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“It’s yet another revolution”

“It’s yet another revolution”

Together with his co-driver Emil Bergkvist, long-time Audi Sport companion Mattias Ekström takes up the 2022 Dakar Rally challenge. Talking about this legendary adventure, rally’s allure and the importance of team spirit.

Copy: AUDI AG - Photo: Julian RauscheAUDI AG - Video: AUDI AG Reading Time: 7 min

This vehicle shown here is the Rally Dakar vehicle that is not available as a production model.

Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist in the desert.Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist in the desert.

Mr. Ekström, what’s your first memory of rallying and Audi?
Mattias Ekström: That would be Stig Blomqvist driving an Audi rally car in the 1980s. I was six or seven years old, and Stig was a big star in Sweden. The way he mastered races had a big impact on me. Seeing how passionate all those crews were was the main reason I became a racing driver myself. I have a lot of respect for all the rally guys.
Audi has an impressive legacy of introducing innovation that changed motorsport.

When you think of how Audi influenced rallying, what comes to mind?
Before Audi developed quattro in the 1980s, four-wheel drive wasn’t really taken seriously in motorsport. But in combination with the five-cylinder engine and the car’s looks, it was totally revolutionary. I am quite sure that if Audi hadn’t been involved in rallying at that time, quattro wouldn’t have enjoyed the same levels of acceptance and success. The brand’s drive to stay one step ahead, push boundaries and leap into the unknown is probably one of the Four Rings’ greatest assets. The Dakar Rally is a prime example.

What sets rallying apart from other motorsports? 

For me, rally is the most unique, most extreme motorsport. I think it’s also the most difficult one. For example, the roads – if there are any – are often very narrow, allowing literally no room for error. Not only are the distances very long, but the ground surface and conditions can change abruptly. The equipment has to perform – and the team even more so. Motor racing is always a team sport and that’s true above all for rallying, where you have to rely on your co-driver. The two of you have to build an almost symbiotic relationship.

Speaking of co-drivers, yours is Emil Bergkvist. Why him?

Emil Bergkvist has ten years of rally driving experience and even won the Junior World Rally Championships. He knows what it’s like to pilot a rally car. He is signed with my motorsport team EKS and performed incredibly well. That was reason enough for me to ask him to be my co-driver. He is young, motivated and hungry for success – all good qualities if we want a shot at a good result in the Dakar Rally.

You rely on your co-driver. The two of you have to build an almost symbiotic relationship.

Mattias Ekström

The Audi RS Q e-tron in the desert.The Audi RS Q e-tron in the desert.
Ekström sitting at the wheel and talking.Ekström sitting at the wheel and talking.

What experience have you had with the Dakar?
I have driven it once. Every day is unbelievably demanding you wake up in the morning and face four-to-six-hour stages crossing super-rough terrain. You go from having huge stones flying around, into the mud and then over sand and dunes. And all of it is taken at high speed, so it can get really tough sometimes. That’s why you need a car that can handle all that. Seeing how you react under such extreme circumstances is an adventure of its own, as you swing from happiness to disappointment and back. It’s really emotional.

The other Audi Sport driver teams have competed in the Dakar several times and claimed a number of victories. Is the extra experience an advantage or perhaps even a handicap?
While motorsports is all about experience, the Dakar is different every day. Over the two weeks, you never know what to expect on any given day. Without a doubt, it’s the toughest of all motorsport competitions. And from an Audi Sport perspective, the electrified powertrain is still quite new to all of us.

Emil Bergkvist und Mattias Ekström take a rest.Emil Bergkvist und Mattias Ekström take a rest.
Portrait of Mattias Ekström.Portrait of Mattias Ekström.

The brand’s drive to stay one step ahead and to push boundaries is probably one of the Four Ring’s greatest assets.

Mattias Ekström

You're referring to the Audi RS Q e-tron and the electrified powertrain that Audi Sport has developed for the Dakar Rally: What does this relatively new chapter mean for you personally?
When I saw the Audi RS Q e-tron for the first time, I was really impressed. Everyone in motorsport is always focused on developing further and gaining a competitive edge. Being given the opportunity to be a part of another great chapter in the Four Rings’ racing history feels like going back to the future again.

Close-up of Mattias Ekström’s face as he sits behind the wheel of his rally car.Close-up of Mattias Ekström’s face as he sits behind the wheel of his rally car.

Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist

A versatile racing driver who is ready for any challenge, Mattias Ekström is a former World Rallycross champion, two-time DTM champion and the winner of four Race of Champions titles. The Swede was an Audi factory driver from 1999 to 2017 and joined one of Audi Sport’s trio of driver teams competing in the Dakar Rally.  Emil Bergkvist has ten years of experience as a rally driver. The 27-year-old Swede even won the Junior World Rally Championships in 2018. In 2021, he switched to the co-driver’s seat and teamed up with the sportsman he idolised in his youth – Mattias Ekström.


Do you need to be a bit crazy to take on the Dakar? 
I don’t think it’s crazy to champion new ideas. When I learned about the new Audi Dakar concept, I understood that this was yet another revolution. So, I think what Audi is doing is pretty brave. Emil Bergkvist and I will definitely fight to the very last to get our car from the start all the way across the finish line.

The Road to Dakar | Driving the Audi RS Q e-tron


Road to Dakar