The elder of the van der Linde brothers was absent from Audi’s customer racing announcement on Tuesday, where it named 14 drivers as part of its factory line-up for 2023.
He leaves Audi after nearly a decade under its umbrella, winning the GT Masters title in 2014 and 2019 and coming close to clinching the championship in the DTM at his first attempt in 2021. His other successes include two outright wins at the Nurburgring 24 Hours, the second of which was scored last year.
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The South African becomes the latest high-profile driver to leave Audi, whose decision to pull out of a planned LMDh assault on the World Endurance Championship has had widespread ramifications elsewhere within its motorsport programmes.
Van der Linde’s DTM rivals Nico Muller and Rene Rast departed at the end of last year to join Peugeot and BMW respectively, while Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts also jumped ship over the winter to BMW along with the WRT team.
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“Kelvin van der Linde has clinched championship titles, 24-hour race victories and many other successes with Audi,” said Audi customer racing boss Chris Reinke.
“Even though he is giving his career a new impetus, we would be happy to see him in the cockpit of an Audi R8 LMS again in the near future for individual programmes or races.”
Van der Linde’s future at Audi has been under question for some time, as he told Autosport last summer that he would like to “broaden horizons” as he didn’t want to be seen as a “GT3 specialist anymore”.
The 26-year-old is yet to comment on his departure from Audi, nor has he announced his full racing programme for 2023.
Kelvin van der Linde, Team ABT Sportsline Audi R8 LMS GT3
Photo by: DTM
He retains a strong relationship with his DTM squad Abt, which will continue to run the R8 LMS GT3 in the ADAC-acquired series this year but is expected to downscale to just two cars.
Van der Linde will make a third Formula E appearance for Abt at his home event in Cape Town this weekend, substituting again for Robin Frijns.
With WTCR race winner Nathaniel Berthon also exiting Audi’s factory roster, the German manufacturer is left with Christopher Haase, Ricardo Feller and Christopher Mies as the best-known drivers in its line-up.
Frank Stippler, Frederic Vervisch, Markus Winkelhock, Patric Niederhauser, Pierre Kaffer, Mattia Drudi, Gilles Magnus, Luca Engstler and Dennis Marschall are also retained.
However, it has bolstered its crew with the addition of Simon Gachet and Max Hofer, taking the total count of factory drivers to 14.