2022 DTM Champion: Sheldon vd Linde
It was a nail-biting finale to the 2022 DTM series for odd reasons, taking a year or two off my life expectancy. The last race saw nothing but clean space for Sheldon. It almost felt too relaxed. Was this too good to be true? Would he suffer from a puncture as others had during the race?
Thanks to a stroke of luck during the Saturday round, which saw one of the most incredible accidents I've seen in a while (thankfully, everyone walked away), Sheldon was able to steer clear of danger and secure a P2, putting him in better contention for the title. All he had to do was finish P6 or above on Sunday to clinch it regardless of where Rene Rast, three-time winner and his closest rival, would finish. Sheldon would continue to survive, sticking to the theme he's kept the entire season: consistency.
Sheldon's temperament throughout the season has proven that he has what it takes to soak up the pressure. The pressure in a series as competitive as DTM that saw ten drivers in contention for the championship and nine other drivers come at him, including multiple DTM championship winners, GT racing championship winners and multiple other race winners from all other series, including 24 Hours of Le Mans winners and Super GT winners from Japan. It's an achievement that Sheldon can be proud of for fending off all that came. He's kept a cool head in the heat of the battle.
What makes this even sweeter for Sheldon is that his 2021 season was terrible, to say the least. The car he was given was an absolute lemon with little reliability and something he just needed to see through. That frustration must have been a burden for a young driver to carry on his shoulders, wanting to make a name for himself. Coming back from that to win the championship must have been the sweetest taste, something his team, Schubert Motorsport, can be thanked for. Motorsport is a team sport at the end of the day. That 2022 M4 GT3, though, looked like it was on rails all season, and dare I mention that it's the only DTM car in the GT age that still keeps to the old DTM theme of looking like the road-going car...
The second reason was that he got to do it with his brother, Kelvin, who also missed out on an opportunity of winning the championship in 2021. But having your brother in the field, knowing that he could assist you as the 2nd teammate, must have been quite reassuring.
For Sheldon, it's an absolute dream come true. As a kid, looking up to your dad racing touring cars, one can only imagine that it had played a significant role in the formative years. But, to have had the opportunity to kart, then race locally in the Polo Cup before heading to Europe to prove his worth. It's a dream come true. The rest is history, and let's not forget that he's only 23!
"Right now, it is impossible for me to describe my emotions. There are a million thoughts going through my head. I had a few sleepless nights this week. I have to admit that the pressure of going into this weekend as championship leader was massive. It feels fantastic now that this weight is off my shoulders. Ever since I was a child, I have dreamed of driving in the DTM. I am unbelievably proud and delighted now that I have won it. Growing up in South Africa, making the leap to the DTM seemed a very long way away. But now it has all worked out - I can barely believe it!" commented Sheldon.
When Venezuelan Johnny Cecotta did so well in DTM (and still failing to win a championship, I'll add), a limited edition run of 480 Euro-spec E30 BMW M3 Evolution models was released bearing his name, something incredibly valued today. Could we possibly see BMW do the same with the current M4? Likely not, but we do have a creative licence here. Whilst we're on the topic of names, Sheldon's championship victory sees him joining the long list of touring car 'gods-amongst-men' including Bernd Schneider, Nicola Larini, Hans-Jaochim Stuck and Mattias Ekström. A star-studded cast if you've ever seen one. If you need a moment to wipe a tear away, I'll wait before continuing.
What's next for our golden boy? Well, Sheldon joins the BMW M Team RLL in the IMSA GTP Enduros at Daytona in the latest prototype LMDh hypercar as BMW returns for the top tier of endurance racing, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and who knows, maybe we'll see a South African win the greatest endurance race known to man? Yes, I know. I'm getting ahead of myself, but for now, let's just soak up the moment and appreciate it.