World Rallycross and DTM champion Mattias Ekström took second place on the 2020 Swedish Rally Championship’s season-opening snow and ice Rally Vännäs event, giving best to Mattias Adielsson.
Ekström, competing with his own EKS team on this weekend’s two-day north Swedish event, finished 40 seconds adrift of fellow Skoda Fabia R5 driver Adielsson who moved clear of the double DTM champion on the rally’s final day.
The 2016 World RX champion Ekström stepped away from full-time World RX driving at the end of ’18, having earlier that year also retired from DTM competition with a farewell drive at Hockenheim’s season-opener.
After a year of making one-off appearances in various categories, Ekström this year is competing in the six-round Swedish Rally Championship in an R5 car.
On Rally Vännäs’s first day, the fight between Ekström and Adielsson was close with Adielsson, who finished third in last year’s European Rally Championship 1 Junior standings, leading by just 0.6s overnight.
But Ekström struggled on Saturday morning from running first on the road with fresh snow falling, and Adielsson built a 38s lead by midway through the day’s running.
Ekström was unable to subsequently close the gap, despite taking the stage win on the penultimate stage, which also acted as the powerstage. Adielsson’s final victory margin was 40.7s.
“I don’t think I ever have driven this fast,” Adielsson said. “We had amazing pace over the entire weekend and it feels really good to come back to Sweden after one year in the ERC.
“The fight with Ekström was really good, and we look forward to continue through the season.”
Ekström’s EKS team-mate Thomas Thunström, also in a Fabia, finished third 1m47.8s off the winner.
Junior WRC driver Pontus Lönnström, continuing his stage-winning pace from the recent JWRC Rally Sweden season-opener, won Rally Vännäs’s Rally4 class in his Ford Fiesta ahead of young Swedish talent Albin Nord, also in a Rally4 Fiesta.
Russian champion and former Production World Rally Championship driver Patrik Flodin won the national two-wheel-drive class, driving a 320bhp rear-wheel-drive Volvo 940.
This year’s Swedish championship has a stellar line-up of drivers with, in addition to Ekström and Adielsson, two-time FIA Junior World Rally Champion and former WRC Suzuki works driver Per-Gunnar Andersson also competing in an R5 machine.
This season-opening rally was a disaster for Andersson however, as on Friday night’s opening city stage in Vännäs he suffered differential problems with his Ford Fiesta and he later had to retire when he lost four-wheel drive on his car.
The next event in the Swedish category is the classic South Swedish Rally on May 22-23.