“A great champion, with Charisma and standing”
For 17 years, Mattias Ekström Mattias left a significant mark on DTM, both on and aloof from the track. The Swede holds a top-10 position in every statistics ranking. When it comes to the titles (2), the race wins (23), the races, the pole positions (20) or the points scored (1219). One of the drivers who outperformed the Audi ace in nearly every category is Klaus Ludwig (3/37/219/16/1823.5). DTM.com talked with the German touring-car racing legend about his opinion on Eki’s retirement and if he sees a legitimate successor.
What did you think when you heard the news of Ekström’s retirement?
“I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised. It’s rather rare to see somebody resigning in late January. Usually, drivers tend to do so at the end of the season. But in the end, everybody can act as they like. He always was a good guy, very much his own person, who had his own opinions. And that’s why he pulled it off, now.”
Retiring probably would have been easier for him had he won his third title, last year...
“Perhaps. At the end of the day he now fully focuses on his rallycross project and his own team. That’s where he apparently believes to have the better future. After all he already is 39. Why not? And in DTM, Robin Frijns will race his Audi. He will be amazed.”
“Driving a GT3 car differs a lot from driving a DTM car. It all will depend on the testing opportunities he will have. We will see. Up to now, there was just one driver who succeeded in shining in DTM relatively right away. And that’s the reigning champion, René Rast. But he also head three or four attempts before contesting his first full season.”
Back to ‘Eki’. Thanks to his retirement, he won’t be able to break your records...
“Fantastic (laughs). No, this doesn’t interest me at all. I’m not living in the past. It’s great if you were successful and are mentioned due to these successes, every now and then. But motor racing has changed. I may not have been easier, in the past, but it was different. When I was racing there still was DRM and then DTM. And I can assert that racing in the German Motor Racing Championship (DRM) was just as difficult. Therefore, I’m just as proud of my DRM titles [won by ‘King’ Ludwig in 1979 and 1981 – editor’s note]. If you add it all together the number of titles is somewhat bigger.”
How hard will DTM suffer due to the loss of Ekström?
“He is an incredibly gifted racing driver – and made a lot of it. I’ve witnessed as lot of great races he turned into thrillers. Great comebacks and great races from the very front of the field. When he held the lead he usually defended it until the race was over. But he also delivered in fantastic style when he had to start from far behind. This actually is an insane achievement.”
And he always was outspoken…
“Yes indeed. And that was great. He still is one of the chaps with charisma and standing. A great champion.”