The ABT Sportsline driver line-up for the comeback on the Nordschleife has been announced: Kelvin van der Linde, Marco Mapelli, Jordan Pepper and Nicki Thiim will compete in the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 at the Nürburgring 24 Hours on May 20 and 21. The international line-up combines plenty of GT3 experience, as well as several overall victories at the endurance classic at the ‘Green Hell’.
« We are delighted that we have signed such a strong team for ABT’s comeback at the 24-hour race, » says ABT CEO Thomas Biermaier. « The four guys not only have a lot of experience in GT3 racing, on the Nordschleife and to some extent in the Lamborghini, but also get on very well with each other – that’s a hugely important factor, especially in this race. »
Over the last weekend, Marco Mapelli and Kelvin van der Linde completed their first kilometres with the car at the season opener of the Nürburgring Endurance Series (NLS), and on Monday, all of the drivers met with the engineers in Kempten for seat adjustments and an intense workshop. « As always in motorsport, of course you wish you had more time to prepare. But we are working through everything point by point. The team is growing closer and closer together and the anticipation among the drivers, mechanics and engineers is rising, » says Thomas Biermaier.
Kelvin van der Linde (ZA) has been part of the ABT family for a long time. The 26-year-old South African competed for ABT in the DTM in 2021 and 2022, and was a title contender right up to the finale in his debut season. Thanks not least to his two titles in the ADAC GT Masters and two overall victories in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, the youngster is regarded as a proven GT3 specialist. He also got a taste of Formula E this year: He replaced regular driver Robin Frijns in four races this season and is also helping the ABT CUPRA team prepare in the simulator. « The first impressions with the car on the Nordschleife were very positive. I think we have a lot of potential, » says van der Linde. « My teammates are great, I already know some of the mechanics from the DTM and that’s another reason why I already feel perfectly at home. I think with this strong squad in the cockpit and in the pits we can achieve a lot. »
Marco Mapelli (I) has been a Lamborghini factory driver since 2017 and is considered as one of the most experienced GT3 drivers in the world. The 35-year-old is racing around the globe for the Italian brand – whether in North America, Asia, Europe or Australia. The biggest success to date for the ABT newcomer from Italy is winning the Pro classification of the 2019 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. « It’s great to be part of this project and to see how professionally everyone approaches the challenge, » says Mapelli. « We all know what can happen in a 24-hour race, so the best possible preparation is crucial. »
Alongside van der Linde, Nicki Thiim (DK) is the second former winner of the 24-hour race in the ABT Sportsline squad: in 2013, the Dane stood on the top step of the podium, and has also taken several class victories. The 33-year-old also celebrated great successes in the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC, where he won the GTE-Pro classification in 2016 and 2019/20 and took a class victory at Le Mans. « After the first meeting with my teammates and the whole team, I am very excited and confident – this is going to be a great project, » says Thiim. « Representing the Lamborghini and ABT brands makes me very proud. My thanks also goes to Aston Martin, who made it possible for me to participate without any red tape. »
Jordan Pepper (ZA) is an old friend of the ABT Sportsline family: in 2014, the former flatmate of Kelvin van der Linde won the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup, which was supported by ABT, before competing with the Kempten-based company in the ADAC GT Masters in 2016 and in the 24-hour races at the Nürburgring and Spa the following year. In 2020, Pepper won the Bathurst 12 Hour. Since this year, the 26-year-old South African has been part of the Lamborghini Squadra Corse factory driver line-up. « ABT shaped my career at the beginning and gave me my first contract when I came to Europe back then. So, to be part of this project now is very special for me, » says Pepper. « I know the people at ABT and at Lamborghini very well and I’m sure both brands will form a strong partnership on the track. »
The ABT team’s next public appearance with the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 is scheduled for April 1 at the second round of the NLS. Fans will see the car in its final design for the first time at the Qualifiers on April 22 and 23.
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