Mattias Ekström has long been numbering among the DTM’s best. 2016 marks an amazing 16th season for the Swede with Audi in the internationally popular touring car series. Twice, “Eki” was DTM Champion, nearly every year, he is a serious candidate for the title, plus he has always finished in the top eight of the overall standings.
Even at nearly 38, Ekström is still going strong. “As long as I race in the DTM, my number-one goal is to win races, and my number-two goal to become champion,” he says. “The bottom line is these are the two things I most enjoy.”
His dream is to clinch a third DTM title, following the ones in 2004 and 2007. In second and third place of the overall standings, he just barely missed it in the past two years. In 2016, Ekström is going to give it another try.
Last year saw him showing more than once that, as an old hand, he is still one of the fastest drivers in the DTM, although he often drove the heaviest Audi RS 5 DTM in the field due to the performance weights. “That wasn’t always funny,” Ekström candidly says. “On several weekends, we were running really well, be it on a wet or dry track. On other ones, we weren’t so perfectly sorted. In the end, that made the difference. In the DTM, where the field is so close, you simply have to be perfectly prepared each weekend if you want to become champion.” And that is exactly what Ekström wants in 2016.
Ekström is regarded as a red-blooded race driver who always runs flat-out and attacks. His motto “go hard or go home” has long become his hallmark. When the blue Red Bull Audi RS 5 DTM appears in his rear-view mirror every rival knows: a tough situation is coming up – but it will always remain fair.
Ekström has been proving that he is in a class of his own outside the DTM as well: be it in the NASCAR series, in the V8 Supercars in Australia or in the World Rallycross Championship. Around the globe, the Swede is acclaimed as one of the few all-rounders that are fast in any car in any terrain.
Rallycross racing, in which his father, Bengt, was active as well, has become a great passion of his. That is why, at the beginning of 2014, Ekström formed his team, EKS, with which he fields two independently developed Audi S1 EKS RX cars in the World Rallycross Championship. The first two victories were contributed by the boss himself. Aside from the third DTM title, becoming World Rallycross Champion one day is Ekström’s big aim.
Still, the DTM is his top priority. “This is my profession, that’s why I pursue EKS and quattro only in my free time,” says the Swede, who would like to transfer even more elements from rallycross to the DTM. “It’s about entertaining the fans. With two races per weekend and the changes in terms of DRS we’re on the right track. But there’s a lot more that could be done.”
Ekström lives in Austria with his partner, Heidi, and their two children. Last winter, the Ekströms moved into a new home in Ellmau, Tyrol. “We feel really comfortable there,” says the Audi driver.
Parked in his garage is an Audi Q7. “It’s not an RS model, but the Q7 is a perfect car for the whole family. My children love it, too,” the Swede says. “I often have the opportunity to drive an R or RS model during PR commitments. My favorite among Audi’s sporty models is the RS 6 Avant.”
Ekström feels it’s cool that Audi Sport has now become a brand in its own right: “The Audi Sport brand stands for history in combination with motorsport and for the future because Audi Sport increasingly uses details of the race cars for its road-going cars – that will continue to make the R and RS models so special.”
DTM, rallycross and his family hardly leave any time for hobbies in Ekström’s life. He stays fit with cross-country skiing, jogging and, preferably, tennis. And, obviously, his stylishly furnished home in Ellmau has a well-equipped gym, too.
For his DTM car, Ekström selected “5,” the number of the car in which he clinched his first DTM title in 2004. But that is not the only reason for his choice. “I generally like ‘5’ as a number because many things in my life have something to do with ‘5.’” Still, in 2017, he would like to trade it for the “1” of the DTM Champion.