After a dramatic weekend of racing in the DTM finale at Hockenheim, Sheldon van der Linde is the 2022 DTM driver champion. Winning the championship wasn’t a foregone conclusion going into the race weekend, as Van der Linde had to fight until the checkered flag waved in the last race of the season on Sunday.
The weekend started out badly for Van der Linde. After qualifying in sixth, he was then dropped to sixteenth after Schubert Motorsport was penalized for a rule infraction, which involved tires being mounted on his M4 GT3 during a closed period before qualifying. To make matters worse, his primary rival, Mercedes driver Lucas Auer, qualified on the pole, which closed the points gap.
At the race start, Van der Linde put in an impressive feat of driving and along with impressive pit work by the Schubert Motorsport crew, he worked his way up to second in race one behind Auer, who won the race. This kept Van der Linde in the points lead, but by only two points, going into the final race on Sunday. “Honestly, I think today was really the turnaround for us,” said Van der Linde after race one. “It started with a nightmare in the morning with the penalty of ten places. The car was amazing in the second stint after my pitstop, my team did an amazing job in the pit stop.” Marco Wittmann finished on the podium in third, and Philipp Eng finished in sixth.
René Rast was on pole for race two, but Van der Linde qualified in fifth, with rival Auer in eleventh. In the race, Marco Wittmann worked his way into the lead and went on to win, but Van der Linde also made his way into third, which was enough to clinch the championship. “In 2016, I came from South Africa to Germany as a young lad to become a professional racing driver,” said Van der Linde after the race. “That was my dream when I still was a kid. Now standing here as the DTM champion is just simply unbelievable.”
With the success of Van der Linde as well as some solid performances by teammate Philipp End, the Schubert Motorsport team also won the team championship. “This success would not have been possible without the superb, strong team behind Schubert Motorsport,” said team principal Torsten Schubert. “I am not just referring to the fantastic crew on-site, but many more supporters who help us behind the scenes and make it possible for us to keep all this going. I would like to thank everyone, my team, BMW M Motorsport for their excellent support, and our two drivers, Sheldon van der Linde and Philipp Eng for their fantastic performances.”
The next race that Van der Linde and Marco Wittmann will compete in is the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, as the two were announced as third drivers for the pair of M V8 Hybrid LMDh cars that BMW Team RLL will debut in the GTP class. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy DTM]