Something very rare is happening this weekend in the world of motorsport: A whole new race series is beginning. Extreme E is here.
January 2019: On the cold deck of RMS St. Helena in wintry London, Alejandro Agag, the founding father of the world’s first electric racing series, Formula E, gathered with assorted press for a whole new announcement.
An off-road Electric SUV racing series that would travel the world to draw attention to climate change through environmentally friendly racing.
Since then this whole new discipline has been getting bigger and bigger. Teams gradually were courted, drivers too and now we are days away from the first ever race.
Extreme E races take place on a purpose built track at an area of the world that has been affected by climate change severely. So the first race this weekend is in the desert in Saudi Arabia.
A track is built at the location and a makeshift paddock is set up for all the teams to work out of.
There are nine teams which all have two drivers working in partnership in a cup format to win. Each driver pairing must be made up of a man and a woman and both drivers compete in the race with a driver switch half way through.
The races are flat-out sprints that will take around 10 minutes with no energy saving like they have in Formula E.
On the Saturday, teams will take part in qualifying heats which are two laps long. Their places for the heats are determined from a lottery. The heat winner will go on to the next round. Points are awarded with 3 points for 1st, 2 for 2nd and 1 for 3rd. The points determine starting positions for the races on Sunday and who ends up in which semi final.
There will be a semi-final and a crazy race. For the semi-final, you must be one of the four top points-scorers on the Saturday. The other five teams go into the crazy race.
The top three teams from the first semi-final go to the race and the top two of the crazy race goes into the final for a five-car race.
The grid in the final is then set by GridPlay which is a fan vote. The teams with the most votes can select their starting position. More on GridPlay later on.
Points are then given for the overall finishing order for the championship. With five rounds this year meaning 125 points are on offer for the teams.
Teams are competing in the Odyssey-21 Electric SUV. A purpose built and equal car that all teams are running, like the first season of Formula E, the powertrain technology is the same across all cars.
There is a power output of about 550 bhp and is a beast. The car is designed to run in all conditions such as the desert round this weekend and in sub zero conditions in future races. It is an all terrain vehicle.
The car has been tested extensively by some very high profile drivers including Valtteri Bottas, Jean-Eric Vergne and Billy Monger.
How to get involved?
Extreme E has its own version of fanboost: GridPlay.
Fans vote for their favourite drivers and the teams with the most votes can select their spot on the starting line for the final race.
The five teams that have qualified for the Final take its percentage of the votes. The four teams that don’t make the Final ‘gift’ their votes to a team of their choice so every vote matters.
The team with the most votes is able to select its grid position for the Final first, followed by the team with the second most votes and so on.
This is one of the coolest things about Extreme E! The entire championship travels the world on a retired post office ship.
The RMS St. Helena houses all the cars, all the paddock equipment, everything needed for races such as starting lights and team command centres.
The ship launched early this year from the UK with all the cars being loaded on and crew travelling with them.
On the ship is a purpose-built science lab which has equipment to be used by scientists at the events so they can research climate change and work on solutions. The impact of Extreme E is going to be huge.
Thankfully they managed to get through the Suez Canal two weeks ago so didn’t get held up!
There are five X-Prix across 2021 for the first ever season.
3-4 April – Desert X-Prix – Saudi Arabia
29-30 May – Ocean X-Prix – Senegal
28-29 August – Artic X-Prix – Greenland
23-24 October – Amazon X-Prix – Brazil
11-12 December – Glacier X-Prix – Argentina
Where to watch?
The first round is on Saturday morning.