Mattias Ekström retires from DTM for good. Last Monday in Salzburg, after 17 successful years on the grid of the popular touring-car series, the Swede publicly announced his decision in a press conference. A decision that is particularly regretted by the other long-term DTM drivers. DTM.com visited the paddock and asked other drivers for statements.
Mike Rockenfeller (Audi): “You only can congratulate him on his unique DTM career. We hadn’t a lot of on-track controversies – after all we were driving for the same manufacturer. But brand-internally he always proved to be one of my toughest rivals in DTM – if not the toughest of them all. I have got a lot of respect for his motor-racing career that still isn’t over. It goes without saying that DTM will miss him. But as a family man I can understand his decision.”
Bruno Spengler (BMW): “I think we all will miss Mattias. Battling it out with him on the track was really big fun. We always knew how far we could go. Fighting with him never was easy but always extremely fair. I definitely will miss these fights. He has got an extremely strong personality. Therefore, conversations with him proved to be very interesting – even when our points of view differed. He had a very positive opinion on DTM, inter alia due to his massive wealth of experience. Therefore, I think it’s a real pity that he hangs up his DTM boots. Nonetheless, I wish him all the best for the future. And how do they say? You always meet twice in life. In 2007, our battle for the title was close and in the end, the gap between us added up to just three points. It was a fantastic fight throughout the season! It will be strange or me to contest this season without him as he already was racing in DTM when I made my very first appearance on the grid of this series.”
Marco Wittmann (BMW): “It’s a pity for the entire series. Both on and aloof from the track, Mattias was a special personality that left a mark on DTM for a long time. When it comes to my experiences with him I can say that we used to have really tough but usually fair battles. It goes without saying that I wish him all the best for his future. Both in the World Rallycross Championship and in his private life. And I hope that he is going to attend a DTM race meeting, every now and then.”
Lucas Auer (Mercedes-AMG): “I can’t say a lot about Eki. He just is a huge legend and I’ve got maximum respect for him. Not only for the racing driver Ekström but for the businessman too. The way he approaches things and the way he talks… I am a huge Eki fan and wish him all the best for the future. And I have to repeat: What a legend!”
Gary Paffett (Mercedes-AMG): “I have to admit that I am not too surprised. I talked to Eki several times in winter and already then he had his doubts if he should continue. Therefore, I was prepared for this step. But DTM will be another series without him. Since I joined DTM Eki always was the one you had to have on your short list. Even in the years when things didn’t run too well for him he always had got what it took to strike back. He is an incredibly gifted driver. We always were tough rivals – but at the same time we had a lot of respect for each other. When we met on the track we knew what we had to expect. Aloof from the track we became good friends in recent years and he is one of the few people who aren’t working for Mercedes and I use to talk a lot to in the off-season, nevertheless. We definitely will miss Eki.”