Kelvin van der Linde

Kelvin steps in for Cupra’s Frijns

ANOTHER door has opened for accomplished South African racing driver Kelvin van der Linde.

He will make his Formula E debut in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, this weekend for rounds two and three of the world championship.

Van der Linde is stepping into the seat of ABT Cupra’s Robin Frijns as the Dutchman recovers from wrist surgery after a crash at the first round in Mexico in the past week.

Frijns collided with the Nissan of Norman Nato at turn nine, taking them both out of the race and fracturing his wrist.

“The task and challenge for Van der Linde to start in a World Championship without any testing is of course gigantic, but he is highly motivated, works hard and the whole team will support him without any pressure,” team boss Thomas Biermaier said.

When Van der Linde takes to the track he will also be making history under the South African flag.

“Being the first African driver in Formula E is very special and I hope it will help break down more boundaries for future African drivers to achieve the same,” he told Daily Maverick.

While he admits the circumstances of his debut are unfortunate, the 26-year-old says he is ready to take on the challenge.

“Formula E is a championship every driver wants to be a part of because as a sportsperson you want to compare yourself to the best, and therefore it’s a massive opportunity and something I am extremely proud do,” he said.

“I think the challenge of doing something completely new is attractive to me — I need to come out of my comfort zone and this gives me a lot of adrenalin.

“Formula E is a FIA World Championship and is recognised worldwide, with a large fan base. I love the international countries we travel to and eagerly await the Cape Town ePrix.”

Van der Linde wrote on his personal Instagram account: “I want to thank everyone at ABT for all the trust and support I have received internally. We have been flat-out since Monday morning trying to learn everything in terms of software, race procedures, car characteristics and series regulations.”

Formula E is the latest in a stellar lineup of achievements for Van der Linde, who started his racing career at the age of eight in karting.

At 14, he became the youngest driver ever to compete in a National South African Circuit event in 2011, going on to become South Africa’s youngest national champion at the age of 16.

 In 2013, he won the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup, which paved the way for him to race as a VW-supported junior driver in the 2014 season.

That year, he became the ADAC GT Masters Champion at the age of 18, which earned him a spot as an Audi Factory driver.

In 2017, he helped steer the Audi Sport Team Land to victory at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring and in 2021 placed third in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters, which his brother Sheldon won in 2022.

Van der Linde got his first taste of Formula E in the 2020 rookie test in Marrakesh and this season has worked with ABT Cupra in simulator preparation.

The Diriyah ePrix takes place with two rounds of all-electric racing on January 27 and 28.


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