Le Castellet, France - South African motorsport prodigy Kelvin van der Linde has been named Driver of the Year at the 2014 International Automobile Federation Young Driver Excellence Academy.
In a graduation ceremony at the Paul Ricard circuit in France on Friday the 18-year-old Grade 12 student at Dainfern College was presented with a trophy and certificate at the culmination of a seven-month programme that included five different workshops attended by 10 young racing drivers from eight countries.
Van der Linde was the official representative of the African continent.
The Young Driver Excellence Academy is an initiative of the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety and Sustainability; Van der Linde earned his place in the 2014 Academy after an intensive selection process that involved events around the world at the end of 2013. Each FIA National Sporting Authority - including Motorsport South Africa -nominated a driver to attend the selection process. Five qualifiers were chosen and were joined by five wild-card participants.
The Academy offers a fully funded training programme to help develop the participants' motorsport careers, while increasing safety skills and promoting fairness and responsibility on and off the track. Drivers benefitted from the expert tutelage of former Formula One driver Alex Wurz and former World Rally Championship co-driver Robert Reid.
SAFETY AND SUSTAINABILITY
According to the Academy, Van der Linde, the 2012 South African VW Cup champion and 2013 European VW Scirocco R-Cup champion (and the youngest to have won either of these titles) impressed not only with his speed on the circuit, but with his willingness and enthusiasm to engage with the Academy programme, which is aimed improving motorsport safety and sustainability and promotes excellence and achievement in all areas of motor sport.
Van der Linde is leading the 2014 ADAC GT Masters Championship for GT3 sports cars in Europe at the halfway stage in an Audi R8 with German co-driver Rene Rast.
He said: "To come to the Academy as the African representative and win this is amazing - but the real work starts now."
That includes catching up on his matric prelims - he missed the first three exams because of last week's final Academy workshop in France and will be working hard to catch up.