Ekstrom: Missing DTM meant title pressure was on
Newly-crowned World Rallycross champion Mattias Ekstrom says he felt greater pressure to win the title after his Audi bosses allowed him to miss the DTM finale last weekend to compete at Estering.
Ekstrom finished fifth in the final driving his EKS team’s Audi S1 at the penultimate World RX round in Germany, which was enough to claim his maiden Rallycross title.
“Before this project started I had a deal with my bosses that DTM stayed my priority, and I’m allowed to do this [World RX] as the priority-two project,” said Ekstrom, who missed his first DTM event in 15 years as a result of the clash.
“I wrote an email to [Audi DTM boss] Dieter Gass asking if he could imagine an exception. I know our deal, I didn’t want a deal breaker, I just asked if it might be possible.
“When you are loyal and you behave well and you ask a favour, very few people think its correct not to make exceptions if someone deserves to get one, so the pressure [to win the title] was not only from me and my team, it was also from a complete brand.
"I know my colleagues, they love winning, they hate to lose and the only thing they expected was for me to win."
The double DTM champion explained that the historic Estering circuit only added to the challenge of securing enough points to win the title in Audi’s home country.
“For the first time in my life I really felt some pressure because it comes with expectations,” added Ekstrom.
“At this track, which is so difficult and dangerous, at turn one especially, to get a text from my boss afterwards congratulating me was a very special feeling.”
Ekstrom is only the second ever World Rallycross champion, succeeding Norwegian Petter Solberg who won the title in 2014 and 2015.
The Swede entered into his rallycross project in 2014 with the goal of attending an FIA Awards Gala, and says the feeling of winning the title tops his previous accomplishments.
“I’m really proud in general of what I have achieved in my career because it’s always difficult when the competition is hard,” he explained.
“Everybody asks how big is this for you? I remember when I won the Swedish Touring Car Championship in 1999, I was not crying because the circumstances were not for crying, it was more for hard words.
"Then in DTM back in 2004 I remember I was just enjoying it - then I got drunk for the first time in my life.
“Then after that the win against Sebastien Loeb in the Race of Champion in Paris, that was the next thing which I felt big, then winning against Michael Schumacher in Race of Champions.
"Then since my second DTM title [in 2007], it has been a long way without any big things that beat those, but now finally this title beats them all.”
Ekstrom will complete his season by taking part in the final round of World RX in Argentina next month. His EKS team heads into the final round leading the Teams’ championship.
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