WORLD RX 2018: NEW-LOOK EKS AUDI SPORT GOES ON THE OFFENSIVE
Sunday 1st of April 2018
Team: EKS Audi Sport
Car: Audi S1
Drivers: Mattias Ekstrom, Andreas Bakkerud
2017 Teams’ Championship: 3rd
There has never been any doubting Mattias Ekstrom’s commitment to the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, but many were still surprised to learn he’d be choosing it in favour of continuing his long and successful DTM tenure.
Indeed, the Swede – having long decided to scale back a busy racing schedule that had seen him compete in both disciplines for the last three seasons – even admitted himself he’d originally planned to remain in the German touring car series. However, despite having raced in the DTM since 2001, Ekstrom eventually changed his mind after reasoning he couldn’t simply watch his own EKS Audi Sport team on television.
Not that dovetailing his commitments between the two hampered his efforts last year as his runner-up results in both series’ demonstrated, but Ekstrom’s renewed focus is just one reason for EKS Audi Sport’s rivals to fear the team in 2018.
Notably, the factory-developed Audi S1 has undergone its biggest winter overhaul since the car debuted in 2014 and has appeared in testing with a number of visible technical tweaks that have piqued interest in the paddock. With this in mind, Ekstrom is confident he has the car to reclaim the World RX title he ceded to countryman Johan Kristoffersson last year.
“I think everyone has grown a lot since 2014 and the car we raced last year was from 2014 that we developed over the years,” he commented. “We have done everything we can with our resources – as other people have – so in Barcelona we will see if we have moved closer or if they have pulled away. I think that will be a very interesting weekend.”
“Everyone here wants to be world champion and I managed it once. The challenge that year but also the feeling afterwards, so now we are trying our best to repeat this.”
Meanwhile on the other side of the garage, there has been plenty of attention on Ekstrom’s new team-mate as fan favourite Andreas Bakkerud joins the line-up after two eye-catching – if not quite fulfilling - seasons with the since-departed Hoonigan Racing Division Ford team.
Known for his aggressive driving on the track and personable manner off it, Bakkerud’s arrival at EKS Audi Sport has garnered plenty of interest as the only new member of the ‘big three’ factory-backed teams. Testing and the odd national race outing has already demonstrated Bakkerud should be up at the sharp end when the season kicks off in Spain, with the Norwegian now keen to get his new chapter underway.
“We have been discussing since 2013 so we have been talking for a while. I am excited and proud to be here. Things have been going really well with the car. It takes time to get used to everything but we have done some national rounds in Belgium and at Silverstone, as well as some ice racing, so we have done quite a lot of miles behind the wheel.”
Indeed, while Ekstrom’s focus is partially on the drivers’ title, he is delighted to have a quick team-mate in Bakkerud to come on board in his quest for the teams’ crown too.
“I enjoyed both parts of the sport [driving and ownership] and with Andreas in the team I think we stand a better chance than in other years.”
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