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Extreme E

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Extreme E returned last weekend, after an almost two-month gap, and it didn’t disappoint, with action and drama throughout. The Odyssey cars took to the beaches of Senegal for the Ocean X-Prix, where the sand was once again the terrain standing between the drivers and a successful weekend. As we saw in Saudi Arabia, weekends were made or ruined by a minor mistake, and this can happen to any team when competing in such a new category. Here’s a rundown of what happened in Senegal, as RXR dominated once again.

Qualifying:

Q1:

Team X44 were impressive during the first part of qualifying on the beach, taking the fastest time, although the top 3 were only separated by 10 seconds. Loeb and Gutierrez outpaced the Chip Ganassi car of Price and LeDuc by 4.23 seconds. The Abt Cupra car qualified 3rd but was moved to 4th after a driver change infringement as replacement Kleinschmidt took over from Ekström, leaving Rosberg X Racing to take the third position in the standings. JBXE took 5th with Button’s replacement of Kevin Hansen, using his rally experience to get quickly up to speed in the electric SUV. After a poor Round 1 in Saudi Arabia, Veloce’s Chadwick was finally given her chance in the car, finishing 6th alongside Sarrazin, with Xite Energy taking a trouble-free 7th. The same cannot be said for the Andretti United and Acciona Sainz teams.  Sanz stopped on track after a heavy impact caused an electrical issue, and although she was able to get the car going briefly before it stopped once again, leaving them with a lot of work to do in Q2. The same also occurred to Timmy Hansen in the Andretti United car, although he could restart the car, leaving them over 3 minutes off the pace, but with a time on the board.


Q2:

The second round of qualifying was also dominated by X44, who set the only sub-11-minute time of the session. They were followed by Abt Cupra, who clearly had a point to prove after their penalty during Q1, finishing 10 seconds back. RXR rounded out the top-3 after another safe but quick performance from the Rosberg team. JBXE finished in 4th again, with Andretti United able to recover some of their time to finish 5th, followed by Acciona Sainz in 6th, although this wasn’t good enough for either team to reach the end semi-finals. Veloce ended the second qualifying in 7th, but the early issues for the two teams ahead of them meant that they were through to their first semi-final, something good to see after such a disastrous Desert X-Prix. Xite Energy took the final spot in the semi-finals, despite finishing 8th in the second qualifying session. Chip Ganassi finished the session in a disappointing 9th after their car also had an issue on the track, causing them to stop and restart the car. This shows just how vital it is to ensure the car doesn’t stop on course, with all three teams ruled out of any further success over the weekend because of this.

Classification after Qualifying:

1. X44 (Gutiérrez/Loeb) 21m44.856s

2. Rosberg X Racing (Taylor/Kristoffersson) +27.58s

3. Abt Cupra (Kleinschmidt/Ekström) +35.95s

4. JBXE (Åhlin-Kottulinsky/Hansen) +40.57s

5. Veloce Racing (Sarrazin/Chadwick) +1m20.51s

6. Xite Energy (GZ/Bennett) +1m51.60s

7. Chip Ganassi (LeDuc/Price) +3m56.95s

8. Andretti United (Munnings/Hansen) +4m12.21s

9. Acciona Sainz (Sanz/Sainz) +1 Lap

Semi-finals:

Semi-final 1:

This weekend, a new semi-final system was in place that saw the top 3 together in the first round and the mid-3 teams together in the second semi-final, meaning a top placing team was to lose out on the final. This was how the weekend began to fall apart for Abt Cupra, who were leading into the driver switch but lost out on two places due to a radio issue, meaning they finished last and were ruled out of the final. The round was won by Taylor and Kristoffersson in the RXR car, who beat the X44 into the first gate, with Kristoffersson taking a wide line to undercut Loeb and then kept the position throughout the race.

Semi-final 2:

With two places left for the final and three worthy teams fighting for them, semi-final 2 was set up to be a good one. Hansen in the JBXE started well to take the lead, with Chadwick and Bennett duelling behind. Chadwick kept P2 from the Xite Energy car behind her, but an issue with the pit limiter for Veloce gave Bennett an advantage. While the JBXE continued to put time between themselves and the rest of the field, the fight continued behind them. Despite technical issues continuing for Veloce, Sarrazin was able to win the fight, ending the weekend for the Xite Energy team.

Shootout:

With three teams who were not expected to be in the shootout battling each other for the final few points, this race was never going to be disappointing. Timmy Hansen took the lead into the first corner with Price in P2 with Sainz behind her. The experience of Sainz meant he was able to fight back, however, to take the lead going into the driver switch, but this didn’t last for long. LeDuc, who had started his stint in third, fought back strongly, overtaking Munnings for second then going on to take the win from Sanz. An outstanding performance from the Chip Ganassi Racing driver who will be disappointed to have missed out on showing this skill in a final in both of the first two rounds of X-Prix.

Final:

4 teams were left to line up for the final, but two cars made it to the end of the first lap. After colliding with the RXR car when fighting for the lead, Gutierrez’ X44 had suspension damage, bringing an early close to the Hamilton team’s impressive weekend. A bump in the terrain left the JBXE car in a similar position, with the car stopping with suspension issues which ultimately blocked the track and led to a red flag on the race. With Veloce and RXR both left confused during the driver change as a red flag was called, the best option was to do another standing start as Kristoffersson and Chadwick began their laps. The RXR driver was able to take the lead immediately and kept it, with both drivers successfully finishing their laps. However, the Swedish driver was 14.676 seconds ahead of his British counterpart by the end of the lap.

Championship Standings:

Rosberg X Racing (Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor) 71 points

X44 (Sébastien Loeb / Cristina Gutiérrez) 57 points

JBXE (Jenson Button / Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky) 44 points

Andretti United Extreme E (Timmy Hansen / Catie Munnings) 37 points

XITE ENERGY RACING (Oliver Bennett / Christine GZ) 37 points

ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team (Carlos Sainz / Laia Sanz) 36 points

ABT Cupra XE (Mattias Ekström / Claudia Hürtgen) 35 points

Veloce Racing (Stéphane Sarrazin / Jamie Chadwick) 31 points

Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing (Kyle LeDuc / Sara Price) 30 points

Another exceptional weekend for the RXR team leaves them with a large gap in the championship, with X44 and JBXE rounding out a top-3 entirely managed by legends of the F1 world. After an outstanding first weekend, then an abysmal second round, Andretti move to 4th, although the Xite Energy team couldn’t be closer to them, with Acciona Sainz only one point behind both teams in 6th. The bottom 6 teams are split by just 7 points, showing how much there is still to gain and fight for in the next 3 rounds of the new series.

Extreme E flew onto our screens this weekend, the first-ever season of a completely new brand of motorsport. As with any racing series, it can be hard to understand if you’re new to it – this was a unique experience for all, as we all experienced the confusion together.

What Is Extreme E?
An all-electric SUV off-road racing series in five different venues across challenging terrains worldwide, some of the most remote places on earth which have been hand-picked to race at because of the effects climate change has had on them. The thing I love the most about Extreme E? The whole thing is built around highlighting environmental challenges and the impact on the planet’s unique ecosystems. Extreme E is more than just a sport; it’s a worldwide campaign set up to shine a spotlight on the urgent need for action on climate change. The use of electric vehicles is part of the solution, and just like Formula E – it gives teams and manufacturers a chance to test their latest technology. That in itself is a big reason to tune in. If that wasn’t enough, the series brings some much-needed attention to gender equality to the motorsport world. The sport specifies that each team must consist of a male and female, who will share the driver’s role. Nine teams, two drivers per car, including some incredible names and champions from different racing series. Three Formula 1 world champions are also team owners, so definitely one to watch.

Okay, so how does the racing work?
All of the Extreme E action takes place over two days. Each driver completes a lap behind the wheel, with a driver changeover incorporated into the race format, or “the switch”, as it’s being called. Each race contains two laps, which run over a rough estimate of 18km. On a Saturday, all the teams will do two qualifying runs of the course – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Both the male and female drivers each doing a lap and a changeover. Their times will then be combined, and it will produce an order. This is where it can get a little confusing so bear with us…

On Sunday, there are a few races which will take place. The fastest three teams will go through to the first semi-final race; then, the top two finishers will claim a spot in the final. The middle three teams will go through to the ‘Crazy Race’, with the top finisher also progressing to the final, and the slowest three teams will race in ‘The Shootout’. Those three teams that progressed to the final will race again, and someone will be crowned the XPrix winner.

Points are awarded by places you finish, as you go from first to ninth. Again, just like Formula E, aspects of the sport add some spice to the already exciting racing. A ‘Hyperdrive Boost’ is available to each driver during each lap of the race; this is activated by a button on the steering wheel and will boost the power for a set amount of time – the drivers are most likely to use this on long stretches of road. Gridplay has also been introduced for fans to help their favourite drivers gain a grid advantage; the team that receives the most votes can select its grid position for the final.

Where do the Extreme E races take place?
Well, I’m glad you asked! As I mentioned before, five races are in four different continents worldwide in locations already damaged by climate change. It started in Alula in Saudi Arabia for the Desert XPrix, and then we head too –

  • Ocean XPrix: Lac Rose, Senegal
  • Arctic XPrix: Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
  • Amazon XPrix: Para, Brazil
  • Glacier XPrix: Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina

So, we know how they race, but what do they race in?
Every team uses the same car, which is called the Odyssey 21, and of course – It’s electric. The vehicle is manufactured by Spark Racing Technology, although there are parts of Formula 1 DNA within the car, with McLaren providing the drivetrain and Williams with the electric battery. Doesn’t it just remind you of one of those remote control cars you played with as a kid? Except, this one weighs 1,650kg, boasts 540hp, and goes from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds… impressive, huh?

I am sold! Where can I watch it?
Qualifying and Semi-finals will be aired on Sky Sports Action, Sky Sports Mix, BBC iPlayer, and on the XE Website. The Finals are being shown on ITV, BT Sport 1, Sky Sports Action, Sky Sports Mix, BBC iPlayer, and BBC Red Button – plenty of choices!

Desert XPrix Catch Up:
If you didn’t manage to catch the start of the Extreme E racing series or just weren’t sure whether it was your thing – don’t worry; here are some highlights from the weekend.

First qualifying saw teams have their first go against each other. There were some reliability issues
with Catie Munnings driving the Andretti, who got a puncture halfway around the track. She showed
amazing skill to get the car across the line, with the commentators calling it a ‘Hero Drive’.
Veloce didn’t have a good weekend, as Stephane Sarrazin rolled the car after hitting a desert plant
on the track and subsequently ending any chance to get any more racing for the remainder of the
weekend. Similarly, Claudia Hurtgen for ABT Racing crashed the car on her qualifying run where the car
rolled multiple times, a terrifying crash which was a reminder Extreme E isn’t for the faint-hearted. Both drivers were uninjured, but a disappointing weekend for them overall, with minimal running.
On the final race of the weekend, it was Nico Rosberg’s team who prevailed, with a fantastic drive
from reigning world champion Johan Kristoffersson and Australian rally champion Molly Taylor.
Kristoffersson was initially behind after the start but chased down Hansen and overtook the Andretti car
at turn 2. Pulling over a 30 second lead for the remainder of the lap before the changeover for
Taylor, they consolidated their lead and led them to victory. Strong performance from both drivers
and 1-0 to Nico Rosberg in the reunited battle with Lewis Hamilton as team owners.

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