South African DTM driver Sheldon van der Linde takes pole in rookie season
Congrats on being BMW’ youngest pole sitter in DTM’s history. When you look in your mirrors and have veterans like Bruno Spengler and Timo Glock behind you, how surreal is that moment?
It definitely took some time to get used to! Having closely followed these ‘top dogs’ from a young age does make it surreal. But in saying that, it’s now become just another car I need to finish ahead of which I regard as a very fortunate position to be in at only 20 years old.
Tell us about that moment when you received a call to be part of the DTM driver’s test at Jerez and how you approached those first few laps in the car?
At the time my manager called me up and said listen, we have this massive opportunity and we need to take it regardless of what happens. A few days later I found myself at the wheel of the Deutsche Post M4 DTM of Timo Glock in Jerez… I knew that it was now or never but at the same time I tried to stay as calm and composed as possible and simply execute at the highest level. I’ll never forget that call.
Growing up, DTM was always your goal. Why was that?
I don’t have an exact answer to that. Obviously most of the family had chosen the touring car route, predominantly because we never had the budget from sponsors to cover a season in formula. We knew it would be difficult to reach the target of DTM via non-formula championships as naturally that’s where most drivers are selected from. DTM is and will always be the pinnacle of touring cars and for that reason the goal was very clear from the start.
You and your dad’s careers share a strong relationship with BMW motorsport. Is there something extra special about driving for the BMW Motorsport brand and their unique culture?
It’s always been a dream of mine to join BMW at some point in my career to continue where my Dad left off with them. When the opportunity came up we did not even think twice. The first time I got into my BMW suit it just felt right. The brand itself carries a massive history and as a young kid I grew up watching a thousand different videos of my dad in the enviro car.
Does it feel strange that your company car (the BMW M2) has a bigger engine than your racecar?
(Laughs). Not really. For their respective purposes they both have insane power. I can confirm that the M2 is a very good drift car though. (sshhh).
You arrived in DTM after a big rule change from V8s to 2.0 turbo charged engines. Do you regret not racing the former?
Yes and no. As a rookie coming into DTM the rule changes have helped equalise things between the experienced drivers and rookies. From a tyre degradation point of view I would’ve liked to race the V8!
Social media is an area where you spend a lot of time. Is that something that’s now expected of drivers?
Media in DTM in general is on a very high level, especially when coming from GT3 where there’s no direct factory involvement from manufacturers. I would say on a typical race weekend we spend about 70% of our time doing marketing and media for BMW and 30% driving. From a social media point of view I push myself because it carries so much power nowadays.
DTM is streamed live on YouTube which gives it great free worldwide coverage. Do you think the rest of motorsport can learn a few things from DTM in that regard?
Definitely. This is a big positive from the championship’s side to increase viewing figures and accessibility worldwide.
Onboard footage shows you’re constantly tweaking and pressing buttons on the steering wheel. Take us through some of the minute-by-minute adjustments including DRS and Push to Pass.
These days you require a basic set of tech skills to operate these cars, as crazy as that sounds. We have an added feature of Push to Pass (PTP) this year which in combination with DRS keeps the driver very busy during races considering there are three DRS activations and one PTP per lap. Alongside that we have radio communication with our crew, brake water cooling, brake bias adjustments and various engine maps for wet and dry.
Which areas of DTM have come naturally to you, and which areas are you specifically working on to improve?
The speed aspect has come more naturally to me and my qualifying laps in particular have been very strong this year with my maiden DTM pole position in Zolder. I’ve been working hard over the past few weekends to perfect the art of making the Hankook tyre go the distance in the races which seems to be playing a massive role in DTM this year due to the increase in power with the turbo engines and the same (Hankook) tyre as last year with the V8s.
You do a bit of sim racing too. Tell us about your setup (equipment) and how often you’re on it?
I enjoy my sim racing a lot but for me there are two sides to it. The first is preparing for race weekends on BMW’s DTM sim based in Munich. The other is the casual mess around with a few friends at home on a platform called iRacing. Between myself, my brother and Jordan Pepper we have built up quite a powerful rig, ranging from triple screen monitors to a direct drive wheel and hydraulic Simtag Pedals.
Supporters can buy your VDL Bros merchandise. How do we get that in South Africa?
My brother, Kelvin, and I will be launching our official VDL Bros merchandising platform online very soon. Shipping will be worldwide!
“It’s always been a dream of mine to join BMW at some point in my career”