Mattias Ekström feels that JC Raceteknik can continue to take the fight to Johan Kristoffersson over the remaining four rounds of the 2020 World Rallycross Championship season, telling DirtFish that he doesn’t feel the double champion is “unbeatable any more”.
Besides fellow Swede Kristoffersson, Ekström is the only driver to notch up multiple event wins this season, taking the top spot at round two on home soil at Höljes, and round six this past weekend in Riga.
Ekström pulled off a masterful display in the Latvian capital, making the most of his tire allocation throughout the day to put him in the best possible position to beat his main rival in the final. The result came after JC Raceteknik worked to improve its Audis between events after a winless weekend in Finland.
One key area that Ekström and the team has been working on is race starts – an area that Kristoffersson has thrived in all season in his ex-works Volkswagen Polo.
“I don’t feel that Johan is unbeatable anymore, to be honest,” Ekström told DirtFish. “I feel that on pure pace we have been close many times now.
“It’s not the first time. I mean, in Finland we were not as good as him on the starts but on track, I didn’t feel he was unbeatable at any track yet. But the starts in Finland, there we were not so good so there he was clearly ahead.
“We did [work to improve starts], we try and do our homework but it’s not so easy to get things sorted on these short times between [races] but we improved.”
The first six rounds of the 2020 season have taken place over one month, and JC Raceteknik’s schedule also included the RX2 shootout at Nysum.
Ekström revealed that the team is continuing to refine the proven Audi S1 Supercar package, and has a batch of updates in the pipeline for the Barcelona double-header which is less than a month away.
“I’m happy, but we need to improve more and we are starting to make a little update package that we will bring for Barcelona so hopefully it will work there as well,” he said.
Ekström’s strong form in 2020, which currently puts him just 17 points off the championship lead, has however come amid the backdrop of an uncertain future in the category. The 2016 World RX Champion wasn’t initially set to race in the series this year, being drafted in late on to replace Jānis Baumanis on the eve of the season.
Despite not knowing if he’ll see out the year, Ekström is continuing to look at his season as a genuine title run.
“I have made no secret that I like rallycross and I wish to do the full rallycross championship, it’s a great thing.
“But this year, one, I was not supposed to do it; two, I don’t have any budget for it; and three I have different work with Cupra and Extreme E and Abt so I already have a normal job and in the past rallycross was my job and now it’s my hobby and I do it aside to something else, so I have to take it a bit as it comes.
“But again that still includes if you go home and you don’t care about it you can’t go there and show up and believe you will do well so when I have some time over in my schedule I always try and think, especially when I was sitting on the flight going home on Sunday evening, preparing what would I do for the next race to be even better
“Then I tell the team what I would like to improve or what we need to change to improve and we still have found a few things which is good and we have something more in [the] pipeline, so we will continue to develop all those small areas on the car that we can improve starts and laptimes and be a bit better on the used tires and yeah, just to try and squeeze the maximum more.”
He was recently announced as the first driver for Abt – who he won two titles with in DTM in the 2000s – in Extreme E in a program that is going to be run in conjunction with Cupra.
That busy work schedule will dictate Ekström’s attendance at the last four World RX rounds – being held at Barcelona, Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and Germany’s Nürburgring.
“Hmm, a likeliness,” he said. “It all depends on if I get anything of work that can’t be moved.
“Because if there comes something that I can’t move then I know it’s not possible so it’s a bit of an ongoing process and now when they are changing the races… it’s quite a funny situation.”