Mattias Ekström has raced his final race in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters – at least for now.
The 39 year-old Swede has chosen to quit DTM, after being only 3 points away from taking his third DTM Championship in 2017, losing out to teammate Rene Rast.
Ekström will focus on the FIA World Rallycross Championship, where he is racing with his own team.
The rumours have been around for a long time, and they intensified around the DTM season finale at Hockenheim in October. Mattias didn’t want to comment on the rumours himself back then and brushed them away – but the confirmation came today.
Mattias Ekström has been driving for Audi since 1999, with 2001 being his first season in the DTM, driving in an Audi TT. Since day one, he has been sponsored by Red Bull, which has been visible on both his DTM and World RX cars.
He won the DTM Championship in 2004, which was his first year as a works driver, and grabbed title number two in 2007.
Ekström has always had a great interest in many different kinds of motorsport. He is multiple winner of the Race of Champions event, but has also had two starts in NASCAR in the USA and 8 WRC rounds, before he started competing in Rallycross 5 years ago.
He started his own Rallycross team in 2014, which has been competing in both the FIA World Rallycross Championship, and a bit of FIA European Rallycross Championship at the inaugural season too. He won at the home circuit in Höljes in 2014, followed by another win in 2015.
He did 11 of the 13 rounds of the 2015 championship, and finished on the podium a total of three times.
That was only the warm up for 2016, where he smashed the opposition with 4 wins and two further podiums during that season. He secured the Championship with one round to go in Germany, and went on to secure the Teams Title too.
The performance made Audi Sport interested in supporting the team. He started 2017 on a huge roll, winning the first three rounds. But there was a date clash between the round in Höljes, Sweden and Norisring, Germany in the DTM, and there was a long wait before the final decision was made. It was going great in both the DTM and World RX at that point of the season, so no matter what he would go on to choose, would mean that any chance of a Championship in the other one would be impossible.
If it was a huge upswing in performance from the PSRX Volkswagen Team Sweden or that uncertainty for Ekström is hard to know, but fact is that fellow Swede Johan Kristoffersson went on to take 7 wins in a row, winning the World Championship for both Drivers and Teams. Then Ekström woke up again, and took 4 podiums in the last four races of the year. He even managed to grab a victory in Germany, helping him finish second in the Drivers Championship.
He had successfully convinced Audi Sport to continue that support in 2018, where there will be big changes to his own EKS Rallycross team. Both Toomas “Topi” Heikkinen and Reinis Nitiss have publicly announced their departure from the team, which started the speculations regarding the existence of the team for the 2018 season.
But all Rallycross fans can draw a breath of relief regarding 2018. There are no news regarding the other EKS drivers for 2018 just yet.
The FIA World Rallycross Championship 2018 starts in Barcelona 14-15 April.