Written by Umut Yelbaşı, Edited by Simran Kanthi
(All photos courtesy of Extreme E)
As Extreme E’s first X Prix in South America and its penultimate race weekend of the season approaches, the fight for second place is as close as it can get with Chip Ganassi in P2 with 43 points, Acciona | Sainz in P3 with 42 points, and X44 Vida Carbon Racing in P4 with 43 points. The weekend should be a bit more relaxing for the Rosberg XE duo of Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky and Johan Kristoffersson as they lead the championship with 32 points, not a gap that can’t be closed but still a comfortable lead.
The X44 duo of Sébastien Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez had a mixed start to the season, leading the pack in Qualifying but finishing third in NEOM, Saudi Arabia. This was the first race without X44 on top of the Qualifying standings, and the first event without Loeb and Gutiérrez in the Final, which ended up placing last season’s championship runners-up in P6 in the first race. They did manage some sort of a comeback in the second race, though, finishing in second place, which is their best finish so far this season.
Sitting in fifth place in the championship standings is XITE ENERGY Racing, who entered Sardinia with a new driver line-up. Timo Scheider, former Championship Driver, joined Tamara Molinaro, another former Championship Driver who made her XITE ENERGY debut in NEOM.
Molinaro was paired with Oli Bennett for the Season 2 opener and the duo was pretty competitive, securing fourth overall in Qualifying. Progressing to Semi-Final 1, Molinaro went head-to-head with the two titans, Rosberg X Racing and X44 Vida Carbon Racing, for a place in the Final.
Timo Scheider and Tamara Molinaro proved instantly to be a great duo, making an instant impact by finishing on the podium for the first time. The former colleagues and now teammates secured XITE ENERGY Racing’s best-ever result when they finished second in Sardinia, and the pair have been confirmed as the team’s drivers for the rest of the season.
Their great start was interrupted in the Crazy Race at the NEOM Island X Prix II, where Molinaro ended up off course after the dust from a spin for Lance Woolridge in the Veloce car momentarily distracted her. This meant XITE were denied back-to-back Finals appearances.
The fight is as close in the back as it is in the front, with NEOM McLaren XE, Veloce Racing, and ABT CUPRA XE sitting in eighth, ninth, and tenth with nineteen, seven, and six points, respectively.
McLaren’s issues seem to be with carrying momentum through the weekend. The Season 2 rookies nearly had the debut of dreams in NEOM, Saudi Arabia, as Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour won the Crazy Race and secured a place in the Final. A nasty accident for Foust, however, denied them a win in their first race, although still setting high expectations for the following races. The first part of the Sardinia double-header never really took off for them, with a DNF in Qualifying 1 and another crash that prevented Gilmour from finishing the race just metres from the Start Line.
The team managed to rebuild the car and the papaya duo took on Qualifying in the second part of the double-header. Despite their damaged ODYSSEY 21, both drivers put in solid performances to secure a place in the Semi-Finals but failed to make it into the last race of the weekend.
With two rounds to go and just eight points between them and fifth place, McLaren will definitely be looking to end the season on a high note.
With a recovered Christine GZ back in action, Sardinia offered the Veloce duo of GZ and Lance Woolridge a shot at redemption. Double the racing meant double the points, and the team capitalised on this opportunity, moving off the bottom of the standings.
The Veloce duo suffered a difficult Qualifying which meant they had to battle it out in both Crazy Races with the Genesys Andretti United Extreme E team of Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen, which is where the drama began.
Woolridge went side-by-side with Munnings on the run down to the first turn, keeping her under pressure throughout the lap until the Veloce driver tried to squeeze his car down the inside of the Andretti over a jump, which tipped his ODYSSEY 21 into an unfortunate half spin.
As the first part of the Sardinia double-header neared its end, it was all smiles at the ABT CUPRA XE camp as it seemed as though they had secured their first Final appearance of Season 2.
However, a time penalty during the driver changes for completing the change before the minimum time followed by another penalty for hitting a waypoint flag dropped them to third in the race and ninth overall at the NEOM Island X Prix I.
Having missed the Semi-Finals in the previous events, the team was determined to progress, and they managed to do just that in the second round of the week. After a tense duel between ABT CUPRA’s Jutta Kleinschmidt and McLaren’s Emma Gilmour, the McLaren driver managed to defend her second place.
ABT CUPRA managed to climb up to the front of the final five after taking the preferred racing line. With the front five separated only by five seconds, ABT CUPRA’s Al-Attiyah began to pull away from Rosberg XE’s Johan Kristoffersson and X44’s Sébastien Loeb when, during the driver change, Jutta Kleinschmidt failed to properly buckle her seatbelt after taking over from Al-Attiyah. They finished in second place on the course, however, they were disqualified due to the seatbelt issue.
With just two races to go, the teams at the bottom of the standings will need to push hard in Chile this weekend to get the points they need to get ahead of their competition.