Sunday, September 19, 2021

Nothing to lose for Extreme E’s final three

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The top three teams and the middle trio of teams had a relatively straightforward Desert X Prix when compared to the three teams at the bottom of the table. ABT CUPRA XE (seventh) scored 13 points, Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing (eighth) accumulated 11 points while Veloce Racing (ninth) round out the table with four points after the opening event of the season. Each of these squads endured challenging weekends with crashes or mechanical issues hampering their efforts at some stage during the X Prix.  

ABT CUPRA XE’s Claudia Hürtgen was thankfully unharmed after a sizable barrel roll in Q1 which set a precedent for the team’s weekend. The paddock witnessed a herculean effort from the team’s engineers and mechanics as they got the ODYSSEY 21 ready for Sunday’s Shoot Out, only for a collision with Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle LeDuc to call a premature end to both team’s events.

Extreme E 2021: Desert X-Prix
© Zak Mauger / LAT Images © Extreme E

Thomas Biermaier, CEO at ABT says: “The first event was quite a unique experience for our team – obviously a little different to what we have hoped for. But we have seen a strong performance from both Claudia and Mattias on track and also an amazing team spirit from the crew in the paddock. Based on these experiences our goal remains the same: We want to have a clean Saturday and then make our way into the final. Bringing home a trophy from Senegal would be a great reward for everyone after a tough start into our Extreme E adventure.”

Mattias Ekström is one of the most experienced drivers on the Extreme E grid. Having raced across multiple disciplines in his career, the double DTM Champion and 2016 World Rallycross Champion’s knowledge will be invaluable at another entirely new and unique venue when the teams arrive at Lac Rose, Senegal for the Ocean X Prix. He says: “I have driven a lot of different race cars in my career and have to say: Extreme E is pure fun. The track layout in Senegal with the straight along the ocean front looks amazing and will again create amazing pictures and action for the spectators in front of their screens.” He continues: “I was doing the Andalucia Rally to get into the mood and now can’t wait to arrive for the Ocean X Prix.  We have a lot to make up for.”

Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing’s Desert X Prix was similarly challenging with their Q1 time tumbling down the order due to power steering issues, which then ruled them out of Q2 entirely. With one time on the board, it was only ever going to be the Shoot Out for the American squad. Following the driver swap, LeDuc was hunting down the ABT CUPRA XE car before his windscreen was showered with dust. Unsighted, he was powerless to avoid Hürtgen and the pair were subsequently out of contention. LeDuc and teammate Sara Price were among the favourites coming into the weekend, so the outfit has a lot of expectation to live up to in Senegal.

Extreme E 2021: Desert X-Prix
© Colin McMaster / LAT Images © Extreme E

Fledgling outfit Veloce Racing were unable to show their true pace in Saudi Arabia after endurance racing veteran Stéphane Sarrazin hit a tuft of camel grass in Q1, sending the car into a barrel roll before the team had finished a single lap. Sarrazin was understandably frustrated and has learned a lot from the costly incident. He says: “I think the key with this series is to be patient. You obviously want to be quick straight away and in Extreme E, every lap counts but pushing too hard early in the weekend can cause problems as we saw for several teams in Saudi Arabia.” He continues: “Senegal will be another very different environment with terrain very few – if any – of the drivers on the grid have raced on, so everyone will start from scratch again which is the beauty of this championship. We’ll do our best as always and see where we end up at the end of the weekend.”

W Series Champion Jamie Chadwick was denied the chance to turn a wheel in anger, having completed just one lap during Friday’s shakedown session. She will be looking to gain as much experience as possible during the second round of the Extreme E championship in order to get up to speed. She says: “Obviously I didn’t get a lot of time behind the wheel last time out but I feel like experience doesn’t matter as much as in other championships because each location is so wildly different to the last. Everything that excited me about Extreme E initially still applies, I’ve just had to wait a little longer for it!”

Extreme E 2021: Desert X-Prix
© Charly Lopez / LAT Images © Extreme E

She adds: “I think we need to be realistic with setting goals for the weekend, we didn’t get a clear picture of where we were in comparison to the other teams in Saudi Arabia so I think we just need to take it one session at a time and get the maximum potential out of the car each time we’re on track, we can’t ask for more than that.”

These three teams will undoubtedly be out to score big points in Senegal to begin climbing up the leaderboard, but who will make the most progress?

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