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After a successful test session last week, there’s a strong possibility that two-time DTM Champ Mattias Ekström will race at the NASCAR Sprint Cup race on June 20th at Sonoma, California. And he’ll be driving a Toyota no less.
Ekström races for the Red Bull Audi team in Germany’s premiere DTM series, but recently filled in for the Red Bull Toyota NASCAR team when it was announced that No. 83 driver Brian Vickers would miss the rest of the season due to a medical issue.
During the test, Ekstrom impressed the Red Bull Racing USA team, getting up to speed in just an hour – despite the significantly heavier Sprint Cup car, which features a significant lack of aerodynamics.
The Sonoma race is one of the few road-course events on the NASCAR schedule – which would certainly favor a road-course driver like Ekstrom. In addition, we have to think that the tie-up between Audi and Infineon Raceway (the Sonoma road course) would play into the decision to let Ekstrom drive.
Ekström holds two DTM championships (2004 and 2007) with 14 wins in 95 starts. He has even won the Race of Champions twice, both times taking down Michael Schumacher.
Here’s a story that is certainly going to get the rumors of Volkswagen‘s involvement in NASCAR started. Last week two-time DTM Champion Mattias Ekström was at Virginia International Raceway helping test a Red Bull Racing Toyota for the upcoming NASCAR race at Sonoma.
The reason for the odd match isn’t about NASCAR ambitions says Audi, but rather a driver’s dream and a sponsors request. That’s right, Red Bull Racing is the main sponsor for the No. 82 and No. 83 Toyotas in NASCAR, as well as the main sponsor for Ekstrom’s Audi DTM car. No. 83 driver Brian Vickers was ill and the car still needed to be tested, and according to Audi, Red Bull Racing USA remembered Ekstrom’s interest in NASCAR and made the request to Audi Sport.
“It’s no secret that the NASCAR series fascinates me and that it’s been a long-harbored dream of mine to drive such a car,” said Mattias Ekström, commenting after the test that, “The first hour of the test I was fighting the car a lot just getting used to the power, the weight and the fact that the car has little aero — all things that are very different for me. A few hours into the test I felt a lot more comfortable in the car and overall I think we had a really good test. I came into this test not having any experience in these types of cars, and also having never worked with the No. 83 team before, so it was really nice to see how well we all worked together. I really enjoyed my first Sprint Cup test and am glad to have had this opportunity.”
Er…. did he just say “first” test? We think so. Gentlemen, start your rumors.
[Source: Audi and RedBullRacingUSA.com]
Official release after the jump:
Audi has its sights set of the Nürburgring 24 Hour race and it intends to not only take home the top spot but perhaps the entire podium as it has announced plans to campaign a fleet of R8 LMS GT3 cars.
Teams ABT Sportsline and Phoenix Racing will bring two cars apiece with factory support from Audi. The 500hp cars are built for racing and Audi has stacked the deck with a long list of some of the greatest drivers in motorsports.
The No. 100 ABT Sportsline car will be piloted by reigning DTM Champion Timo Scheider, along with his DTM teammate Mattias Ekström and three-time Le Mans winner Marco Werner. The second ABT Sportsline car, No. 97, will be driven by Christian Abt, Jean-François Hemroulle, Pierre Kaffer and Lucas Luhr.
As for the two Phoenix Racing cars, the No. 98 R8 will be driven by Frank Stippler, Mike Rockenfeller and Marc Basseng, a man who has help the Nürburgring fastest lap record several times.
The No. 99 Phoenix Racing R8 will be piloted by Frank Biela, Marcel Fässler, Emanuele Pirro (an Audi Sport R8 and R10 TDI driver) and none other than Hans-Joachim Stuck, a man who has won the Nürburgring 24 Hour race three times.
“The 24 Hours is not only one of the biggest motorsport events in Germany,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “The Nürburgring-Nordschleife is considered one of the world’s toughest and most demanding race tracks. Similar to Sebring for the sports prototypes, it is superbly suited for revealing the final improvement potential of any new race car. This is exactly what we’re planning to do at the 24-hour race before delivering the R8 LMS to customers, starting this fall.”
The 37th running of the Nürburgring 24 Hour race will begin May 23rd and conclude May 24th.
Normally the Nürburgring 24 Hour race is a Porsche dominated affair, but we have a feeling this year might be a little different.
Official release after the jump: