South African racing prodigy Sheldon van der Linde is set for a busy and most fulfilling year in 2016 following his selection not only to race in the 2016 European Audi Sport TT Cup, but the Dainfern youngster has also been selected as one of six Audi Sport Racing Academy students set for a premium international motorsport learning program over the next two years.

Reigning double-South African Engen Volkswagen Polo Cup champion at just sixteen years old, Sheldon is already confirmed as one of 14 regular young drivers in the 2016 Audi Sport TT Cup and now he adds the prestigious 2016/17 Audi Sport Racing Academy to his itinerary.

“I am delighted and honoured to be bestowed this incredible privilege,” young van der Linde explained. “The Audi Sport Racing Academy is an extremely prestigious program that opens incredible doors for me with Audi and is certainly set to take my career places I would never have otherwise dreamed of.”

A new program established to promote young motorsport talents, the Audi Sport Racing Academy jury including Audi Race Experience team boss, Sepp Haider, Head of Audi Sport Customer Racing Romolo Liebchen and sports car racer Pierre Kaffer among other Audi Sport managers selected Sheldon as one of six promising young drivers from around the world to be put through various assessments and tests, after which the drivers will be sponsored by Audi.

“The Audi Sport racing academy is the ideal program to support and sponsor the motorsport stars of tomorrow as they take the first steps in their career,” Academy head Sepp Haider pointed out. “These young talents will receive all-round support as they are thoroughly prepared for their future race careers in close collaboration with Audi Sport.”

The two-year Audi Sport Racing Academy programme includes twelve modules through which the young drivers undergo extensive training by experts on topics as far ranging as public relations and sponsorship to automotive engineering, fitness, nutrition and mental training. That’s over and above several dynamic driving sessions that include everything from winter training in Austria to ice driving in Finland and sprints on European race tracks, with the drivers benefiting in-depth tuition throughout.

The program includes extensive mentoring and preparation for Audi Sport TT Cup races and later in GT series with Audi with each candidate setting clearly defined goals every year and their progress towards those goals closely monitored. Each young driver benefits the support of a permanent mentor to personally advise and assist the candidate throughout the course.

“There is much more to professional motorsport than just driving fast,” Haider concludes. “A good driver should also make a positive public  impression and he or she must be able to talk to engineers in detail about the racing car’s setup. We are creating an ideal platform for young drivers to develop their careers — a qualified Audi Sport Racing Academy driver will be ready to move into professional motorsport in Le Mans Prototype, DTM German Touring Cars or GT3 races with Audi Sport or Audi Sport customer racing and ideally become potential a factory driver.”

Sheldon’s first two Audi Sport Racing Academy programs include the Ice Driving Course in Finland from 28 March — an event mainly focussed on snow driving with Audi RS road cars, but also including lectures and training components on driver fitness and nutrition. That will be followed a week later by a module focusing on the legendary Nurburgring Nordsclheife racetrack in Germany, including a theoretical technical workshop on tyres, chassis, mechanical grip and aerodynamics of a race car.

“To be selected for the Audi Sport Racing Academy is beyond a dream come true,” Sheldon admitted. “This program is beyond any expectations – I will be groomed as a future Audi works driver over the next two years while also racing in Europe, starting with the Audi Sport TT Cup this year. “It’s an opportunity I’m taking with both hands — I just can’t wait to get started!”

Sheldon’s first Audi Sport TT Cup race will be at Hockenheim on 8 May.

Issued by Motorsport Media on behalf of Sheldon van der Linde