Kelvin van der Linde said his nearly four-hour drive time in Saturday’s California 8 Hours felt more challenging than a 24-hour race following a “really tough” outing for Audi Sport Team Land.
The two-time and defending race winner and co-driver Christopher Mies soldiered home for a 7th place result in a wounded Audi R8 LMS Evo that was likely damaged from an earlier incident.
Van der Linde and Mies completed the majority of the race as a driving duo after 2017 Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli champion Markus Winkelhock fell ill and was ruled out from the remainder of the race after completing just 44 minutes in the car.
It came after the German was turned around by the No. 42 Team Schnitzer BMW M6 GT3 of Martin Tomczyk at the Corkscrew in Hour 6.
While the incident resulted in a drive-through penalty for the BMW, it was also suspected to have caused a broken damper on the Audi, which both Mies and van der Linde were forced to nurse to the finish.
“It’s hard to tell,” van der Linde told Sportscar365 told post-race of the cause of the broken shock absorber. “I assume maybe at the Corkscrew, if you come down, it can break the damper.
“At least for [Chris Mies]’ stints and my double in the end, it was nowhere.”
The combination of an ill-handling car and tasked with additional drive time made it one of the South African’s most difficult races yet.
It came after a solid early showing for the defending race-winning Audi, which looked set to be in podium contention until the incident.
“For some reason this race is really tough,” van der Linde said. “I don’t know why but I was really hanging onto it in the end.
“I don’t know if it was because our car was really physical to drive. But those four hours were probably tougher than a 24-hour race.”
Winkelhock, who was battling the flu, was declared unfit to return to the wheel by the track doctor following his shortened stint, which shook up the team’s strategy in the final two hours.
Race stewards, however, permitted both Mies and van der Linde to exceed the maximum driving time of 3 hours and 15 minutes in the race on the grounds of force majeure.
Audi’s second factory-backed entry of Christopher Haase, Dries Vanthoor and Frederic Vervisch, meanwhile, finished fourth, although also unable to keep the German manufacturer’s win streak at Laguna Seca alive.