutes to go in February’s season-opening Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour took his car out of contention and denied him an additional 25 points, arguably costing him the title.
“I guess that’s racing, that’s why we’re here and we love it,” Haase said about the Bathurst disappointment. “Next year is another year.”
John Dagys contributed to this report.