In a race disrupted by server issues, the South African driver was barely challenged as he led every lap in a lights-to-flag win at the virtual Circuit Paul Ricard.
Having qualified the Audi R8 on pole position, by just 0.05 seconds from Rinaldi Racing’s stand-in Nicolas Varrone, Van Der Linde made a decent start to lead into the Verriere chicane. That was enabled by Ben Barnicoat’s great start in the JOTA McLaren 720S GT3, which saw Varrone having to defend his position from three cars at once – losing out to Barnicoat and Matteo Cairoli in the first-turn dramas.
With under ten minutes on the clock, it became apparent that all was not well with the race server as drivers started to lose track of one another, and the race director elected to red flag the race and restart at 45 minutes. That came too late for Barnicoat, who’d spun out of third place on lap three.
Van Der Linde’s second start was better than his first, creating a clear gap to Cairoli behind before scampering off down the road. The Audi driver elected to take his mandatory pit stop with just 30 seconds left of the pit window, meaning he pitted from the lead and emerged back out with a nine-second advantage over Varrone, who’d clawed back up to second.
While Van Der Linde’s race looked easy, the rest of the Pro class podium was a far more complicated affair. Cairoli took the chequered flag second in class and fourth overall, he was handed a 160-second post-race penalty, consisting of a 30-second drive-through and a 130-second punishment for failing to take his mandatory pit stop. Dani Juncadella faced the same pit-stop penalty, but this was rescinded by the stewards to give him a second successive second place. Monza winner Arthur Rougier had been in line to take second, but dropped to fourth within sight of the finish line, before Cairoli’s penalty promoted him back to third.
That result means that Rougier and Juncadella now share top spot in the Esports GT Pro Series, winning four points apiece towards their teams’ GT World Challenge Europe challenge.
Varrone ended a comfortable second on the road, taking the Silver class win and three points for Rinaldi. TokSport WRT’s Marvin Dienst had finished second in class, but he too picked up a 30-second penalty after the race, promoting Emil Frey’s Alex Fontana into second, with 2020’s overall champion Ezekiel Companc taking third for Madpanda Motorsport.