Extreme E: RXR Victorious in Season Opener

image courtesy of ExtremeE Carl Bingham

The reigning Extreme E champions, RXR, got their title defence off to a dream start as they crossed the line to win the Desert X Prix.

Semi Final 1:

Race day for the Desert X Prix kicked off with Semi Final 1 as X44, RXR, and Xite Energy looked to book their place in the final.

The lights went out and John Kristofferson of RXR and Cristina Gutierrez of X44 were neck and neck for first position as they approached the first flag. Unfortunately for X44, Cristina went slightly off line and lost out to both RXR and Xite Energy.

As the first lap progressed Tamara Molinaro in the Xite Energy car hounded Johan Kristofferson, but a mistake saw her lose a position to Gutierrez. They came into the switch zone RXR, X44, then Xite Energy, all seemingly close to one another.

After the changeover of drivers, the Xite Energy and X44 cars jostled hard for position as they looked to close in on Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky in the RXR machine. However, in the battle between Xite Energy and X44, Oliver Bennett knocked over a flag which would see Xite Energy handed a ten-second time penalty.

It was relatively plain-sailing for Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky out front until she made what could have been a crucial error. Capitalising on her mistake, both Loeb in the X44 and Bennett in the Xite Energy overtook her, with the latter swapping positions with the RXR car for much of the rest of the lap.

X44 crossed the line first to book their place in the final as Xite Energy just pipped the RXR car to the post. Luckily for RXR, the time penalty given to Xite Energy saw the German team promoted into second place, and also secure their place in the final.

Semi Final 1 Classification:

  1. X44 9:05.107
  2. RXR +7.660
  3. Xite Energy +17.590

Semi Final 2:

ABT Cupra were supposed to be lining up alongside Andretti United and Chip Ganassi in the second semi final, but were replaced by Acciona Sainz after the stewards deemed an incident between the two in qualifying was the fault of ABT Cupra.

It was lights out and away the teams went with Laia Sanz in the Acciona Sainz getting the best initial getaway. Kyle Leduc in the Chip Ganassi was not one to let the lead get away, however, and used his hyperdrive to gain first place.

Leduc didn’t look back after that, handing over to Sara Price in the switch zone in a very good position. Behind them, Acciona Sainz were just able to stay ahead of Andretti United as they came into the switch.

Upon leaving the switch zone, Carlos Sainz in the Acciona Sainz car and Timmy Hansen in the Andretti United car were nose to tail. Disaster struck then for Hansen, as he struck a tuft of grass whilst trying to overtake. The car rolled but thankfully Timmy Hansen got out of the car seemingly unharmed.

With two places in the final up for grabs and only two cars left in the race, Carlos Sainz and Sara Price cruised home to the finish.

Semi Final 2 Classification:

  1. Chip Ganassi 9:12.337
  2. Acciona Sainz +6.850
  3. Andretti United +1 Lap

Crazy Race:

The fifth and final place in the final was to be contested by JBXE, ABT Cupra, McLaren, and Veloce. Veloce reserve driver Hedda Hosas replaced Christine GZ, who had broken her foot in a crash on qualifying day.

Off the line JBXE got an early lead as Emma Gilmour in the McLaren produced a stunning move around the outside to go from fourth to second.

Meanwhile the bad weekend continued for Veloce as Lance Woolridge hit a bump too hard and damaged the car.

Jutta Kleinschmidt in the ABT Cupra sought to chase down Emma Gilmour and the two came into the switch zone neck and neck, just behind Kevin Hansen in the JBXE but some distance ahead of the Veloce car.

After the switch, Tanner Foust in the McLaren and Nasser Al-Attiyah in the ABT Cupra looked to close the gap to Molly Taylor in the JBXE car.

Towards the end of the race, Foust and Al-Attiyah had finally caught up to Taylor and the former used all his experience to send his car down the inside. Al-Attiyah behind soon followed.

That’s how the race would finish with McLaren crossing the line to reach an impressive final on debut. Meanwhile, JBXE were handed a seven-second time penalty for speeding in the pitlane, although this didn’t change the end result.

Crazy Race Classification:

  1. McLaren 9:14.250
  2. ABT Cupra +2.642
  3. JBXE +11.623
  4. Veloce +3:39.676

Final:

Acciona Sainz, RXR, Chip Ganassi, X44, and McLaren all lined up on the grid for the final, hoping to get their seasons off to the best possible start.

Carlos Sainz in the Acciona Sainz car got off to a great start, leading out X44 and RXR as they reached the first flag. Foust in the McLaren and Price in the Chip Ganassi were just behind.

But then tragedy struck for McLaren. Unsighted by the dust, Foust drove into the back of RXR’s Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky and rolled the car. Thankfully he was able to walk away but McLaren would go no further on an impressive debut.

Nothing changed for the rest of the lap and a red flag was called just as the other four teams entered the switch zone.

Once Foust had been assessed and the stricken McLaren moved, the race restarted, with teams being staggered according to how they came in. Laia Sanz in the Acciona Sainz went first with Cristina Gutierrez in the X44 machine not far behind. A bit further back Johan Kristofferson for RXR and Kyle Leduc for Chip Ganassi were released.

In the final lap shootout the damaged RXR car looked to chase down the two leaders. Using his hyperdrive to make the move, Kristofferson overtook last year’s championship runners up X44.

An inspired move came next from Kristofferson as he used all of the width of the course to carry as much momentum as possible into the final corners, snatching the lead off of Acciona Sainz. RXR crossed the line first, swiftly followed by Acciona Sainz and X44. Chip Ganassi was a little further behind in fourth.

Final Classification:

  1. RXR 17:50.908
  2. Acciona Sainz +2.483
  3. X44 +5.807
  4. Chip Ganassi +25.202
  5. McLaren +2 Laps

RXR top the weekend classification with that win in the final, seeing them claim twenty-five crucial points in their bid to retain the title.

Elsewhere McLaren come an impressive fifth place overall, gaining them ten points on debut and X44 got twenty points (fifteen for finishing third and five for having the fastest time through the Continental Traction Challenge).

Weekend Classification:

  1. RXR
  2. Acciona Sainz
  3. X44
  4. Chip Ganassi
  5. McLaren
  6. Andretti United
  7. Xite Energy
  8. ABT Cupra
  9. JBXE
  10. Veloce

Championship Standings:

  1. RXR 25 Points
  2. X44 20 Points
  3. Acciona Sainz 18 Points
  4. Chip Ganassi 12 Points
  5. McLaren 10 Points
  6. Andretti United 8 Points
  7. Xite Energy 6 Points
  8. ABT Cupra 4 Points
  9. JBXE 2 Points
  10. Veloce 1 Point

Extreme E: X44 Continue Qualifying Dominance

New season, same X44 for Sir Lewis Hamilton’s team as they finished top qualifiers yet again in Extreme E’s season two opener in Saudi Arabia.

Qualifying 1:

Heavy rain overnight meant we would have to wait to witness Extreme E’s new qualifying format, which would have seen two five-car races. However, due to the track conditions, the organisers decided a return to the previous season’s format of individual team runs was required.

Jutta Kleinschmidt for ABT Cupra got the first competitive session of the season under way, putting in a strong lap time for her teammate and debutant Nasser Al-Attiyah to build upon.

His first lap in anger was going well too, until he missed the finish line. Rather than accepting a five-second time penalty, however, Al-Attiyah turned around and made sure he went through the finishing gate. It’s estimated this cost him thirty five seconds.

Chip Ganassi and Andretti United were the next teams to set a time. The Ganassi team initially went fastest, but were just beaten out by Andretti United. After their runs, both teams received a five second time penalty for various switch zone infringements.

Last year’s championship contenders, X44 and RXR hit the track with incredible speed and after their laps the teams went into second and first respectively.

JBXE followed RXR and they pushed hard. Perhaps too hard, as during Molly Taylor’s lap something broke on the car. She struggled to the end of the lap and finished one minute behind RXR’s benchmark time of 9:03.604.

Acciona Sainz and Xite Energy were next onto the track, with both teams completing their runs within twenty seconds of the leader.

Veloce became the penultimate team to try and set a time in Qualifying 1. Lance Woolridge was very quick around his lap and handed over to Christine GZ just marginally down on RXR’s time. GZ flew round the track but pushed just a little too hard and rolled the car. Thankfully, GZ was able to limp away from the crash but the team would not finish their run.

Newcomers McLaren finished off the qualifying session as Emma Gilmour took to the wheel. A steady run from both her and Tanner saw them finish in a respectable seventh position.

RXR were fastest in Qualifying 1, gaining ten intermediate points, with X44 just behind in second and Andretti United in third.

Qualifying 1 Classification:

  1. RXR 9:03.604    10 Points
  2. X44 +6.911    9 Points
  3. Andretti United +11.091   8 Points
  4. Chip Ganassi +12.238   7 Points
  5. Xite Energy +13.799   6 Points
  6. Acciona Sainz +17.751   5 Points
  7. McLaren +23.375   4 Points
  8. ABT Cupra +46.781   3 Points
  9. JBXE +1:00.763    2 Points
  10. Veloce +1 Lap   1 Point

Qualifying 2:

Qualifying 2 saw Extreme E revert back to the intended qualifying format this season. The teams were divided into two heats (teams in even positions after Qualifying 1 in Heat 1, odd positions in Heat 2).

In Heat 1, X44, Chip Ganassi, Acciona Sainz, ABT Cupra, and Veloce were all due to race against each other for more intermediate points. Veloce, however, were not able to take part as they were not able to repair the car following GZ’s Qualifying 1 accident.

As the lights went green X44 got a good start and took the lead. After the first few markers they lined up X44, Acciona Sainz, ABT Cupra, and Chip Ganassi.

Towards the end of the first lap, ABT Cupra’s Nasser Al-Attiyah was chasing down Acciona Sainz’s Carlos Sainz. Al-Attiyah used all his experience to throw the car up Sainz’s inside but crucially missed a waypoint marker. In trying to get back on line, he cut across Sainz and both teams suffered damage. Sainz dropped to the back and ultimately wouldn’t leave the switch zone. ABT Cupra lost power steering.

Heat 1 in Qualifying 2 ended with X44 winning the race comfortably, ahead of Chip Ganassi and ABT Cupra, and took home ten more intermediate points.

Heat 1 Classification:

  1. X44 9:00.620   10 Points
  2. Chip Ganassi +19.580   8 Points
  3. ABT Cupra +3:13.972   6 Points
  4. Acciona Sainz +1 Lap   4 Points
  5. Veloce DNS   2 Points

Heat 2 saw the remaining five teams (RXR, Andretti United, Xite Energy, McLaren, and JBXE) all take to the track as they tried to get themselves into a semi-final.

Andretti United had the best start, propelling themselves into first position after the first few flags. Behind them, McLaren, RXR, Xite Energy, and JBXE followed in that order.

Tanner Foust in the McLaren was chasing Andretti United’s Timmy Hansen for much of the first lap, but was ultimately not able to overtake him before the switch. Further behind, RXR and Xite Energy jostled for third position.

Disaster struck for McLaren in the switch zone as a technical issue meant Emma Gilmour could not get the car started quickly. By the time she got moving, the Woking based team had dropped far to the back.

With Johan Kristofferson now behind the wheel, RXR hoped to claw back some time on the cars ahead. He managed to do just, providing us with a thrilling finish to pass Katie Munnings in the Andretti United just before the line. Sadly for the German team, they received a post-race seventeen-second time penalty for speeding in the switch zone, promoting Andretti United into first place.

Heat 2 Classification:

  1. Andretti United 9:10.693   10 Points
  2. Xite Energy +13.703   8 Points
  3. JBXE +15.371   6 Points
  4. RXR +16.079   4 Points
  5. McLaren +52.673   2 Points

With the intermediate points from Qualifying 1 and 2 added together and any tying teams separated by fastest Continental Traction Challenge time, X44 came out on top, leading Andretti United and Chip Ganassi.

The results of qualifying mean X44 will race against RXR and Xite Energy for two places in the final in Semi-Final 1, while  Andretti United, Chip Ganassi, and ABT Cupra will do battle in Semi-Final 2. This leaves Acciona Sainz, JBXE, McLaren, and Veloce to fight for the fifth and final place in the final in the Crazy Race.

Overall Qualifying Classification:

  1. X44 19 Points
  2. Andretti United 18 Points
  3. Chip Ganassi 15 Points
  4. Xite Energy 14 Points
  5. RXR 14 Points
  6. ABT Cupra 9 Points
  7. Acciona Sainz 9 Points
  8. JNXE 8 Points
  9. McLaren 6 Points
  10. Veloce 3 Points

With the first qualifying day of the new season completed, attention turns to tomorrow, as we look to another exciting day of action.

Extreme E Season 2: All You Need to Know

With Extreme E’s second season kicking off in NEOM, Saudi Arabia this weekend, here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming season.

Picture courtesy of Extreme.E

A New Challenger:

Car and racing giant McLaren has entered Extreme E for the championship’s second season. The Woking based team have become just the second car manufacturer to participate in the series, after ABT Cupra joined in Season 1.

Speaking at the car launch, sporting director Mark Grain said: “This is about as different as it gets from other racing series, and it is going to be a huge learning experience in terms of the different terrains in which we race as well as the environmental challenges these parts of the world face.”

Driver Musical Chairs:

Over the off-season the teams have been busy signing up the drivers they believe can deliver them the title this coming season.

One of the most notable swaps was at reigning champions Rosberg X Racing (RXR). The German team decided they did not want to keep their winning team and asked swede Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky to race for them this time around. Molly Taylor, who was previously at RXR, has done a direct swap and joined Ahlin-Kottulinsky’s former team JBXE.

Previous Xite-Energy driver Christine GZ has replaced the out-going Jamie Chadwick at Veloce Racing, with GZ’s seat at Xite Energy being filled by new-comer Klara Andersson. Unfortunately, Andersson will have to wait for her debut after testing positive for Covid-19. Championship driver Tamara Molinaro will take her place for the Desert X-Prix this weekend.

Joining GZ at Veloce will be Lance Woolridge. The South-African was Veloce’s reserve driver for much of last season but has been promoted after the team parted ways with Stephane Sarrazin.

ABT Cupra’s Mattias Ekstrom has also left the series, with four time Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah partnering Jutta Kleinschmidt instead.

However, the driver pairing that drummed up the most excitement was McLaren Extreme E’s. Towards the end of last year the Woking team announced that New Zealander Emma Gilmour would partner American Tanner Foust. Foust has won multiple rally championships and also co-hosted the American Top Gear from 2010-2016. This was a major coup for the team.

The full driver line-up is as follows:

Veloce Racing – Christine GZ and Lance Woolridge

RXR – Johan Kristofferson and Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky

JBXE – Kevin Hansen and Molly Taylor

Andretti United – Katie Munnings and Timmy Hansen

X44 – Christina Gutierrez and Sebastian Loeb

Acciona Sainz – Carlos Sainz and Laia Sanz

McLaren Extreme E – Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust

Chip Ganassi – Sara Price and Kyle Leduc

ABT Cupra – Jutta Kleinschmidt and Nasser Al-Attiyah

Xite Energy – Oliver Bennett and Klara Andersson (Klara Anderson will be replaced by Tamara Molinaro for the Desert X-Prix whilst she recovers from Covid-19).

Calendar Shake-Up:

The racing calendar has been switched up a little this year with a combination of returning locations as well as some new ones.

The first race of the season stays in Saudi Arabia but has been moved from Al-Ula to NEOM. The Desert X-Prix, as it is to be called, will also take place a couple of months earlier this year than the last, meaning temperature won’t be as much of a factor.

Following the Desert X-Prix, the Island X-Prix will take place in Sardinia, Italy on the 7th-8th May. Extreme E will return to Sardinia after it filled in for the cancelled Amazon X-Prix in 2021.

The location of the third race of the season is still yet to be decided, with the two main candidates being a return trip to Senegal, or a new location in Scotland. At the time of writing it is due to take place on the 9th-10th July.

The final two races of the season will be on an entirely new continent for Extreme E. Exploring South America, the all-electric racing series will go to Antofagasta, Chile on the 10th-11th September and Punta del Este, Uruguay on the 26th-27th November.

The provisional race calendar is as follows:

19th-20th February Desert X-Prix NEOM, Saudi Arabia
7th-8th May Island X-Prix Sardinia, Italy
9th-10th July TBC Scotland/Senegal
10th-11th September Copper X-Prix Antofagasta, Chile
26th-27th November Energy X-Prix Punta del Este, Uruguay

Alternative Format:

If you’d just got used to Extreme E’s weekend format from last year, they’ve changed it again!

Qualifying has had a complete make-over for this season with the extra team on the grid causing a few headaches for the organisers.

Now, qualifying position will be determined by races, with each team being put into one of two five-car heats.  Over the course of qualifying day each heat will run twice, once in each qualifying session. The grids for Qualifying 1 will be set by a lottery draw, whereas the grids in Qualifying 2 will be based on the finishing positions from the previous heats.

Each heat offers intermediate points (points that do not count towards the championship) 5 through to 1 based on your finishing position of that heat.

After both Qualifying sessions have been completed, the points are added up and the teams will be ordered from highest to lowest. Any ties on points will be separated by time through the continental traction challenge (which has a greatly diminished role this year).

The teams placed in first, fourth and fifth will be put into semi final one, whilst teams second, third, and sixth will be placed into semi final two. The bottom four teams will compete in the Crazy Race.

Finals day remains relatively unchanged, with the top two teams from each semi final and the winner of the crazy race progressing to the final.

Here’s how championship points will be awarded on finals day:

1st 25 Points Final 1st Place
2nd 18 Points Final 2nd Place
3rd 15 Points Final 3rd Place
4th 12 Points Final 4th Place
5th 10 Points Final 5th Place
6th 8 Points Semi Final 1/2 3rd Place*
7th 6 Points Semi Final 1/2 3rd Place*
8th 4 Points Crazy Race 2nd Place
9th 2 Points Crazy Race 3rd Place
10th 1 Point Crazy Race 4th Place

*6th position will be awarded to the semi final 3rd place team with the fastest time through the continental traction challenge.

Desert X-Prix:

This weekend sees Extreme E return to Saudi Arabia for its season opener. The different sand conditions at NEOM will provide a tough challenge for the drivers as they try to negotiate the rocks, dunes, and bushes.

As always, Extreme E is committed to leaving a positive impact wherever it goes. For this race we will see a continuation of last year’s legacy programme, which was aimed at protecting the endangered turtle species.

With the Ba’a Foundation they have taken on a five-year initiative to help conserve the endangered Green Turtle and the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle. The project hopes to: clean beaches of pollution, build fencing around the beach to protect nesting turtles, improve beach management, and import sand to raise the beach to an appropriate level for nesting. Over the years the levels have sand have decreased along the Red Sea Coast due to sea-level rise and dust storms.

As with last year you can find out how and when to watch the Desert X-Prix by heading over to Extreme E’s official website. This is sure to be a weekend you won’t want to miss!

Extreme E: Alejandro Agag praises spectacular inaugural Desert X Prix but suggests changes will be made to the series

Alejandro Agag had nothing but praise for the way the first race of Extreme E’s history panned out, but is not afraid to look at ways in which to modify the format going forward.

The inaugural Desert X Prix was won by Team RosbergXRacing and their drivers Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor following an incredible cut-back manoeuvre on X44’s Sebastien Loeb which inevitably decided the race. This in part was due to the large amount of sand dispersed by the SUV’s on track which made visibility incredibly difficult for the following cars.

In the end, most of the races were decided by turn two and saw a consistent gap of 30 seconds between the drivers leaving something to be desired by fans who were expecting more dramatic and closer racing. In fact, some fans took to social media voicing their concerns about the format and the consequences for broadcasters when racing on sandy and snowy terrains.

Cristina Gutierrez (ESP)/Sebastien Loeb (FRA), X44, Courtesy of Charly Lopez

Prior to the weekend changes were made to the format, opting for a time trial qualifying session rather than a race. This was in response to reliability concerns after Chip Ganassi suffered an almost fatal accident in the first shakedown session. The series were worried that not enough cars would survive the weekend and in hindsight, this was the appropriate move. It is therefore within reason to suspect the series organisers will evaluate the first race and make improvements for the weekend in Senegal.

On potential changes to the series, Alejandro was open to the idea: “Yes. I am thinking of tweaks. I have two tweaks in my mind,” said Alejandro during the post-race press conference.

“I love the shootout. I am thinking that maybe that I do a draw, a lottery for who races. So we mix female and male drivers in all the races. Because otherwise, we are seeing that the teams are lining up all the men at one point and the woman second.”

All but Hispano Suiza XE used their male drivers first during the time trials on Saturday. But if there’s anything we’ve learned from this weekend is that the calibre of female talent is more of a match for any man out there. Stars such as Molly Talor, Catie Munnings, Christina Gutierrez and Laia Sanz proved more of a match for their male counterparts and really put themselves firmly on the map for motorsport fans worldwide.

“I think what we’ve seen today from the female drivers have been extraordinary,” Alejandro added.

There’s incredible talent and also incredible courage to see Catie with that tyre, fighting with the car and bringing the car to the finish line. How well Molly did on the race today. We have incredible talent here, and I am really happy that we have a platform. And believe me today, many millions I’m sure many millions are watching.”

|Photographer: Jordi Rierola|Event: Preseason Testing|Circuit: MotorLand Aragon|Location: Alcaniz|Series: Extreme E|Country: Spain|Season: 2020|Keyword: 2020|Team: Andretti United Extreme E|Car: Spark ODYSSEY 21|Driver: Catie Munnings|

On potential alterations to the Senegal Beach X Prix, Alejandro Agag will personally oversee an evaluation in the interim period: “We will go to Senegal and we will check the dust level there.”

“We’re going to check with SUVs and see what the level of dust is, and then we’ll take some decisions. I want to listen again, as many people in our ecosystem as I can like I did yesterday.”

As with the birth of any motorsport series there are always going to be changes made along the way. This is an ambitious and unprecedented task and any decision in terms of format will be largely a leap of faith, in part due to the lack of testing they are able to do. There is still enormous potential and growth to come from Extreme E.

What we have witnessed this weekend is a dream actualised. Alejandro Agag has been able to achieve a proof-of-concept and show the world that a sustainable, electric SUV rally series is possible. Alejandro is open to suggestions and improvements and that can only be a positive for a championship in its infancy.

I personally cannot wait for the next race in Senegal on the 29th-30th May!

©2017 The Pitcrewonline