In addition to the drivers’ title, Ekström and Heikkinen are again jointly battling for the teams’ title this year, for which two driver entries have been made. Last year, the Swedish-Finnish duo was heading the overall standings from the season opener in Portugal to the finale in Argentina for a straight 225 days. Together, Ekström and Heikkinen have won 44 of their total of 131 races. Four times Ekström mounted the top step of the podium during the season, more often than any other campaigner in the 2016 World RX. In the 12 rounds in Europe, Canada and Argentina, EKS celebrated five more podium places – culminating in the one-two result in the round held as part of the DTM at Hockenheim.
“Never change a winning team,” says Ekström. “I’m excited about tackling the title defense project with Topi. He’s a young but very experienced race driver who perfectly fits our team.” Heikkinen was 2014 rallycross vice champion and finished on podium three times last season. In the drivers’ championship he finished seventh in 2016. “That Mattias Ekström is placing his trust in me again this year is fantastic. I’m very proud to continue being part of this great team,” says Heikkinen.
This year, EKS is competing with three Audi S1 EKS RX quattro cars for the first time and in Reinis Nitišs from Latvia has signed a promising talent that has attracted attention on several occasions. “Together with Audi Sport we worked hard to field three cars and I’m very happy that we made this happen,” says Ekström whose team will receive factory support from AUDI AG starting in the 2017 season. “In Reinis we have another strong driver. Although he’s only 21 years old he already has a lot of experience in rallycross under his belt.”
In 2013, Nitišs became European champion in the Super1600 class. A year later, at the age of 18 and 181 days, he was the youngest driver to date to have won a world championship round in the Supercar class and finished the world championship in third place. “Joing a world championship winning team is the dream of any race driver,” says Nitišs. “That’s a unique opportunity and I’m exceptionally happy that Audi and EKS have expressed their trust in me.” In the 560-HP Audi S1 EKS RX quattro, Nitišs will be contesting all twelve World RX rounds and battling for points in the drivers’ classification this year.
The driver lineup of EKS and Audi in the 2017 World RX
Mattias Ekström (S), Audi S1 EKS RX quattro #1, Drivers’ & Teams’ championship
Topi Heikkinen (FIN), Audi S1 EKS RX quattro #57, Drivers’ & Teams’ championship
Reinis Nitišs (LV), Audi S1 EKS RX quattro #15, Drivers’ championship