Alejandro Agag: “This is the biggest experiment in motorsport”.

When the new FIA Extreme E (XE) World Championship begins in the desert sands of the Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia this weekend, it won’t just be simply the start of another racing series but a revolutionary concept whose on-track glammer is matched only by its lofty off-track ambitions.

Cast your minds back to January 2019, during the official announcement on the cold, rainy and wintery deck of RMS St. Helena. The motorsport world gathered in anticipation for what was to come. A new championship.

Alejandro Agag, CEO of both Formula E and Extreme E unveiled his dream, an off-road electric SUV racing series that would travel the world to draw attention to climate change through environmentally friendly racing.

The series will take place in five remote locations affected by climate change, where all the equipment and cars are transported by a ‘floating paddock’ cargo ship, which will also serve as a laboratory for scientists to conduct research and enact conservation projects.

The St Helena logistics ship. Courtesy of Colin McMaster.

Each team features a male and female driver who must take turns throughout each race, and competitors can earn a boost by performing big jumps and winning online fan votes.

Throw in a strong driver line-up including F1 champion Jenson Button , multiple-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb and W Series champion Jamie Chadwick.

Sounds good doesn’t it?

Courtesy of Extreme E

Something that fascinates me is the incredible mixture of young and established names in motorsport with the likes of Carlos Sainz Snr, Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi involved in the series in some way. These personalities and brands are essential to providing Extreme E with a credibility amongst hardcore motorsport fans.

One the other hand you have Veloce Racing, a tech firm and esports squad taking its first step into real-world motorsport. Younger audiences will be familiar with their esports exploits but will inevitably follow with intrigue their transition into the physical world.

It carries the same energy as when ‘new money’ from the Industrial Revolution joined the ranks of the traditional aristocratic and landed gentry of Britain in the 18th century. We are seeing a blurring of the lines of what a traditional race team can look like.

Whether you are a racing ‘super-fan’, an environmentalist or a travel connoisseur, Extreme E has something for everyone.

Alejandro Agag, CEO, Extreme E, with all the drivers lined up in the background. Courtesy of Steven Tee.

But do not just take it from me, take it from the man who set up the whole series. During the official press conference Alejandro Agag spoke about his thoughts on the season opener:

“It would have been impossible to organise this race without our hosts and the teams” said Alejandro on the Friday morning before the opening qualifying session. “it’s an incredibly happy day for me. Many people did not think this was going to happen, that is true, this is quite out of the box.”

“This is the biggest experiment in motorsport”.

On the future of Extreme E Alejandro was keen to highlight that set it apart from the Formula E championship: “They are very different. Which one will be bigger? Who knows? They can both become very big, of course, I am keen on both.”

“In terms of manufacturers in season one (Formula E) we had Mahindra, Audi had support with Abt, Renault had support with DAMS. However, already here we have two in season one. We have Cupra, Hummer and Lotus which may become a full partner in the future.”

Importantly, as we have seen with Formula E manufacturers tend to come and go. This has left Alejandro with a philosophy which favours independent teams over manufacturers. With a strong independent line-up including teams owned by Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Veloce, Nico Rosberg, Carlos Sainz Snr and many others, there is certainly a freshness and originality to this grid.

“There are very significant manufacturers who are interested in Extreme E. But you have to build championships independently of manufacturers because when they go, they go. […] Manufacturers are not necessary.”

On which team are the favourites going into the inaugural season, Alejandro was coy, suggesting a competitive title battle:

“Ganassi was looking strong, even though they had a technical problem this morning. But outside of them it looks really open. If I had nine dollars I would put one dollar on each of the other nine teams.”

There have been some minor last-minute alterations to the format in response to reliability. A qualifying race will now be replaced by a series of time trials on Saturday that will form the grid for the semi-final, crazy race and final showdown on Sunday.

On reliability, Alejandro played down his concerns:  “I’m not too concerned. “

“(During testing) 18 out of 20 cars broke down. Here this morning two out of nine broke. I hope no car breaks tomorrow but that’s part of racing. I have to say if seven out of nine cars broke this morning I would be concerned.”

eWales Rally 2020 – Virtual Rally!

Last month, after a year of very little rallying, and no Wales Rally GB as well, my good rally friends Heather (@CooperKinetix) and Corey (@WorldRallyApp) are @Kinetix AF on Instagram and organised this event!!

‘After a year of hardly any rallying, most of the of the motorsport world turned to eSports and rallying was no different. Our choice was simple, Dirt Rally 2.0 or WRC8 and like many others we opted for DR2.0. With the cancellation of Wales Rally GB but Welsh star Elfyn Evans on the verge of an apparent 1st championship, we (Kinetix AF) teamed up with rising Welsh rally star James Williams to host eRally Wales 2020. Our plan was to give those who took part a small taste of the Welsh stages.

Competitors would battle in both R5 and R2 classes over six stages that were picked to represent the essence of a classic Wales Rally GB. Stages had mixed weather conditions, with a notorious couple of back-to-back stages that were wet that proved to be challenging for the drivers.

The event got started at 7pm on Friday December 4th and continued until 7pm on Sunday December 6th. To welcome as many competitors as possible, all platforms were included; Xbox, Playstation and PC gamers.

The event had a good response and attracted both serious rally competitors and serious eSports competitors as well.

Some of the rally names: WRC3 co-driver Alex Kihurani, BRC co-drivers Dai Roberts, Richard Crozier and Richard Bliss. Former JBRC driver Cameron Davies, Norwegian RallyX Nordic Champion Thomas Holmen.

eSport Names: Pro eSports driver & Italian Dirt Rally champion Nicolo Ardizzone, Sven Grube who finished in the top 10 of the eBRC.

Countries – competitors came from more than 22 countries!

Onto the action then, with six stages ahead of the crews.

Pant Mawr was the first stage and Here Lindberg took the stage victory from Sven Grube, whilst Przemek Rudzki was third fastest. All three were pedalling Fiesta R2’s. In the R5 class, Nicolo Ardizzone was fastest, with Davide Leonardi second and Lester Bromley third.

Stage two, River Severn Valley was taken by Sven Grube, with Tommie Lindberg second and Neil Jones in third. Tommie put an Adam R2 in second. Sven also won the R5 class, with Rhys Cadwaladr in a Citroen C3 R5, and Alex Kihurani third.

Stage three, Geufron Forest was taken by Sven Grube, with Neil Jones and Tommie Lindberg second and third fastest. Sven was building quite a lead with Neil in his Fiesta R2 now 34 seconds from the leader. In the R5 class Sven Grube was fastest from Lester Bromley, with Alex Kihurani.

Stage four, Bronfelen saw Sven continue his domination, taking his third stage win from Edgars Luznieks, and Tommie in the Adam R2 was once again third. Sven was so dominant, that he also won the R5 category from Alex Kihurani, with Lester Bromley with the third fastest time. All three of them were driving Fiesta R5 MK2’s.

The penultimate stage, Bidnor Moorland Reverse, was taken by Sven, his fifth stage win, with Edgars and Tommie once again second and third. Sven now had a lead of over a minute over second placed Edgars. In the R5 class, Sven was fastest as well. Could anyone catch him? Lester and Alex were second and third, but their positions were swapped in the battle to finish second, with that position held by Alex. Lester had closed the gap though to just 1.3 seconds.

The final stage then, Sweet Lamb. Sven completed his domination, taking the final stage from Tommie and Neil completing the top three in the stage. Sven also took the R5 stage win from Lester and Alex. There was a change for second place in the final stage, with Lester eclipsing Alex for second place. He’d been closing the gap for a while, and nabbed the position right at the end!

Here’s an example of the Fiesta R5 at speed. Photo: Drew Gibson

Sven ended up winning the R2 class from Tommie by almost a minute and a half, with Neil Jones around three and a bit seconds further back in third. In the R5 class, Sven was also victorious, winning by over a minute from Lester who’d clinched second place on the final stage, with Alex taking third, just 1.3 seconds from second place.

 

Let’s hear from the top three!

Winner of both the R5 and R2 class: Sven Grube (UK)

“I would just like to thanks the organisers for setting up this event, I had consistent runs in both classes and im happy with my performance, using the stick setup on the R5 Fiesta worked really well, and the R2 Fiesta was lovely to drive on these Welsh stages!”

Lester Bromley- 2nd place in R5 (UK)

Well done to everyone that took part. I do love Wales being welsh! [I] managed to finish a rally that’s unlike me lost it on stage 2. Lost 23 secs and stage 4 puncture lost 34 secs. Not a bad second though behind Sven Grube, he’s super-fast, so well happy.

Alex Kihurani – 3rd place in the R5 class (USA)

“A bit frustrated with some really silly mistakes that ultimately cost me 2nd place by 1 second, but I’m happy to be on the podium, and even happier with my miraculous hair growth! 3rd is where I ended up in the actual Wales Rally GB last year in the JWRC, so the game must be quite realistic if I’m 3rd in the virtual version.”

Alex Kihurani co-drove Sean Johnston to third in the JWRC class in the 2019 Wales Rally GB. Photo credit, M-Sport.

Here’s some of the other competitors!

Tommie Lindberg – 2nd R2 finished his run-on Saturday 5th (SWE)

On finishing his run-on Saturday 5th said “Gone through both events, at the moment holding 4th in R5 and 2nd in R2. I had a good time, especially R2’s was pretty much spot on, some mistakes in the Polo but still happy. Thanks for a nice event and looking forward to more of them coming!”

Chris Wheeler – Participant (UK)

2016 BRC3 champ Chris Wheeler unfortunately did not finish the event. Speaking afterwards he told us he was running as high as 9th during the earlier stages. “I had a good run with a few minor offs but I sadly retired on the last stage after I got a puncture. These things happen unfortunately.”

Lot’s of UK fans will know Chris Wheeler.

Andrew Coley – Participant (UK)

Not the best to be honest! Rolled on the first corner in the dark, tore off my lamp pod, had a puncture on two stages… I’m actually surprised it lasted until stage three!

Thomas Holmen – Participant (NOR)

I think I’ll keep myself to the track! I knew it wasn’t going well by the first split! Then a DNF on SS4, think my suspension fell apart! Never mind, looking forward to the next one!

 

Round Up.

Well, that sounded like a lot of fun! Hope you enjoyed my round up of this eRally! It’s fair to say that Sven certainly had some serious pace on the stages. Lester and Alex battled it out for second overall, and Lester took the spot right at the end!

The Factory – Alfa Romeo

(c) Logo courtesy of and licensed to Alfa Romeo part of the Fiat Group

In my second The Factory feature I will take a look at Alfa Romeo. I can feel the confusion from you the reader now at the fact that this feature is supposed to concentrate on current constructors in the world of racing. Alfa Romeo aren’t racing next year! Some cry – I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Read on…..

It was in 1911 when Alfa Romeo first began to race competitively, the Targa Florio. Two years later they would finish second in the Parm-Paggio Berceto race with Nino Franchini.

During the 1920s and 1930s Alfa Romeo received success, Giuseppe Campari would win at Mugello in 1920 with Enzo Ferrari finishing second in the Targa Florio that year also. There was another Mugello win the following year with Campari at the wheel and in 1923 Ugo Sivocci won the Targa Florio.

Alfa Romeo wanted to press forward, they knew that they had to keep developing and improving to make their mark in the racing world and so in 1923 Vittorio Jano moved from Fiat to the factory to design their Grand Prix racing cars.

In 1925 they would win their first world title, the first AIACR World Manufacturers’ Championship with wins at the European Grand Prix at Spa and the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

The factory continued to be competitive moving into the 1930’s, in 1932 Tazio Nuvolari and Rudolf Caracciola won five Grand Prix’s between them, but it was in 1933 that Alfa Romeo would recall all its racing cars, close the factory doors and transferred all their assets, with the insistence of the Italian government, to Enzo Ferrari who was now running a privatised factory team called Scuderia Ferrari.

With the cars moved to Ferrari Louis Chiron went on to win the French Grand Prix in 1934 and the Alfa car won 18 or 35 races in Europe. The Silver Arrows were beginning to outclass Alfa Romeo but Nuvolari did hit back by beating the Germans in the own backyard at the Nurburgring in 1935.

Alfa Romeo commanded the Targa Florio, winning six times in a row during the 1930s and also taking the Mille Miglia, with the exception of 1931, every year from 1928 to 1938.

With their 8C 2300 car, Alfa Romeo would also win the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1931 to 1934, moving them swiftly onto the sportscar scene.

They developed their sportscar programme in 1963, taking class wins in races and developed a new 90 degree V8 engine, designed by Carlo Chiti and this was to compete with the dominant Porsche team. They raced in the World Sportscar Championship from 1967 to 1977 taking two world titles (1975 and 1977).

As a Formula One constructor and engine supplier Alfa Romeo took two Drivers’ Championships (1950 and 1951) and would compete in F1 from 1950 until 1988. As a constructor Alfa Romeo pulled out of Formula One at the end of 1951, after their second title, but would supply F1 teams during the 1960s, with their V8 engine run by McLaren and March during the 1970s. Brabham took Alfa Romeo engines from 1976 until 1979 and they also supplied Osella from 1983 until 1988.

They did re-enter Formula One as a constructor themselves from 1979 until 1985 and in 1987 had struck a deal to supply Ligier until Fiat took over Alfa Romeo and that contract fell through.

As a constructor, Alfa Romeo entered 110 races, winning 10. They attained 26 podiums, 12 pole positions and 14 fastest laps to go with their two world titles. Drivers to have raced for the team include, Nino Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio, Bruno Giacomelli, Mario Andretti, Andrea de Cesaris, Eddie Cheever and Riccardo Patrese.

The factory has had major success in Formula Three, Michele Alboreto for example won the European F3 title in a March-Alfa Romeo and from 1980 to 1984 they won four consecutive Italian F3 titles.

In 1989 Alfa Romeo entered IndyCar, the engine developed using the unraced Ferrari 637 indy car. They recorded no podiums, no poles and no race wins, eventually pulling out of IndyCar in 1991.

They skirted with rally, the Giulietta won the 1958 1000 Lakes Rally, they also went on to secure victories in the Elba and Costa Brava rallies in 1975 winning the Group 2 category in the WRC Tour de Corse. They produced the GTV6, one of the fastest Group A rally cars, but this was reclassified as a Group B by the FIA at the end of the 1986 and was less competitive.

It was in Touring Cars where Alfa Romeo found most of their success, taking numerous ETCC titles, Trans-Am Championships, BTCC, DTM and winning the Bathurst 12 Hour.

Now part of the Fiat group, there has been much talk over the last few years of an Alfa Romeo return to Formula One, but nothing concrete and no deal with the FIA was forged to see the marque return.

Alfa Romeo are now again competing in the new TCR Series where the Giulietta has taken race wins during the 2017 season.

It is, however, returning to touring cars for 2018, be it through a dealer team entry. An Alfa Romeo Giulietta will once again be on the British Touring Car grid next season with Handy Motorsport. The front-wheel drive Giulietta will be fitted with a BTCC TOCA engine in its first season, but a bespoke unit could be developed in the future. The last time Alfa Romeo appeared on the grid in BTCC was 2007. It is not a full factory entry but Alfa Romeo’s 62 strong dealership network in the UK have been encouraged to support the project.

So we have an Alfa Romeo, semi-factory, car back on the grid for next season. It is hoped that this is just the beginning of a return to racing for this historic marque. 

“La meccanica delle emozioni” 

Alfa Romeo has won the following major victories and championships:

5 – World Championships (1925, 1950, 1951, 1975, 1977)

11 –  Mille Miglia (1928,1929,1930,1932,1933,1934,1935,1936,1937,1938,1947)

10 – Targa Florio (1923,1930,1931,1932,1933,1934,1935,1950,1971,1975)

4 – 24 Hours of Le Mans (1931, 1932, 1933, 1934)

17 – European Touring Car Championships (1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1976 (Divisions 1 and 2), 1977 (Divisions 1 and 3), 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)

9 – Makes Championship

4 – Drivers’ Championships

10 – Italian F3 Championships

10 – European F3 Championships (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990)

5 – European F3 Cups

7 – French F3 Championships (1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989)

2 – German F3 Championships (1984, 1989)

3 – Giro Automobilistico d’Italia (1954, 1988, 1989)

2 – Trans-Am Championship (1966, 1970)

1 – Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM) (1993)

2 – British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) (1983, 1994)

5 – Spanish Touring Car Championship (1988, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997)

2 – French Touring Car Championship (1983, 1984)

6 – Italian Superturismo Championship (1988, 1992, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004)

7 – European Historical Gran Turismo Championships

4 – European Classic Touring Car Championships

3 – Bathurst Unique Fuel Championships 

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing