Ex F1 racer Nico Rosberg’s team emerged as the winners of the first-ever Extreme E race as the all-new electric off-road racing series kicked off its inaugural season with the Desert X Prix in Saudi Arabia. The championship reignited Rosberg and his former Mercedes F1 teammate Lewis Hamilton’s rivalry. But it was Rosberg who had the upper hand, as his team, Rosberg X Racing, took a dominant win with drivers Johan Kristofferson and Molly Taylor.
Rosberg X Racing defeat Andretti United by 23.7 secs
Kristofferson and Taylor lead the standings
Read on to find out how the first Extreme E race panned out.
Kristofferson and Molly Taylor win Desert X Prix
Created by Formula E founder Alejandro Agag, Extreme E is a new one-make off-road racing series featuring the 543hp Odyssey 21 SUVs. The championship has been developed to highlight environmental issues and each X Prix will be held in environmentally damaged locations. Each team features a male and a female racer who must swap at the midpoint of the race, and competitors can earn a boost by performing big jumps and winning online fan votes.
There were some bumps along the way through the stunning landscapes of the Al’Ula region, but overall the new electric-powered off-road series’ debut should be hailed a raging success.
“How funny was that? It was Hamilton vs Rosberg out there all day,” said Rosberg after his team topped qualifying on Saturday, only to be dropped to third by a penalty for speeding in the so-called ‘switch zone’ where each team’s male and female drivers swapped places. But the setback didn’t stop the team from claiming a comfortable win in the semi-final on Sunday morning, as three-time World Rallycross champion Kristofferson got the better of rally legends Sebastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz Sr at the start. Loeb and his Hamilton X44 team-mate Cristina Gutiérrez saw off Sainz and Laia Sanz to join the Rosberg crew in the X Final.
Andretti United pairing Timmy Hansen and Britain’s Catie Munnings joined them after winning the second semi, known as the ‘Crazy Race’. Munnings, 23, had impressed on Saturday by completing her qualifying lap with a puncture, and drove a strong lap in the X Prix final by making up time on experienced Australian rally champion Taylor. Loeb and Gutiérrez struggled home third with a power steering problem – not the first on the Odyssey 21 in its first weekend of competition.
Veloce, Ganassi and Abt Cupra run into trouble
Claudia Hurtgen, in Abt Cupra’s entry, barrel-rolled out of qualifying after hitting a bump at the wrong angle, then was rear-ended in the dust by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle LeDuc in the shoot-out race on Sunday. LeDuc had also crashed on his own during the Friday shakedown.
The British Veloce team was also out of luck. Stephane Sarrazin rolled his Odyssey on Saturday, landing on his car’s antennae which dinged the roll-cage and made it a write-off. The team was forced to withdraw, meaning W Series champion Jamie Chadwick travelled all the way to Saudi Arabia to complete just a single lap.
This was always going to be a learning experience for everyone involved in Extreme E, especially as teams had such a limited amount of pre-season testing. Owner/driver Jenson Button and his JBXE squad were always on the backfoot after only getting their hands on the Odyssey just days before the first race.
A range of problems for the nine teams included hot batteries, damper and steering trouble, while safety concerns on the desert course accumulated in a decision to reduce maximum power of the twin-motor SUV from 543hp to 306hp from Saturday afternoon.
Dust was the main concern, which you’d think might have been predictable in a desert. The lack of visibility for following drivers led to a late change of race format, introducing one-at-a-time qualifying and just three instead of four cars starting each race. The format changes won’t necessarily remain for future rounds, but took little away from the spectacle.
Extreme E championship standings
As winners of the first event, Rosberg X Racing lead the standings with a total of 35 point, five points ahead of Hamilton’s team, X44. Andretti United stand third overall with 28 points.
The championship will now head to Lac Rose in Senegal for the Ocean X Prix on May 29-30.
|2021 Desert X Prix results|
|1||Rosberg X Racing||Johan Kristoffersson, Molly Taylor|
|2||Andretti United||Timmy Hansen, Catie Munnings||+23.73s|
|3||X44||Sebastien Loeb, Cristina Gutiérrez||+1m38.09s|
New Hummer-based racers to compete in Extreme E