Tuesday 8 September 2020

Will Mattias Ekström return for Riga doubleheader?

Mattias Ekström made an unexpected return to the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship after Jānis Baumanis ran into COVID-19 related funding problems and is therefore unable to complete the full season with KYB Team JC. 

Ekström has achieved a lot of success in his career having won two DTM titles and a World Rallycross title in 2016. The Swede competed in a number of motorsport disciplines from Swedish Touring Cars to DTM, WRC, NASCAR, and even V8 Supercars. 

In 2013, he branched out into rallycross where he competed in the Swedish round of the European Rallycross Championship in Höljes, finishing second. He subsequently announced that he was establishing his own EKS RX team to compete in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. The team made their debut at the Norwegian round of the 2014 European Rallycross Championship where Ekström claimed an 11th-place finish. He returned for the German round of the championship where he claimed victory. 

He also claimed a victory at the Swedish round of the World RX championship that same year followed up with a second-place finish in Germany. 

2015 saw the Swede return for all but two World RX events, and won his home round in Sweden for the second year in a row. 

In his first full World RX season in 2016, Ekström claimed four event wins on his way to the 2016 Drivers' Championship title. The 2017 and 18 seasons would see him finish second in the championship behind Johan Kristoffersson. 

In 2018, Ekström retired from DTM to focus on his rallycross team, and with factory support from Audi Sport, all seemed rosy. Until Audi Sport announced that they will withdraw from the sport at the end of the 2018 season, which subsequently lead to the Swede announcing that he will call time on his full-time World RX career. 

After catching a glimpse of World RX on his couch in 2019, the Swedish champion returned for an outing at the World RX of Benelux at Spa-Francorchamps with JC Raceteknik in the Audi S1 that carried him to the 2016 title. 

Ekström jumps Kristoffersson to win in Sweden.
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.
JC Raceteknik later acquired a further five Audi S1 Quattro Supercars from EKS RX to launch a new team named, KYB Team JC. And, whilst plans were to have reigning European Rallycross Champion Robin Larsson and Jānis Baumanis in the pair of Audi S1 Supercars. Baumanis was unable to provide the necessary funding to compete in the full World RX campaign due to COVID-19 related problems, and therefore the Swedish outfit required a driver at short notice to step into his place. 

The team principal of KYB Team JC, Joel Christoffersson called upon the services of Mattias Ekström, who he knows comes with a lot of experience, tips, and tricks, and he also knows the Audi S1 Supercars quite well.

In the Höljes doubleheader, he claimed a second-place finish in round one followed by a victory in round 2. Mattias returned for the second World RX doubleheader in Finland where he claimed a seventh-place finish in round three and a second-place finish in round four. With these strong results, the Swede is currently placed second in the drivers' standings.

The question on everyone's lips after the first four rounds of the FIA World Rallycross Championship is: Should Mattias Ekström return for the Latvian round of the championship or the full 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship? 

It’s a rather difficult question to answer, purely because Mattias once owned a team (EKS RX) where he could make those sorts of decisions. This time around it’s slightly different because he’d be required to bring along the necessary funding in order to race for the team. 

Whilst Ekström comes with a wealth of experience and is a master tactician, unfortunately, it counts for nothing. The Audi S1 supercars now owned by KYB Team JC were also built and developed around Mattias in 2018, which gives him an upper hand over teammates.  

Mattias Ekström did not expect to race in Sweden this year and has other commitments that will clash with the 2020 World RX season. Could we see him return for the Latvian rounds of the season?

"There’s no plan for what happens next," Ekström said. "I know that there are other people that want to drive this car in Riga, so that could also be an option. I think it will be a little while before we decide."

KYB Team JC's Joel Christoffersson would like Mattias to continue but is aware that budget and other commitments could get in way of the 2016 Champion. 

"The question I keep getting asked is about the future of Mattias in the team. It would be brilliant if he continued with KYB Team JC, but it also looks tough for him, both with budget and other commitments, so we will have to see," Joel Christoffersson said. "We have a week or so to find a solution for Riga, otherwise we need to find an alternative."

While we have no solid answer to this question. There is no doubt that many fans would really like to see Mattias Ekström complete the full season with KYB Team JC. 

Should he return for the remaining rounds of the 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship, we are likely to see a close title fight to the checkered flag in Germany (season finale). 

Written By - Junaid Samodien

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