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motorsport

Extreme E begins

The all new EV off-road championship Extreme E gets underway this weekend in Saudi Arabia.

Extreme E is a radical new off-road racing series, founded by the same visionary behind Formula E, which will showcase electric SUVs and futuristic technologies in some of the world’s most remote and challenging environments.

This five-event global voyage will utilise its sporting platform for the purpose of promoting electrification, environment and equality. The series’ goal is to highlight the impact of climate change in some of the world’s most endangered environments, promote the adoption of electric vehicles to pave the way for a lower-carbon future and provide a world-first gender-equal motorsport platform.

The first sport to ever be built out of a social purpose, Extreme E aims to minimise environmental impact while
maximising awareness, racing in places that have already been damaged or affected by climate change or human interference and taking fans deep into the heart of the most pressing issues facing our planet’s future.

Not only that, but Extreme E is also helping the car industry to develop future-facing technology using racing as a platform for road innovation, which accelerates change ten-fold.

Round 1 – Desert X Prix+

Extreme E will head to Saudi Arabia, home of the world’s largest continuous sand desert and its AlUla region in Season 1. The terrain is stunning and unforgiving, while the heat and conditions will be intense. There is no question that the winning combination of driver and machine will be a deserving one.

Nine teams will compete wheel-to-wheel in an innovative format likened to ‘Star Wars pod racing meets Dakar Rally’. Designed to put driver performance firmly in focus, Extreme E X Prix weekends feature the precision and pressure of time trial qualifications on Saturday 3 April, and short, sharp wheel-to-wheel racing action on Sunday 4 April, where skills will be tested to the limits and races will come right down to the wire. 

Every race will incorporate two laps over a total distance of approximately 18 kilometres. In a motorsport world-first, teams will field one male and one female driver, promoting gender equality and a level playing field amongst competitors. The teams will determine which driver goes first to best suit their strategy and driver order selections are made confidentially, with competitors kept in the dark as to other teams’ choices until the last possible moment. Contests between males and females will therefore be ensured. 

Saturday 3 April

Desert X Prix Qualifying consists of two rounds of time trials. The team starting order is decided by a draw. All races feature two laps with the incorporated driver ‘Switch’ feature.

Sunday 4 April

Desert X Prix Finals Day features a series of three car races.

  • The teams will be listed 1st to 9th place based on the total combined time of each team’s two Qualifying runs.
  • The top three teams go into the Semi-Final, where the the top two finishers claim spots in the Desert X Prix Final.
  • The middle three teams (4th, 5th, 6th) go through to The Crazy Race – where only the top finisher progresses to Desert X Prix Final.
  • The bottom three teams (7th, 8th and 9th) head to the Shoot Out.

The Desert X Prix Final features the two winners from the Semi-Final and the Winner of the Crazy Race.

The teams will be represented in the cockpit by some of the world’s biggest names in motorsport as follows:

  • ABT CUPRA XE – #125 – Mattias Ekström / Claudia Hürtgen
  • ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team – #55 – Carlos Sainz / Laia Sanz
  • Andretti United – #23 – Timmy Hansen / Catie Munnings
  • Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing – #99 – Kyle LeDuc / Sara Price
  • Hispano Suiza XITE Energy Team – #42 – Oliver Bennett / Christine Giampaoli
  • JBXE – #22 – Jenson Button / Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky
  • Rosberg X Racing – #6 – Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor
  • Veloce Racing – #5 – Stéphane Sarrazin / Jamie Chadwick
  • X44 – #44 – Sébastien Loeb / Cristina Gutiérrez

Each of the teams’ two drivers – one male and one female – will complete a lap before the ‘Switch’, and teams can choose which driver goes first. The course itself measures 18 kilometres and is centred around three canyons in the vast desert which surrounds AlUla. Further details to follow.

GridPlay

Fans can get involved too via GridPlay, which puts the starting line-up for the Desert X Prix Final in their hands. From 31 March until 60 minutes after the the start of the Crazy Race on Sunday 4 April, fans will be able to vote twice per day via the Extreme E website and on Twitter using #GridPlay #DriverName for their favourite driver, with the votes added together to complete the team standings.

The teams that don’t reach the concluding race have an important role to play too, in gifting their votes to a team of their choice, so every vote really does count. And the team with the most votes will then be able to select its starting position for the Desert X Prix Final. 

Desertification Issue

The deserts of Saudi Arabia were chosen to highlight a number of environmental issues – increasing temperatures, more frequent and longer periods of drought, deforestation and desertification – which are all in part instigated by human behaviour and our carbon-intensive lifestyle.

Over the next few decades, the average water availability in some regions is projected to decrease by 10-30 per cent, meaning 2.4 billion people across the world will be living in areas subject to periods of intense water scarcity, displacing as many as 700 million people. Challenges exacerbated by climate change in the desert include water scarcity and potentially hundreds of millions of climate refugees.

As part of the commitments set by the Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom will seek to safeguard its environment by increasing the efficiency of waste management, establishing comprehensive recycling projects, reducing all types of pollution and fighting desertification. The country plans to promote the optimal use of water resources by reducing consumption and utilising treated and renewable water.

The ODYSSEY 21

Capable of reaching 100km/h from a standing start in just 4.5 seconds, at gradients of up to 130 per cent, the ODYSSEY 21 has been built and engineered by Spark Racing Technology. Williams Advanced Engineering has created the all-important battery, with the chassis constructed by Chassis Technology Supplier CBMM | Niobium and the tyres provided by the championship’s Founding Partner, Continental.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Charging

In a world-first, each car will be charged using zero-emission energy via hydrogen fuel cell technology created in collaboration with AFC Energy. The system offers a completely sustainable fuel production process, using water and sun to generate hydrogen power which will then be used to charge all the ODYSSEY 21 electric SUVs off the grid. Not only will this process emit zero greenhouse emissions, but its only by-product will be water, which will be utilised elsewhere on-site.

Expert voices behind the mic

Lead commentators Jennie Gow and Andrew Coley will be based out of a London studio, providing remote commentary for every X Prix, along with on the ground reporter Layla-Anna Lee. For the Desert X Prix, the pair will be joined by special guest driver analysts Karun Chandhok and Sam Bird, both well-known in the motorsport world. The former competed in Formula One and Formula E, while the latter is a current Formula E driver for Jaguar Racing and previously contested GP2 and the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).

Legacy Programme

Extreme E is a sport for purpose and aims not only to highlight environmental issues, but also to leave a long-lasting positive impact in the locations in which it races through its Legacy Programmes.

The series has been working with its Scientific Committee to identify the right project in Saudi Arabia and confirmed this week it will support turtle conservation along the Red Sea coastline in association with Ba’a Foundation, an organisation that focusses on conserving the environment through initiatives entailing preserving endangered species, natural habitats and historical sites. See here for more information.

How to Watch

You can follow the shakedown and qualifications through Extreme E’s official website – www.extreme-e.com and social channels (@extremeelive on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Twitch).

The finals will be shown on global broadcasters including Fox Sports in the USA, ITV, Sky Sports, BBC and BT Sport in the UK, Teledeporte in Spain, ProSieben MAXX in Germany, Mediaset in Italy as well as Eurosport across most European Markets and MBC Action, KSA Sport and Dubai Sport in Saudi Arabia, plus many, many more – a full list is available here: https://www.extreme-e.com/en/broadcast-information.  

Friday 2 April
17:00-17:20: Shakedown

Saturday 3 April
09:00 – 10:30: Qualifying 1
14:00 – 15:30: Qualifying 2

Sunday 4 April
09:00 – 10:30: Semi-Finals
13:00 – 15:00: Finals

All times local.