Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor took victory in the desert of Saudi Arabia for Nico Rosberg’s team. Dust affected the racing while several large accidents occurred throughout the weekend with all drivers unhurt.
In the Final, Timmy Hansen in the Andretti United car got the best start. Behind him Johan Kristoffersson went side by side with Sebastien Loeb in Lewis Hamilton’s team car. On the long run to turn 1 Kristoffersson was able to close on the leading car. He took a wide line through the opening chicane and was able to get the cutback out of turn 1 to lead. It put Hansen in the dust and let the Rosberg X Racing driver build an advantage of 20 seconds in the opening 2 miles. The gap stabilised once Hansen had dropped back enough to see the road ahead. The triple World Rallycross champion entered the switch zone first by 30 seconds with Loeb in last a further 30 back on Hansen.
Molly Taylor took over the lead car at the beginning of lap 2 with all male drivers being replaced by their female teammates. Catie Munnings replaced Hansen with Cristina Gutiérrez taking over the last place car. Taylor held onto the advantage through the final lap and brought the car home in first. With it, her and her teammate won the opening Extreme E race and took the championship lead. Munnings was able to bring the gap down to 23.7 seconds but had to settle for second place. Gutiérrez was hampered by a power steering failure and dropped over a minute behind to finish in third.
In the opening semi-final Carlos Sainz, Kristoffersson and Loeb went side by side down to turn 1. The Acciona Sainz car of Sainz made light contact with the Rosberg X Racing vehicle on the run to turn 1. Kristoffersson dropped back behind the other cars and decided to take a very wide line into the turn 1 chicane. The Swede entered turn 1 in last but got the perfect cutback to lead out of the opening sequence of corners. Loeb was able to hold off his fellow Dakar competitor to take second out of the chicane. With the track narrowing and large plumes of dust being kicked out by the cars it meant the drivers behind had to back off over 20 seconds behind to be able to see the road ahead.
Rosberg X Racing held a healthy lead at the end of lap 1 with Taylor taking over the car. From there she was able to hold the lead for the remainder of the race. Gutiérrez kept 2nd place in the Team X44 car. Behind her, Laia Sanz could only manage third place which saw the Spanish team eliminated. The Sainz/Sanz were given a 4th place finish overall.
Image Credit: Extreme E
In the crazy race which saw only 1 team progress to the final, Hansen and Munnings won. Hansen made the best start as in the final but was able to hold the advantage through turn 1. Oliver Bennett held off former F1 driver Jenson Button and slotted into second. As with the other races, the gaps expanded to over 20 seconds with visibility a major issue. It meant Munnings was able to use her 30 second advantage and she duly won to progress to the final. Christine Giampaoli Zonca took over from Bennett while Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky replaced her team boss in the JBXE car. With dust still a hanging in the air the gaps remained static to the finish with Hispano-Suiza Xite Energy Team taking 2nd in the race.
The shootout race for 7th featured only 2 cars after Veloce Racing withdrew after roll cage damaged in a Q1 crash. Mattias Ekstrom for Abt Cupra lead throughout lap 1 before handing over to Claudia Hurtgen. Sara Price in the Chip Ganassi car gave the car over to Kyle LeDuc. Through the final lap LeDuc closed in on first. With around a mile to go Hurtgen slowed due to a newly formed bump on the desert road. With the American racer right in her dust he wasn’t able to see the bump or Hurtgen and ploughed full throttle into her. It marked the first car to car accident in the series and the second major crash for LeDuc in 3 days. The race was red flagged and Abt Cupra took 7th place.
Qualifying was won by Loeb and Gutiérrez after large penalties significantly shaped the field. With dust being a major concern qualifying turned into a time trial across 2 sessions. Each team would get a 2 lap run, 1 for each driver in each qualifying segment. The times were then added together to determine qualifying order. The Sainz/Sanz pairing had a clean run to slot into second place. The fastest team was Rosberg X Racing. However, a 1 minute penalty for slightly speeding in the change over area dropped them into third. Hansen and Munnings overcame a puncture in Q1 for the female racer to finish 4th. Munnings was able to lose less than a minute despite driving on 3 wheels for most of her lap.
Bennett and Christine GZ could only manage 5th after a 75 second for speeding. The biggest penalty came for JBXE with a combined 175 second penalty for a pair of speeding penalties in the pit area. Chip Ganassi only managed 7th place. A power steering failure in Q1 meant they lost a large amount of time. With issues still plaguing the car after a roll in shakedown they were unable to run in Q2. 2 drivers rolled in Q1. Stephane Sarrazin rolled early on his lap with teammate Jamie Chadwick only completing 1 lap all weekend. A damaged roll cage meant Veloce Racing couldn’t even compete a single lap in race conditions. Hurtgen also suffered a massive roll with her team spending 23 hours fixing the car for the shootout race. Both drivers were uninjured.
Rosberg X Racing lead the championship on 35 points. 5 behind is Team X44 of Loeb and Gutiérrez thanks to winning qualifying. Close behind are Andretti United on 28 and Acciona Sainz on 26. The team’s championship will be decided by scoring from every race. In the driver’s championship each racer can drop their worst score which means any driver still has a chance at the title. The next round takes place on 29-30th May. Senegal will host the Ocean X-Prix in what will be a 5 round calendar for the series.
Feature Image Credit: Extreme E