Two-time Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters champion Mattias Ekström announced at Red Bull’s Hangar-7 facility in Austria today that he will continue racing in 2018, but has decided to exit the series to focus solely on Rallycross after a lengthy decision process.
The 39-year-old was the most current highly-decorated active driver until the end of last year, where he finished just three points behind René Rast in the hunt for the drivers’ title.
He also helped Audi Sport take their first title in 2004 since their return to the sport in the 1990s, and has been a firm fixture for many years, picking up 25 wins, 20 pole positions and a total of 83 trips to the podium alongside his two titles.
Ekström admitted that he opted to scale down his racing commitments, stating that he was wishing to spend more time with his family.
“This was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make,” says Ekström, who admitted that his love for DTM will continue, even with his departure.
“However, I’ve also invested a lot of time and energy in my rallycross team in recent years.
“Without the dual program, I’m now able to fully concentrate on one series again and have more freedom again for my family and my children. I’ll continue to compete with my own team and clear the way in the DTM for a promising youngster.”
Dutch single-seater and sportscar racer Robin Frijns will replace the Swede for the 2018 season, joining the existing line up of Rast, Mike Rockenfeller, Jamie Green, Nico Müller and Loïc Duval.
Ekström has shown his versatility in multiple disciplines, including NASCAR and V8 Supercars, racing with Andy Priaulx in a wildcard entry at the 2013 Bathurst 1000, including making his rallycross début in 2013 at Höljes, finishing second in a Volkswagen Polo.
He also set up EKS in 2014, which through its success, has also received the welcome backing of Audi Sport following title glory in 2016, with plans about his efforts in World RX yet to be fully announced.