Mattias Ekstrom has revealed that he nearly walked away from the FIA World Rallycross Championship at the end of last year.
The Swede, who has dovetailed his rallycross programme with a full-time DTM effort since the series began in 2014 made the decision last year to only compete in one championship this season. Initially, his plan was to continue racing in DTM, where he won the 2004 and 2007 titles.
Speaking ahead of the start of the 2018 World RX season, Ekstrom said that a lack of family time was behind his decision to scale back his racing commitments this year.
“I’ve done both for the last couple of years and that’s a really nice challenge, but it also takes a lot of time so family haven’t really got so much of that time,” he said. “Firstly I decided that would be DTM, and then as the weeks were counting and Christmas was coming closer I started realising I would be sitting at home on the sofa seeing our car, Andreas [Bakkerud], and our great team go racing. I started thinking I might really miss that.”
“Then on the other side, I thought, let’s go racing rallycross and sit at home and watch DTM – what would be the worst thing to miss? Because I still had the opportunity to do both, but I wouldn’t do it because of time,” he added.
Soon the 2016 World RX champion decided he would leave DTM behind, and focus on rallycross with increased support from Audi for his EKS RX team, although he insisted that his decision didn’t mean he had lost interest in the German touring car series.
“Shortly before Christmas I started to really discuss with [head of Audi motorsport] Dieter Gass and we found an agreement that I could focus on rallycross,” he said. “A lot of people wanted to know if I’d had enough of DTM and I think you can’t really say you’ve had enough of something which has been so great, it’s more when you have to choose, you choose the one your heart pumps more for and that’s rallycross for me.”
With Ekstom’s focus now firmly on his rallycross career, the 39-year-old is keen to regain the world title alongside new signing Bakkerud, who joined EKS from Hoonigan Racing Division over the winter.
“I think everybody wants to be world champion, we managed once and that was pretty enjoyable, the challenge during that year and the feeling afterwards so yeah, we are trying our best to repeat that,” said Ekstrom. “As an owner and a driver I enjoyed both parts of it and now with Andreas in the team we hope we stand a better chance than we did the other years because the competition is raising slowly and gently and we need to do our best every single time.”