Reigning South African Volkswagen Cup champion Kelvin van der Linde recently got his international motor sport career off to a fast start by emerging as the fastest driver after a two-day test at the Oschersleben circuit in Germany in preparation for the 2013 Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup Championship.
The 16-year-old Johannesburg resident, who made South African motor racing history last year by becoming the youngest-ever winner of a senior circuit racing national championship, impressed the series organisers and the other competitors with his pace and maturity.
The rising star of South African motor racing - the second youngest among the 18 young drivers from around the world who will be contesting the six-round nine-race series in Europe - was immediately on the pace despite the fact that it was his first visit to the 3.6-kilometre circuit and his first experience of the left-hand drive 285 bhp sports coupe.
"I was quite surprised at how quickly I got to grips with the Scirocco R," said the grade 11 pupil from Dainfern College. "After the first few laps, I felt completely at home in it.
"It's similar in performance to the Class T VW Golf GTi I drove for Ferodo in the opening round of this year' South African production car championship. That experience has proved to be very useful."
Van der Linde earned his place in the series by winning the South African VW Cup championship and will drive a black Scirocco carrying the South African flag and the number 20.
The VW Scirocco R-Cup, which is a curtain-raiser to the DTM, the German Touring Car championship, is the successor to the VW Cup series that first ran in 1976 with the original VW Scirocco.
The one-make series features up to 24 identical cars with four or five different guest drivers in each round. These include former drivers from Formula 1, DTM, rallying and other motorsport disciplines, as well as former champions from other sports, like skiing, and media personalities.
The VW Scirocco R's 2,0-litre TSI engine is turbocharged and fueled by natural gas. It features paddle shift gearchanging, a direct shift gearbox (DSG) and a push- to-pass facility that adds 50 hp to the engine's basic 235 bhp. There are limited set-up options with changes only allowed to things like tyre pressures, anti-roll bars and seat and steering wheel position.
The series is very popular and draws large crowds who appreciate the very close racing and the inclusion of drivers like ex-F1 champion Damon Hill, ex-world rally champion Carlos Sainz and even the father of reigning F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel in the field.
"I'm very excited about the season that lies ahead," Van der Linde said. "Our first race is at Hockenheim in Germany on the fourth of May and I can't wait to get started.
"I believe that among the celebrity guest drivers will be former DTM champions and F1 drivers Nicola Larini and Eric van de Poele."
Eyeing the fututre, he said: "This is a great opportunity for me and could be the launch pad for an international racing career. We are a support race to the DTM, the most successful and respected of all the international touring car championships, and the DTM teams keep a close eye on the VW Scirocco R-Cup drivers."