Friday, September 17, 2021

Can the table toppers keep their spot in Senegal?

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The very first Extreme E race on the Saudi Arabian deserts of AlUla just six weeks ago saw Rosberg X Racing (RXR) take both the race victory and the lead in the overall standings, currently sitting pretty at the top of the table on 35 points. Although X44 crossed the finish of the Final in third they currently sit second in the overall table on 30 points after amassing more points in qualifying than Andretti United, who eventually finished second in the Final and now occupy third place in the overall standings with 28 points.

Extreme E 2021: Desert X-Prix
ALULA, SAUDI ARABIA – APRIL 04: Nico Rosberg, founder and CEO, Rosberg X Racing Molly Taylor (AUS)/Johan Kristoffersson (SWE), Rosberg X Racing celebrate with trophy during the Desert X-Prix at AlUla on April 04, 2021 in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images) © Extreme E

With just seven points separating the trio, Extreme E caught up with the table toppers to see how they’re preparing for the upcoming Ocean X Prix at Lac Rose, Dakar, Senegal from 29-30 May.

One half of the driver pairing, Molly Taylor, from RXR says: “To take victory in the first-ever Extreme E event was an amazing achievement. Everyone in the team had worked so hard in the build-up to the event, so for me and Johan to repay them all with the victory felt so special. The beauty of Extreme E is the extra buzz you get from racing for purpose, too, and it’s an even better feeling when you win for purpose!”

After a momentous win, the team has spent the last few weeks analysing the data taken from the dunes in Saudi Arabia with a view to preparing for the second X Prix in Senegal, where RXR will attempt to make it two wins from two.

Taylor’s RXR teammate, Johan Kristoffersson, says: “Senegal will be a brand-new challenge for everyone, but that’s one of the greatest things about Extreme E: every event is so unique! Despite the differences, we’ll do our best to improve on our performance in AlUla and aim to be competitive once again.”

And when asked if RXR thinks it can keep its position at the top of the table, its Founder Nico Rosberg enthused: “The team did an incredible job in Saudi Arabia to get the win and we’re very proud to be the first X Prix winners in Extreme E history, but we know we need to stay focused if we are to remain at the front. The series is already so competitive, but this team loves a challenge, and we can’t wait to go racing again in Senegal.”

Extreme E 2021: Desert X-Prix
ALULA, SAUDI ARABIA – APRIL 04: Cristina Gutierrez (ESP)/Sebastien Loeb (FRA), X44 during the Desert X-Prix at AlUla on April 04, 2021 in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images) © Extreme E

X44 driver pairing Cristina Gutiérrez and Sébastien Loeb had a great weekend in Saudi Arabia topping the qualifying standings and heading straight through to Semi-Final 1, and with a second place finish, progressed to the Final. But the team is hoping for victory in Senegal.

Sébastien says: “I’m looking forward to racing again in Senegal with Cristina. In the last race obviously there were things that didn’t go our way, but we showed that we’re a very competitive team and that we’re able to get results under pressure.” He continues: “The Ocean X Prix will be a totally new terrain and we have an incredible group of people working with us, so I’m excited to go to Senegal and fight again for a win.”

The team has been working hard behind the scenes, analysing the data from Saudi Arabia to hit the ground running and ensure its drivers are prepared as best as possible for what they will face at Lac Rose. They have been particularly focussed on the all-important start which proved vital for the final race position, although Senegal poses a very different challenge of course.

Cristina added: “I’m really excited to get back in the car and race again in Senegal. Obviously the final race in Saudi didn’t go exactly as planned but we got a great result overall and it put us in a good position in the championship. We learned a lot from the last race and we’re going to take those learnings and make sure that we’re as competitive as possible.” When asked about the programmes off the track, she says: “I’m excited too to visit Extreme E’s legacy projects, and make a positive impact on the planet while we’re there.”

And in third spot is Andretti United who progressed to the Final after winning the Crazy Race, named so as only the top finisher made it to the last race of the day. Catie Munnings certainly proved herself to be one to watch following her epic three-wheel drive after suffering a slow puncture in qualifying, and her strength and determination saw her bring the car home in one piece.

Extreme E 2021: Desert X-Prix
ALULA, SAUDI ARABIA – APRIL 04: Catie Munnings (GBR)/Timmy Hansen (SWE), Andretti United Extreme E during the Desert X-Prix at AlUla on April 04, 2021 in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Charly Lopez / LAT Images) © Extreme E

It seems she is hoping for a more straightforward X Prix in Senegal. Catie says: “Saudi Arabia certainly wasn’t plain sailing for us, especially with the puncture but Timmy and I learned so much and to finish second in the Final after a tricky start to the event was just awesome. Now we go into Senegal third in the standings, which is a really strong position to be in. We definitely feel well prepared and ready to apply what we learned from Saudi at the Ocean X Prix – and hopefully score another podium!”

When it came to the Final, Andretti was able to select its starting position as it managed to secure the fan-led GridPlay vote after receiving support not only from its followers, but also from teams that didn’t make it to the final, as the rules state they can gift their votes – maybe Andretti United was seen as the underdog? Whatever the reasoning, they’ve certainly proved that they are a force to be reckoned with.

Ahead of Senegal, Timmy Hansen has been busy keeping physically fit through lots of running, even finishing the Wings for Life Run alongside 160,000 others – virtually of course – to raise money for spinal cord research. He has also completed some off-road training in the Polaris and supported Catie in her RallyX Nordic debut in Höljes. He’s also taken some important time off to celebrate his son Sam’s third birthday.

He says: “I’ve had a productive few weeks continuing with my training, fulfilling some sponsor obligations and also spending a bit of time with my family too. It feels good to strike the right balance. It’s been great having Catie over in Sweden again too – we’ve done a full debrief from Saudi and know the areas where we can improve. We’re both feeling confident going into Senegal with a refreshed state of mind.”

The Ocean X Prix starts on 29 May, and as the all-electric SUVs have been at sea travelling the globe on the series’ floating centrepiece – the St. Helena – teams won’t be able to start preparations with the cars themselves until they touch down in Senegal so time is of the essence.

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