‘Eki’ to make his comeback at Hockenheim
Last exit to Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg. The 2018 DTM season kick-off (04th to 06th May) will provide the DTM enthusiasts a very special treat: Mattias Ekström will be back for a one-off DTM comeback. The 39-year old Swede will contest the first two races of the season but can’t score points for any ranking. This offers the two-time DTM Champion the chance of swaying farewell to his countless fans in appropriate style – on the DTM stage. And Audi extra enters a seventh RS5 DTM to make Ekström’s farewell weekend possible. Eki’s car will be decorated with a special livery of his long-term partners Red Bull.
“I probably will have to sign more autographs this weekend than usually over the course of an entire season,” says Ekström. “But I love to do so. After 17 years, opting for retiring from DTM for good proved to be an extremely difficult decision. The day of the announcement was one of the most emotional ones of my entire career. I am convinced that the Hockenheim meeting also will make for numerous goose-bump moments and I just can’t wait for the race weekend to begin."
In late January, Mattias Ekström announced that he would retire from DTM for good as he wants to fully focus on the FIA Rallycross involvement of his team, EKS Audi Sport. “He wanted to say farewell to his fans with a special appearance,” says Audi Motorsport Director Dieter Gass. “That’s why this idea was born. I think having him on the Hockenheim grid represents a great move for him, for DTM, for the fans and – quite obviously – for Audi too.”
In his 17 DTM years, the Swede contested 195 races to date. With his two titles as well as 23 race wins, 20 poles, 18 fastest race laps and a total of 1,219 points on his tally he is the most successful Audi driver in the history of the sport. Ekström will contest the Hockenheim meeting without having tested the 2018 spec of the Audi RS5 DTM in the run-up and therefore, he will have to familiarise himself with the reduced downforce in the practice sessions at Hockenheim. Nonetheless, Gass expects Ekström to be fully competitive. ”Mattias always quickly adapted to new cars. I am convinced that we won’t see him cruising around, in his farewell meeting. He definitely will abide by his credo: ‘Go hard or go home’.”
Guest drivers aren’t uncommon, in DTM. In 1991, the great Michael Schumacher even contested four DTM races with a Mercedes 190E 2.5-16 Evo2, with a 14th place at Diepholz and a 25th at the Norisring proving to be the best results of the future seven-time F1 World Champion. Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser, two-time Dakar Rally winner, made an appearance on the DTM grid in October 1988. With his Mercedes 190 E 2.3-16 he finished seventh and tenth respectively. Furthermore, former and coming F1 aces also raced in DTM. In June 1989, Roland Ratzenberger who passed away in 1994, stood in for Karl Wendlinger in a Mercedes 190 E 2.3-16. In the first of the two races at the Nürburgring Nordschleife he finished 18th, in the second he was forced into early retirement. In August 1996, Juan-Pablo Montoya contested the Silverstone meeting with an AMG-Mercedes C-Class but failed to score. Two years later, the Colombian switched to Formula One where he raced for Williams and McLaren. In the same year, Christian Fittipaldi took a Mercedes-AMG C-Class to 10th place at São Paulo.