Not long back from Saudi Arabia and very much in the planning stages of another trip to Saudi Arabia, you could be forgiven for thinking a temperature switch of around 60 degrees would be the last thing on Mattias Ekström’s fine. Far from it. That’s why the Swede is tackling this month’s Arctic Rally Finland at the wheel of a Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo.
The two-time DTM Champion and 2016 World Rallycross title is majoring on the inaugural Extreme E season in 2021. That’s why he’ll be in Al-Ula in early April and why he was in Jeddah for Dakar last month.
But why the Arctic?
Ekström, said: “Arctic Rally Finland is a perfect event for me to stay sharp, to drive hundreds of kilometers on ice and snow, and also to renew my passion for rallying.”
“Rally has been a life-long passion of mine and going to the Arctic Rally Finland is a bucket-list dream, that I finally get to tick off. For 2021 I have committed to the Extreme E series, that requires very diverse set of knowledge and skills of driving on various surfaces.
“Going from Dakar in the desert of Saudi Arabia to the arctic conditions of Northern Finland is the biggest contrast anyone can imagine.
“The WRC event is the sporting pinnacle of my Arctic Adventure road-trip. For sure it will be great fun, but anyone, who knows me, knows that I like to win and I plan to put up a fight against the class regulars, although I know, they have spent so much more time in rallying.
“We will do a couple of days testing before the rally and we will be giving our fans the behind the scenes view of the rally on our social media platforms.”
Ekström tackled Dakar in a X-Raid Yamaha buggy, running well early in the event before he suffered an engine failure. As a Dakar rookie, he was allowed to change the engine, but the subsequent penalties dropped him down the classification.
Ekström is, of course, well known in the WRC service park. He’s won Group N on Rally Sweden and the Catalunya Rally, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer and started three WRC rounds as part of the Škoda factory team – his best result being 10th overall in a Fabia WRC on Rally Sweden in 2005.
If, however, Ekström is lacking more recent WRC experience, 2018 Junior World Rally Champion Emil Bergkvist will be able to provide it… from the co-driver’s seat. Bergkvist co-drove his countryman on Dakar and is looking forward to more of the same. Except with snow for sand.
“Returning to the WRC is a great feeling,” said Bergkvist, “but this time I will be in a different role. This is really exciting and it will be a massive challenge. I have been working with Mattias for some time now and I hope I can deliver on my duties with pace-notes and maybe even help him with some advice.”