Rallycross legend Per Eklund has today (1 April) revealed that he is to make a sensational full-time comeback this season in the FIA World Rallycross Championship – barely four years away from his 80th birthday.
Eklund has not contested a full campaign in the dual-surface discipline since 2009, when he raced in the FIA European Rallycross Championship’s Division 1 category. Prior to that, the Swede was a regular front-runner in the series, clinching the coveted crown in 1999 and finishing inside the top three in the overall standings on five further occasions.
He also won Sweden’s first-ever rallycross event at Hedemora in 1971, as well as Höljes’ inaugural rallycross meeting five years later – and is a multiple champion on the domestic scene.
Indeed, there isn’t much Eklund hasn’t done in rallycross – and rallying too, for that matter, with 12 FIA World Rally Championship podium finishes to his name, including a popular victory in the 1976 Swedish Rally. Heck, he’s even conquered the iconic Pikes Peak hillclimb and gruelling Safari Rally. It’s quite the résumé – but he’s clearly not done yet...
“I know a lot of people will question my reasons for mounting a full-time comeback at the age of 76 – my sanity, even!” commented ‘Pekka’, as he is affectionately known in the paddock. “All I can say is that I still feel like I’m 26, and each time I climb into the cockpit of my beloved Volkswagen Beetle, it’s like I’m starting all over again.
“I’ve obviously not raced that much recently, but each time I have, the spark has been reignited and I’ve got to say, beating that young whippersnapper Andreas Bakkerud away from the line in Euro RX1 at Höljes last year has got to be one of the absolute highlights of my career. I mean, come on, I’m old enough to be his grandfather!
“What’s that saying? Life in the old dog yet. Well, I can assure you there’s plenty of drive left in me, and I’m hugely excited to fit this new Kreisel electric kit into my loyal Beetle – I’ve always been a bit of an adrenaline junkie and quite frankly, the faster, the better.
“It’s clearly going to take a bit of work to be consistently at the same level as the Kristofferssons and Hansens of this world, but I’m confident I can use my extensive experience to my advantage and teach them all a few tricks. Yeah, let’s go and do this!”