The highly anticipated new sustainable motorsport series, Extreme E, kicked off this morning in the sand dunes of Saudi Arabia with the first round of Qualifying.
Each of the nine teams sent out their two drivers, in a combined run with a time changeover, to set their fastest possible lap of the track. The lap times of the two drivers were then added together to give each team a time determining their position on the time sheets.
The first to go, Sébastien Loeb for Lewis Hamilton’s team, X44, was off the mark in a cloud of dust. He was initially off to a good start but swung the team’s Odyssey 21 down a fearsome dune that he spent several seconds trying to drag back up onto the racing line.
Still managing a quick lap, he brought the car in to do the Switch with teammate Cristina Gutiérrez, one driver out and the other in with an ease that demonstrated good practice. Gutiérrez went excellently around the track with no mistakes, securing X44 a joint time of 10:48.06 and second place.
Formula One world champion, Jenson Button, and driver/team owner of JBXE secured a joint time with Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky of 12:22.426 after their car stopped for nearly 30 seconds on track.
Andretti United’s Timmy Hansen took a slightly different line to the previous drivers, searching for extra time to improve his lap time. A quick Switch saw Catie Munnings taking over the reins. A slight mistake at the summit of a hilly area of the track saw her forced to slow the Odyssey 21 drastically and lose time on the previous teams.
Things got worse when the right rear tyre punctured and spat up huge amounts of sand as she continued round the track. For the remainder of her lap Munnings heroically battled with the car to complete her stint with a tyre that was hanging off! Hansen and Munnings’ total time was an 11:31.603 and an impressive fourth on the board considering the puncture.
Stéphane Sarrazin rolled the Odyssey 21 of Veloce Racing on his run and was unable to continue the lap. This unfortunately meant Jamie Chadwick was unable to have a go herself and the team was left with a DNF for the first round of Qualifying.
Carlos Sainz looked quick from the start for Acciona and committed everything to his lap before coming in for the Switch with Laia Sanz which seemed to take a little longer than the previous teams. Sanz executed a strong clean lap to secure her team the third spot on the time sheets with a joint time of 11:16.231.
Reigning World Rallycross champion, Johan Kristofferson, was first to go for the Rosberg X Racing team, setting an excellent first lap before the Switch. Molly Taylor was rapid around the track, absolutely flying (sometimes literally) through the sand. Her efforts earned Nico Rosberg’s team top spot on the time sheets with 10:43.565.
ABT Cupra XE’s Mattias Ekström was nice and smooth around the track despite the deep tyre tracks that developed in the sand throughout the session. Claudia Hürtgen seemed slightly hesitant in the car and it became clear early that the team would not be chasing the top spot. Things went from bad to worse after a huge crash saw the Odyssey 21 rolling in the sand, ending up in tatters and a DNF on the board.
Christine Giampaoli Zonca was the only woman to set her time before her male teammate for Hispano Suiza. Hers was a very cautious lap, followed by a slow Switch. Oliver Bennett was up next but it was a disappointing run for the team after it was announced that they were under investigation for speeding in the Switch zone which led to a huge 75 second penalty from the Stewards.
Finally it was Kyle LeDuc for the Chip Ganassi team to set the first time. It was a good start to the lap from him but very early on the power steering went and he had to haul it round the rest of the course. When it came to the Switch, LeDuc tried to do some changes on the car before handing over to Sara Price
There appeared to be some miscommunication as Price waited longer than necessary to leave the Switch zone to start her lap. She was aggressively fighting against the incredibly heavy car in 30 degree desert heat throughout the entirety of her run which earned the team a time of 13:33.674.
So it was the Rosberg X Racing car in first with Hamilton’s X44 a close second.
Third went to the Acciona Sainz car.
Andretti United were fourth even after their puncture with the JBXE car fifth despite stopping on track.
The issues for the others were obviously huge. The Hispano Suiza car was sixth with Chip Ganassi Racing ending up seventh.
The two crashed cars of the Abt Cupra and Veloce were eighth and ninth with Abt Cupra ahead because at least Ekstrom completed the lap.
The second round of Qualifying gets underway at 12pm BST.
MASSIVE crash for Claudia Hurtgen
— Extreme E (@ExtremeELive) April 3, 2021