Ekström hangs on to win first all-electric touring car title amid high drama
Frenchman Vernay heads Hyundai 1-2 at spectacular Pau-Arnos E-Circuit
CUPRA X Zengo Motorsport secure inaugural Manufacturers’ title
Mattias Ekström made history in France on Sunday as he became PURE ETCR King of the Season; winning the world’s first all-electric touring car title in the most dramatic race of the season at Pau-Arnos E-Circuit.
The Swede had a relatively simple task as he began DHL SuperFinal B, the last event of 2021, from pole position; finish in the top five to secure the Drivers’ title.
That task looked impossible just seconds later as the CUPRA X Zengo Motorsport racer collided with fellow front-row starter Philipp Eng at the ultra-quick downhill first corner, spinning wildly across the track and in front of the pack and miraculously rejoining without being hit.
His e-Racer suffering a puncture and a damaged floor, he returned to the pits for repairs; the mechanics from the Hungarian Zengo team replacing his left-rear wheel and sending him on his way a lap down.
With Eng’s Romeo Ferraris-M1RA Giulia ETCR retiring at this point, this meant that Ekström only needed to finish where he was to secure the title; something he managed to secure the title by just four points.
At the front Vernay was unchallenged by team-mate Tom Chilton as he won – a result that gave him 72 points for the event and made him King of the Weekend for the first time.
Even better news for Hyundai Motorsport N was that Vernay’s team-mate Augusto Farfus – who had won DHL SuperFinal A – finished the weekend second overall to complete a one-two result for the Korean brand – a score that made them the Winning Manufacturer for the first time.
CUPRA had earlier secured the Manufacturers’ title for the season with a third-place finish for Mikel Azcona – the third of Sunday’s title contenders – in SuperFinal A.
Sunday’s action brought down the curtain on the world’s first all-electric touring car series; a series that has featured events in five countries, produced 12 different Battle winners representing every Manufacturer that competed in the series and woken up new legions of fans to the idea that electric cars can be fun, fast and ultra-spectacular.
For 2022 the series evolves into the FIA eTouring Car World Cup, promising even more action from some of the world’s greatest touring-car names in the most powerful cars ever produced for the category.
Mattias Ekström, CUPRA X Zengo Motorsport, said: “It’s a fantastic feeling for me to be the King of the Season and win the first electric touring car title there’s ever been. The competition has been at a very high-level, but as a team we’ve always been at a high level and we’ve done a good job. Before the race I knew I had to finish fifth to be champion, but I didn’t see any reason to back off to finish fifth, so I was going to race as well as I could. Then we had the first corner and Philipp [Eng] ran out of talent and backed off, but not enough so he hit my right-rear wheel. I didn’t expect Philipp to do this, but I’m sure he has his reason. The team was giving me very good information, so I knew what pace I had to run. I was quite excited because the car was in good shape, the steering wheel wasn’t straight and I had a big vibration because – as I didn’t know – the front right tyre was nearly off the rim. I just nursed the car home. We made it though. It feels great.”
Xavier Gavory, PURE ETCR Series Director, said: “This last DHL SuperFinal was the iconic image of the season; unpredictable, action-packed, dramatic… everything a touring car race should be, and with a happy ending for Mattias Ekström and CUPRA X Zengo Motorsport as the winners of the first Drivers’ and Teams’ titles and Jean-Karl Vernay Race FR in his home country with the French national anthem playing out during the celebrations. We can look forward to even more next year when we evolve into the FIA eTouring Car World Cup.