1 January 1901
Ekstrom ready to defend title and honour.
Two months on from claiming the DTM laurels for a second time, Mattias Ekström is now revved up to take on an equally great challenge – that of defending his hard-fought Race of Champions crown.
The Swede triumphed in the end-of-season spectacular last year when it was held in Paris' Stade de France, and now it has moved to Wembley Stadium in London for the 2007 edition he will be going up against the crème de la crème of international racing superstars in an action replay.
Amongst his fellow competitors will be grand prix aces Jenson Button, David Coulthard, Sebastian Vettel and 2005 RoC winner and recently-confirmed McLaren-Mercedes recruit Heikki Kovalainen, double World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm, three-time World Touring Car Championship title-winner Andy Priaulx, four-time Champ Car Champion Sébastien Bourdais, reigning double NASCAR title-holder Jimmie Johnson, Ekström's DTM team-mate and 'King of Le Mans' Tom Kristensen and the source of his racing inspiration, German icon and seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher.
“Like Walter Röhrl, Michael is a role model for me,” the Audi ace confessed as he bids to make 2007 a dream year. “He managed to build a team around himself and to continuously re-motivate it over the period of many years.
“Without a doubt, he is one of the greatest racers of all time. I can hardly wait to compete against him. Of course, it's my goal to beat [him]…”
Last year Ekström sensationally defeated multiple World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb in the final in the Frenchman's own car, adding to his 'Nations' Cup' success from 2005 with Kristensen. Aside from competing against Schumacher et al for individual glory once more, the 29-year-old will again join forces with the Dane to form 'Team Scandinavia' in the nations' challenge.
“The Race of Champions is a highlight of the racing year for me,” the seven-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner underlined, “and huge fun at that. There's an opportunity for exchange with drivers from many other disciplines, and for matching one's strengths using identical material.”
RoC co-founder Michèle Mouton is a former Audi factory driver herself, and to this day the only female to have ever won a round of the World Rally Championship.
Before the high spot on Sunday night, spectators in London will have the chance to witness demonstration laps from both Ekström in his Red Bull Audi A4 DTM, and Kristensen behind the wheel of the Audi R10 TDI.
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