South African racer Kelvin van der Linde has signed with AKKODIS ASP Team for its 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship LMGT3 campaign with Lexus. The 27-year-old will serve as a pro driver in one of the French team’s two factory-supported RC F GT3s in the new LMGT3 class.

The opportunity, van der Linde told RACER, took him by surprise, in the form of a phone call to ask if he was available for a two-day test in the Jerome Policand-owned team’s RC F GT3 at Barcelona earlier this week. He was signed for the 2024 campaign within two days of taking the call.

“Ritomo Miyata was planned for this, but he had clashes so they said they needed a Platinum driver to lead the lineup and they were interested because I was manufacturer-neutral,” he explained. “At that point I wasn’t looking for anything — I was on holiday in South Africa preparing for next season.

“I spoke to my manager, I spoke to them, and the whole contract was sorted in two days. It’s the quickest deal I’ve ever done in my life! I am very thankful.

“I guess our association comes back to ASP vs WRT and that rivalry, as we were always competing together for wins in GT World Challenge. We have been aware of each other, and each other’s strengths, so maybe that’s the reason I’m here?”

The deal for van der Linde adds to his 2024 commitments in DTM with ABT and his Formula E reserve driver role, and will see him compete in the FIA WEC and at the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time.

“Le Mans is one of the last endurance races I haven’t done,” he said. “I’ve done Bathurst, Nurburgring, Spa and Daytona — it was missing from my bucket list. It wasn’t on the cards at the beginning of the year but things happen. But when Jerome called and said there would be good support from a manufacturer, I knew it was interesting.

“Toyota knows how to succeed in Hypercar, so if that translates into Lexus we will be competitive.”

Signing a factory contract with Toyota Gazoo R acing Europe for WEC feels like the start of a new chapter for van der Linde, whose eight-year stint as an Audi works driver came to an end earlier this year. During that time there were many highlights, including a pair of victories at the Nurburgring 24 Hours.

Reflecting on his departure from Audi, van der Linde describes it as “frustrating” and “sad,” particularly as he was initially signed up to form part of its ill-fated LMDh WEC program.

“The whole Audi situation from the outside looks like a bit of a shambles,” he said. “It’s a massive shame. I remember early on in the LMDh project I was involved in the simulator stuff. We were a week away from the first rollout of the car when they pulled the plug on the project.

“Everyone was so shocked, including myself. I put in so much effort for eight years at Audi, and in the last 12 to 20 months the brand hasn’t been able to make a decision on anything. They’ve lost a lot of their top drivers to other manufacturers. It’s a massive shame for a brand with such history.

“I love the brand — they put me on the map and gave me the opportunity to showcase what I can do in a race car, but at the moment it’s doom and gloom and disappointing. At some point you need to look elsewhere — you can’t hang around and wait. I carried on with ABT, which has run with Audi this year and at the Nurburgring with Lamborghini, but I have no link to Audi, so they’ve been happy for me to go ahead with this project.”

At the moment, the contract for van der Linde is for a single season and he is unsure where it will lead beyond 2024. However, he clearly sees this as an opportunity to break into the FIA WEC in the long term.

“As a driver, you have a five-year horizon. DTM was where I wanted to be to present myself as a driver, as the sprint format is something I enjoy. But naturally, I am looking for a long-term perspective and Toyota and Lexus are giving good signals,” he noted.

“Hypercar also interests me, if there’s the potential to move there full time it’s something I would look at. There are a lot of options and I regard myself as very privileged.”

At Barcelona, van der Linde shared the Lexus RC F GT3 with fellow 2024 AKKODIS ASP driver Jose Maria Lopez, where the team completed plenty of mileage in what was the team’s second outing with the car.

While there is still plenty of work to be done as Policand’s outfit is still so new to the RC F GT3, van der Linde told RACER that his first two days spent behind the wheel of the Lexus were encouraging.

“I feel the dedication and passion for motorsport with Lexus,” he said. “I feel like a lot of European manufacturers are struggling to make their intentions clear for the future — the Japanese brands are a step ahead.”