Mattias Ekstrom has secured the 2016 FIA World Rallycross Drivers Championship after guiding his EKSRX Audi to fifth place in the Supercar Final of the World RX of Germany as Kevin Eriksson took his maiden victory in the series.
Ekstrom needed to have a 30 point led or more of over title rivals Johan Kristoffersson and Petter Solberg to win the coveted World RX Drivers Title and after finishing Saturday as Top Qualifier, the Swede made sure that he went all the way to the Final by winning the second Semi-Fianl race to go win his first ever FIA World Championship title and become the second driver to win the World RX title after recent double champion Solberg.
The Swedish driver was elated at securing the title, “This is probably the best day in my whole motorsport career! I have a lot of amazing memories: from winning the Swedish Touring Car Championship back in 1999, my first DTM title in 2004, my Race of Champions win against Loeb in Paris, and also against Michael Schumacher in 2007, then my second DTM title.
“Now I’m the new World RX Champion and this feeling beats it all because when I started EKS from scratch less than three years ago, this was my dream. I have always wanted to go to an FIA prize-giving ceremony and now I finally can,” explained Ekstrom as he looked back on his previous Motorsport achievements.
The Final itself was a frantic affair as Solberg lined up on Pole Position with Ekstrom alongside the PSRX Citroen. The middle row saw two of World RX young chargers with Kevin Hansen in the Peugeot-Hansen Academy 208 WRX alongside Kevin Eriksson in the OlsbergsMSE Fiesta he recently took to the 2016 RallyX Nordic crown whilst the back row was occupied by Volkswagen RX Sweden’s Kristoffersson and Hoonigan Racing’s Andreas Bakkerud.
Solberg and Ekstrom were equal off the line, however as the field accelerated to the iconic turn one, Eriksson guided the Fiesta all the way around the outside of the hairpin to take a lead he would never lose. Solberg and Bakkerud would pursue the young driver however Eriksson would cross the line ahead to secure his first ever victory ahead of Solberg and Bakkerud. Behind the lead trio Kevin Hansen held off Ekstrom whilst Kristoffersson came home in sixth place having lost the left rear tyre during the race.
Eriksson was overjoyed at taking his first ever World RX win, “I am speechless,” explained Eriksson, “I saw Petter lead off the start and planned to stay behind him but then I saw an opportunity to go on the outside and hoped for the best. Somehow it worked! I felt I had really good speed throughout the weekend and to beat these guys you need to be driving at your very best. This weekend, everything came together and we got the consistency I needed to take the win.”
Solberg, who is the outgoing World RX Champion and finished second to the young Swedish driver, congratulated Eriksson on his first win, “I am very impressed by Kevin” said Solberg.
“He won the Swedish Championship last weekend and now he has gone one better and take his first World RX victory, which was very well deserved – especially when I had a clear line into turn one and my car is very good on the gravel.”
Solberg was gracious in defeat to 2016 Champion Ekstrom, “To be honest, I am sad that the Championship is over for me. I have been fighting all year for my third World RX title and I hoped it would go down to the final round and the team were really motivated.
“It is so important for me to thank my amazing team – I may be the guy driving the car, but the car was so fast this weekend, I think one of the fastest on the track. I can only say thank you for all the hours they have spent in the last two weeks, making small changes which could make a difference for us.
“They have worked so systematically; second here is a great win for the whole PSRX team. Finally, Mattias is a very worthy winner, he has won a lot of races this year and been very consistent – big congratulations to him and to EKS.”
Behind the top six was Janis Baumanis who took seventh place after taking his first ever Qualifying win as he set the fastest time in Q1 on Saturday. The Latvian driver made it all the way to the Semi-Finals in his World RX Team Austria Ford Fiesta in a weekend that seemed to favour the young guns of the series. Completing the top ten were Sebastien Loeb, Ekstrom’s team-mate Topi Heikkinen and 2015 winner Davy Jeanney.
The Final round of the 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship takes place at the Rosario circuit in Argentina on 25-27 November where the only title left to be decided is the Teams Championship where EKSRX lead Team Peugeot-Hansen by 17 points.