VAN der Linde is a surname synonymous with touring car racing in South Africa.
Shaun van der Linde twice took the national title in the 1990s, Hennie four times in the 1980s and Etienne won the Formula Vee and GTI titles in 1994 and 1995, then ran second in Formula Renault in Britain in 1997, won the Formula Opel championship in Europe in 1998 and ran third in Formula 3 Germany in 1999.
Now, continuing he family tradition, 23-year-old Sheldon van der Linde has just won the DTM (German Touring Car Championship).
It’s a demanding series of 16 races in five different countries.
Winning it was an achievement he says he had dreamt of since he was a youngster — and he always kept a free space for it in his lounge room.
At the age of six, Sheldon turned a steering wheel for the first time.
In the years that followed, he became South African karting champion several times and subsequently honed his skills in the South African Volkswagen Polo Cup.
At 15, he became the youngest Polo Cup title winner. Then, he went to Europe, relocated to Germany, converted from right- to left-hand steering and tackled the language barrier.
Sheldon’s story can’t be told without the most important person in his life: his brother Kelvin, also an accomplished steerer.
They lived together in Kempten and and developed two illustrious motorsport careers in Germany.
Looking around in the living room is like a trip down memory lane in the recent past. One trophy after another is on display in the Van der Linde brothers’ lounge room.
Souvenirs with an emotional value, symbols for the successful careers of the brother pair. And now, one trophy is standing out, coveted by the two of them: the trophy for the overall DTM title.
The elder brother Kelvin already had one hand on this trophy during the finale at Norisring last year, but now, Sheldon is holding it firmly in both hands.
A racing simulator next to the bed reflects the ambition and the unbridled focus to become one of the best racing drivers in DTM.
In 2016, Sheldon raced in the Audi Sport TT Cup, part of the DTM support package. Soon after that, he got support from Audi and in 2018, he and his brother even became teammates racing for the brand with the four rings.
At the time, the two only lacked a single point to turn their dream of a joint championship title win into reality.
One year later, BMW approached Sheldon and pretty soon being a works driver for the brand from Munich was his new duty. He finally made it into DTM in 2019 as well.
But that step let him and his brother become rivals again.
On track, there were intense battles, but at home, there’s idyllic harmony.
And that also brings special talents away from the race track to the fore: Sheldon is the chef in the kitchen, cooking, looking after the well-being of the two South Africans.
“The best lasagna in the world” is often on the menu in the apartment in Kempten as far as brother Kelvin is concerned.
But being in the same business and living together also comes with fuel for conflict.
The two hardly ever argue, but if it happens, they make up for it pretty quickly, too, as Sheldon and Kelvin both emphasise.
Two kids racing each other, one in an Audi, the other in a BMW, also involves a certain heart attack risk for their mum.
When things get a bit too hot, it can happen that the odd phone call from South Africa comes in to tell them off in no uncertain terms.
However, celebrating success with BMW was Sheldon’s plan, and it worked out.
Also at his side to help him was none other than ex-DTM and Formula 1 driver Timo Glock. The master and his student, which led to one success after another.
After a difficult 2021 DTM season, a year without any wins and with only few points, he was freshly motivated taking on the new year, with a new team, Schubert Motorsport, and with the newly developed BMW M4.
Although he surged to the top of the points’ table, until the very end, until the finale at Hockenheim was a nailbiter.
Opposition was huge as 10 other drivers in total still had chances of winning the title.
The pressure was immense, but Sheldon, the quiet guy, kept cool and took third place to secure the 2022 DTM championship – and the first South African do to so.