Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By Hal Ridge

Newly crowned FIA World Rallycross cham­pion Mat­tias Ekstrom says a les­son learned from rally leg­end Colin Mcrae helped him thrive un­der pres­sure of fight­ing for a world ti­tle this sea­son.

Fifth place in the fi­nal was enough for the Swede to claim his first FIA World crown at the Ger­man Es­ter­ing cir­cuit.

An emo­tional Ekstrom ex­plained how advice from Bri­tain’s first world rally cham­pion over 15 years ago helped him to stay men­tally strong in the most stress­ful of cir­cum­stances.

Han­dling pres­sure

Audi S1 driver Ekstrom, who has taken four wins so far this sea­son, has put the cham­pi­onship out of reach with one round re­main­ing in Ar­gentina on Novem­ber 26/27, and said he had a spe­cial trick for han­dling the pres­sure of the ti­tle show­down.

“Over the years I have met a lot of great mo­tor­sport guys. None of them re­ally have been my best friends but I learned a lot from them,” said Ekstrom. “Many peo­ple know I like Walter Rohrl and Stig Blomqvist, but how to treat ner­vous­ness comes from Colin Mcrae.

“Back on the Swedish rally in 1999 or 2000, I met him and I was so ner­vous that I could hardly sleep. He gave me a trick, which he called the ‘Colin Mcrae trick’. He ex­plained to me how to do it and since then I have done that to help me pre­pare men­tally. It makes me look bor­ingly calm, but that also feels weird be­cause one of the big­gest tricks that helps me men­tally is from a guy who is not here any­more.

“I ad­mire the way that he drove and how he be­haved. I could never copy him be­cause I don’t have his tal­ent, but it feels spe­cial to learn from him and to use what he has shared with me.”

Two-time DTM cham­pion Ekstrom was granted per­mis­sion by his em­ployer, Audi Sport, to miss the Ger­man tour­ing car sea­son fi­nale last week­end at Hock­en­heim to al­low him to race at the Es­ter­ing. He said win­ning the ti­tle was the most emo­tional mo­ment of his ca­reer.

“When I re­alised I had done it, it felt like elec­tric­ity go­ing through my whole body,” he said. “You go from be­ing the strong­est per­son to

a sen­ti­men­tal small boy who feels so weak. I’ve never felt this way be­fore, the first cou­ple of min­utes felt so strange, but now I’m start­ing to like it.”

Ekstrom won the DTM crown in 2004 and 2007 and also claimed Race of Cham­pi­ons vic­to­ries over Michael Schu­macher in 2007 and 2009. “It has been a long time without feel­ing any­thing big that beat my pre­vi­ous suc­cess, but this ti­tle def­i­nitely beats them all,” he said.

Fam­ily her­itage

The Swede fol­lowed in his fa­ther Bengt’s foot­steps by rac­ing at the Swedish round of the Euro­pean Rallycross Cham­pi­onship in a Mark­lund Mo­tor­sport Volk­swa­gen Polo in 2013 (where he fin­ished sec­ond) be­fore cre­at­ing his own two-car EKS team for se­lected events in 2014, with a pair of Audi S1s. The aim was to be­come world cham­pion, and to be able to at­tend an FIA Awards Gala.

“When I wanted to start EKS, it was for one rea­son, to win a world ti­tle,” said Ekstrom. “I’ve won na­tional championships be­fore, but I re­ally would like to go to those FIA prize giv­ings, which I only read about. This ti­tle is be­cause of the sac­ri­fices made by ev­ery­body, my girl­friend and chil­dren, my par­ents and ev­ery mem­ber of the team. It’s pretty dif­fi­cult to ex­plain, but if you take al­most all of your pri­vate money, call up ev­ery friend you know that loves cars and has a big pas­sion, and de­cide that ev­ery sin­gle per­son that joins this team should be for one rea­son, to want to be world cham­pion – it is spe­cial.”

Ekstrom said that his team’s phi­los­o­phy was to win with the re­spect of oth­ers, some­thing he works hard to achieve. “Win­ning has a price, and you don’t want to win if no­body claps their hands,” he said. “I don’t want to go out there and smash into peo­ple and p*ss them off be­cause then, the vic­tory has no value. In the be­gin­ning of my ca­reer I won some times the wrong way and that has no value. This has real value.”

Loeb praises ri­val

Nine-time World Rally cham­pion Se­bastien Loeb has been rac­ing in his maiden sea­son of World RX this year with Ken­neth Hansen’s Peu­geot-sup­ported team. The French­man beat Ekstrom at the 10th round of the se­ries in Latvia, and be­lieves that the Swede has been the clever­est of the ti­tle con­tenders this sea­son.

“Mat­tias has done a great job this year. It’s been a con­sis­tent and fast sea­son for him,” said Loeb. “He won a lot in the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, then when he is not win­ning he was al­ways still in the fight and al­ways able to score good points. He’s very clever, he tries not to re­tire from any races. He is a clean and fair driver; not push­ing ev­ery­where so I think he has a good tal­ent.”

Loeb, who is fifth in the stand­ings, says Ekstrom is the de­serv­ing cham­pion. “It has not been an easy sea­son,” said the French­man. “He had Pet­ter push­ing him all the time very close in the points and still he was able to man­age the pres­sure, to stay con­cen­trated, keep push­ing and do­ing very good races all the time. For sure he de­serves it.”

Ekstrom’s EKS team ex­tended its lead in the Teams’ chase in Ger­many over Team Peu­geotHansen. If his squad wins the ti­tle at the fi­nal round in Ar­gentina, it will be the first out­fit to win both the driv­ers’ and teams’ crowns.

Mcrae was an in­spi­ra­tion

Loeb and RX cham­pion

Ekstrom thrilled with world crown

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