Season review – Mattias Ekström

Could the 2021 PURE ETCR season have gone any better for Mattias Ekström and CUPRA X Zengo Motorsport?

Possibly not; the Swede inching into the lead of the standings after only the second event and then topping the table for the rest of the year win the world’s first all-electric, multi-brand touring car series.

But possibly so, as 13 drivers were Battle victors and many challenged Ekström’s supremacy across the season – not that either party will mind right now.

Statistically, team-mate Mikel Azcona had the edge over Ekström with one more event victory and two more Battle wins, but was this really the case? After winning at MotorLand Aragón, Ekström admitted he was now thinking ‘big picture’ and focusing on points.

He was the only CUPRA driver to take the fight to the Giulia ETCRs in Copenhagen and would have been the King of Denmark had it not been for a forceful pass on the last lap by Luca Filippi that let his team-mate, Philipp Eng, slide into Victory Lane.

He was a match for Azcona in Hungary too, only to be pushed off the track and out of the lead in Round 2 by Augusto Farfus – a move for which the Hyundai Motorsport N driver was penalised.

And he was a victim of further contact at the start of the last DHL SuperFinal of the season in France, when – in a scenario in which he simply had to finish to secure the crown – he looked set for his first DNF of the year.

The collision with Eng at the first corner sent the CUPRA spinning wildly, but Ekström – after pitting to have floor and tyre damage seen to – rejoined the track, lapping consistently (if several seconds off the pace) to nurse the car home for the crown.

CUPRA and the Zengo team made no secret about the value of having a driver of Ekström’s experience on-board.

A cool head when things weren’t going well (which was almost never), an ability to quickly determine what was important and what wasn’t, and an attitude that has been developed across countless title successes in touring cars and rallycross were all of vital importance.

So too was his knowledge of the CUPRA e-Racer; the former World Rallycross Champion having been part of the development process for over a year (although only for three months pre-season with the definitive ETCR technical kit installed).

His contribution to the development programme almost certainly played a part in the e-Racer’s potency, and when the time came to race, there was nobody better. A thoroughly-deserving King of the Season.