Germany’s popular DTM series lost one of its leading talents when Audi star Mattias Ekström hung up his gloves, taking his Red Bull sponsorship along with him. But the Swedish driver didn’t leave the automaker’s motorsport roster altogether. Instead he’s focusing on the FIA World Rallycross Championship with the car you see here.
Revealed at the first test session of the season at Silverstone today is the new 2018 Audi S1 EKS RX Quattro. It’s the car which Ekström and teammate Andreas Bakkerud will drive in the championship this year in an effort to recapture both the titles that Ekström and his team won in 2016.
To get there, EKS has comprehensively redeveloped the S1 RX – this time with more help from Audi. As you can see, the aerodynamics have been completely reworked, for starters. And so is the engine, which now produces 580 horsepower, and will be tended to by Audi Sport technicians.
“Anyone can see the modifications that have been made to aerodynamics at first glance,” said Ekström. “But underneath the body shell, a lot has happened as well. We’ve made a clear step, the first tests were promising. Last year, we started the season as the hunted, now we’re the hunters.”
The manufacturer is throwing more support behind the EKS team and the series altogether, particularly now that plans are falling into place to switch to an all-electric format two years from now. “This prospect is one of the reasons why Audi continues intensifying its commitment in the World Rallycross Championship this year,” said Audi Motorsport chief Dieter Gass. Such a program would dovetail nicely with the automaker’s increased support for the Abt team in Formula E.
For now, though, the focus is squarely on the season ahead. “This is the first year in which I’m able to fully concentrate on the rallycross project,” notes Ekström. His new Norwegian teammate Bakkerud adds, “In the first step, I’d like to immediately help EKS Audi Sport win the teams’ world championship. Step two will be the drivers’ title which in the long run is my big personal aim.”
The 2018 championship kicks off at Catalunya in the middle of next month. That kicks off a twelve-round calendar that will see the circus sail around the world for rounds in Europe, North America (both Canada and the United States), and even South Africa.