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James Newbold

Van der Linde confident Lausitz DTM struggles are resolved

The Abt Audi driver took the title to the wire in 2021 and made a good start to the 2022 campaign with a fourth and sixth from the two Portimao races that put him fifth in the standings heading to the Lausitzring.

But while his brother Sheldon romped to victory in both races aboard his Schubert Motorsport BMW, Kelvin van der Linde could manage no better than 15th on the grid for either race and came away empty-handed after a disastrous weekend.

The South African recently tested at Hockenheim with Abt and says he uncovered "a knot" in the Lausitzring set-up that has given him belief that his problems won't be repeated this weekend at Imola, where he has won twice in GT World Challenge Europe.

"The Lausitzring has made us even stronger," he said. "As a team, we didn’t start doubting each other, but looked at the facts and tried to find a solution. That was strong and positive.

"We sat down together in the company first thing on Monday morning and discussed how to find out what the problem was. The first suggestion was that we go testing, which is extremely difficult at the moment because there are no tyres.

"But we did it anyway and went to Hockenheim with four mechanics. We did it super-small, but at the end of the day, good things came out of it.

"We found out that there was a knot in the Lausitzring set-up. We found that out first thing in the morning and I went into the pits with a grin on my face.

"From that moment on, I was sure that things would go forward again at Imola. We now know what things we have to pay attention to, especially with the new evo package and hope that something like what occurred at the Lausitzring won’t happen to us again."

The 25-year-old says his second victory in the Nurburgring 24 Hours last month in the Phoenix Audi he shared with Dries Vanthoor, Frederic Vervisch and Robin Frijns has come as a timely boost prior to Imola.

"After the low at the Lausitzring, the victory was of course perfect to get my confidence back and to know that I haven’t forgotten how to drive," said van der Linde, who previously won the Nordschleife enduro in 2017.

"Sometimes you need that kind of motivation in this rollercoaster ride through the motorsport world."

Van der Linde added that "details that might bring three tenths of a second" are more important than they were last year, due to the renewed competitiveness of the DTM in 2022.

"These three tenths of a second that I was missing compared to [Abt team-mates] Ricardo [Feller] and Rene [Rast] make up ten, twelve places.

"Last year, you might still have been able to finish in the top ten or even in the top five. This year, everything really has to be perfect on both sides: the driver, as well as the car.

"If you start farther in front, you enjoy a certain priority in pit stop planning. It’s good to start at the front, because overtaking is not easy.

"If you start as far back as I did at the Lausitzring, chaos is inevitable. Then you’re suddenly in the gravel or you’re missing something on the car."

The Abt team has logged pre-season testing miles at Imola, which is new to the DTM this year.

After scoring its first podium of the year last time out with Rast, Abt boss Thomas Biermaier said a first win of the season is the team's only goal.

"It was important to build Kelvin up again after the Lausitzring," he said.

"I think we managed to do that together and of course his victory at the 24-hour race was good for him.

"Imola suits him and I also expect strong performances from Rene and Ricardo there again."

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