After 17 years it is the end of an era as Mattias Ekström has taken the decision to leave the DTM Series.
For 2018 the two time DTM champion will concentrate on the factory-backed commitment of his team EKS RX in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. Dutchman Robin Frijns will join Audi in Ekström’s place.
“This was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make,” said Ekström. “The DTM was my life for a long time and my heart will always continue to beat for the DTM in the future too. However, I’ve also invested a lot of time and energy in my rallycross team in recent years. Without the dual program I’m now able to fully concentrate on one series again and have more freedom again for my family and my children. I’ll continue to compete for my own team and am clearing the way in the DTM for a promising youngster.”
Ekström has been competing in the WRX with his team since 2014. In his third year he secured the world championship and, as in the DTM, finished last season as championship runner up. The Swede describes his most recent years as a major dual effort which the 39-year-old no longer wants to shoulder.
“Mattias informed us early of his wish to contest only one series in the 2018 season,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass. “Obviously, Mattias is extremely valuable and important for both projects. That’s why this decision was not an easy one for either of us.”
The gap left by Ekström allows 26-year-old Frijns to be promoted to the ranks of an Audi factory driver. The Dutchman has been active in customer racing for Audi since 2015. Frijns took part in a young driver test for the Ingolstadt based manufacturer in 2013 and impressed at the wheel of the Audi.
“Robin left a strong impression with us even back then and we haven’t lost sight of him ever since.
“At the wheel of the Audi R8 LMS, he showed his abilities and is doing a very good job in our Formula E simulator as well. That it’s possible to battle for the title in the DTM even as a rookie was demonstrated by René Rast last year. Robin has great potential and Audi is in a very good position in terms of its driver lineup for the 2018 DTM. We’re convinced of this.”
Frijns will join Rast, Loic Duval, Jamie Green, Jamie Green and Mike Rockenfeller at Audi for 2018.
The new DTM season will open at the Hockenheimring on 5-6 May. The first race of the 2018 FIA World RX will be held at Barcelona on 14-15 April.