Pepper beats housemate to Bathurst honour

Bentley factory driver Jordan Pepper has beaten his housemate Kelvin van der Linde to become the first South African to win the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.

STORY: Connor O’Brien, Supercars.com 

Pepper combined with Jules Gounon and Maxime Soulet in a sublime showing on Sunday in the #7 Bentley Team M-Sport, finishing more than 40 seconds clear of their nearest rival.

It marks the biggest win of the 23-year-old’s career and a special occasion representing his homeland; no South African has won the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 either.

“It’s quite good as a young South African coming from the middle of nowhere down to another southern hemisphere country and kicking ass,” Pepper said.

“This place is kind of like South Africa’s second home, so many [South Africans] come over and we get so many supporters come here as well so it’s really special.

“It’s a massive race obviously, I grew up watching the race as a kid, staying up at night watching these guys have a crack at the Mountain and it’s something I’ve always dreamed about doing, racing here.

“It’s one of the places to tick off and obviously last year I came here for the first time. It wasn’t meant to be… it’s one of those places you have to respect.

“I’m one of two South Africans to actually take part in the race [along with Kelvin van der Linde].

“I’ve still got a bit to learn from him here, I think he got the quickest lap of the race so the pace wasn’t quite up to his standard but with the 12 Hour obviously you have got to keep your nose clean and that’s exactly what we did.”

Pepper was born in the South African town of Edenvale, half an hour from the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit that will host the 2020 International GT Challenge finale in November.

He was brought up in a motorsport family: his father Iain is a former South African Touring Car driver and his older sister Tasmin competed in the inaugural W Series last year.

Pepper moved to Germany at age 17 and has been living with brothers Kelvin and Sheldon van der Linde for the past three years.

“We’re three boys who jumped on the ship if you would call it that way, got shipped off to Europe trying to make it big and I’m glad to see it’s paying off,” he said.

“Me and Kelvin are quite happy in the endurance racing scene and Sheldon being in DTM, I think we’re putting South Africa back on the map.”

Adding the significance of the breakthrough: “As a kid all I wanted to do was be my Dad.

“I wanted to race. He looked so cool, he was my hero, still is my hero and what makes this even more special is my Mum [Cheryl] and my Dad were here to watch.

“I promised my Mum, she came last time to Paul Ricard and I got a win and I said Mum, please come to Bathurst, I need the win, I need you here.

“She decided to make the flight over and I’m so happy for that.”