“You just have to be a good sport about it”
Mattias Ekström was the clear favourite among the title contenders. The Swede travelled to the season finale at Hockenheim with a 21-point lead over future champion René Rast but in the end, ‘Eki’ had to settle for finishing second. In the meantime, the 39-year old got over the disappointment due to having failed to win his third DTM title. “For me, this defeat quickly was history,” Ekström reveals. “The moments of luck also fade away quickly. I have been doing this for many years, now, and always set myself the goal to fight for the title. So, I always tried to win it this year and came close to doing so. In the end, I unfortunately failed once again but I had a lot of good races and that’s what I won’t forget,” said the Audi driver in his conversation with DTM.com.
Just a few weeks aft the DTM season finale, Ekström once again finished runner-up. This time in the FIA World Rallycross Championship. “I’m delighted with being the greatest loser in the world,” he joked after the season finale at Cape Town. Today he makes clear that he doesn’t regard the two second places as defeats. “Not at all. Before I chose ’Go hard or go home’ as my motto it was ‘The second place is the first loser’. But some day I said to myself: ‘That doesn’t really suit you.’ At the age of 13! That’s why I regarded it as so funny. If you get close to making it you want to succeed. And if you finish second in two of the biggest motor-racing events on our planet in the same season you must be able to be a good sport about it. Otherwise you will burst with anger.”
„If you finish second in two of the biggest motor-racing events on our planet in the same season you must be able to be a good sport about it. Otherwise you will burst with anger.“
Just in the final race meeting of the season, Ekström scored only four points – the worst result in his 2017 DTM season. Nonetheless, he says, being the favourite didn’t make an impact on him. With 195 DTM races under your belt you should be able to cope with that, he says. And he also didn’t regard the fact that he scored just five qualifying points as crucial. “No doubt, in many race meetings the qualifying proved to be a problem for me. But in the closing stages of the season we also were somewhat too slow in the races. And the pressure wasn’t bigger than usual. In DTM you look bad today if you didn’t get your act fully together. Small differences make for the difference between triumph and defeat. My approach in the season finale was the same as on the other race weekends. Sometimes, you just aren’t competitive enough. It’s extremely tough when you were so close and yes, it’s frustrating,” he admits.
It goes without saying that the 2004 and 2007 DTM Champion would have loved to add a third title to his tally. And even more so as he would have been the only third driver (Bernd Schneider five titles, Klaus Ludwig three) to have won the DTM trophy more than two times. Taking a look at Ekström’s record of his 17 years in DTM, you have to admit that arguably no other driver in the history of the sport was more successful on such a consistent level. The figures are impressive. Not only because of his 23 race wins, 77 podiums and 20 poles. Nine times, Ekström made it to the top three in the championship and he never finished worse than eighth. On the one hand he is proud of these stats but on the other, he also regrets the chances he passed up every now and then. “I certainly am happy with what I achieved during the course of all these years. From the driver’s point of view, 2011 definitely was the best season for me. A lot of thing ran well for me, in that year. But I didn’t win the title, nevertheless. In the early stages we had problems with the car and when these difficulties were solved I took off like a bat out of hell. In the following seasons it was just the same behind Marco Wittmann and Pascal Wehrlein war. And now, it happened to me another time, behind René Rast. But this time it was slightly different as he was a fellow Audi driver. But as championship contender you fight against everybody. Actually it doesn’t matter. Only the rules in the battles differ slightly. In the qualifying sessions you take yourself and your car to the very limit anyway. But I have to admit that I would have loved to win the title, this year. When you hold the lead for such a long time you also want to finally be back on the top step of the podium, in the end.”
Prior to the Hockenheim meeting, speculations were running wild: ‘Eki’ would retire from DTM for good, should her succeed in winning his third title. Second position, however, wasn’t a factor in this regard. “There still is a slight need for discussions. A final decision has not yet been made. But it will be announced before long. I hope it will happen before Christmas. I don’t need additional motivation. That’s something I never needed. I want to improve. My ambition doesn’t depend on the results.”