Audi have confirmed Mattias Ekström will race at the DTM Series opener at the Hockenheimring as an official farewell to the series.
After 17 years in the series, it was not an easy decision for the 39 year old to make – especially as he has not had the chance to say goodbye to the fans.
“Mattias decided in winter to end his unique DTM career,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass. “He also told us that he’d very much like to say goodbye to his DTM fans in a special way. This is how the idea of a farewell weekend was born. I think that for him, for the DTM, for the fans and, obviously, for Audi too, it’s great that he’ll be on the grid once more in the season opener at Hockenheim. There were a few obstacles to overcome, but we made the fielding of a seventh Audi RS 5 DTM possible. For our squad, this will be no mean feat. At the same time, everyone in the team was immediately thrilled by the idea and spontaneously agreed to support it.”
Audi will field seven drivers in Hockenheim, with Ekström lining up alongside Loïc Duval, his replacement Robin Frijns, Jamie Green, Nico Müller, 2017 champion René Rast and Mike Rockenfeller.
In addition to taking part in the opening races at Hockenheim, the two-time DTM champion has planned a number of activities for the fans off track.
“I suppose I’ll be signing more autographs this weekend than normally in a full season,” says Ekström. “But I’ll be happy to do that. It’s great that Audi is making this possible for me. After 17 tremendous years, it was an incredibly tough decision to no longer race in the DTM. The day it was announced was one of the most emotional ones in my career. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of goose-bump moments at Hockenheim too. I’m mega excited about it already.”
Over his 17 years in the DTM, Ekström contested 195 races claiming two titles, 23 victories, 20 pole positions, 18 fastest laps and 1,219 points to make him Audi’s most successful DTM driver of all time.
For his two farewell races, Ekström will be part of the Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline squad and his RS 5 will feature a special livery of his longstanding partner Red Bull (who has also announced their withdrawal from the series) with the hashtag #AdjöMattias.
Despite having not tested the new car with reduced aerodynamics, Gass expects Ekström to be fully competitive.
“Mattias has always gotten used to a new car quickly. I’m sure that in his farewell race he’s not going to be just cruising either. He’ll live up to his motto ‘Go hard or go home’ in every respect.”
The series opener of the DTM Series gets underway on 4-6 May, at Hockenheim, with the first practice session taking place at 15.45 local time.