Last updated on March 14th, 2023 at 09:00 pm
The ACCIONA | SAINZ XE team chalked up its first Extreme E electric SUV racing win in Neom, Saudi Arabia to finish the weekend joint top on points with UK’s Veloce. The British team took second place on Sunday, with Rosberg X Racing (RXR) in third.
Laia Sanz, of the ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team, said: “”This victory is for all the people on the team because they truly deserve it for all the work we have done to be in this position, especially for Carlos Sainz. Today we can feel proud, but we must keep up the good work.” Her teammate Mattias Ekström added: “We had designed a strategy for the Grand Final and I executed it as well as I could. I am really happy that it turned out to be fruitful.” Team principal Carlos Sainz Snr. concluded: “I am really happy that the first victory of ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team is finally here because we have worked a lot of time to achieve it. Laia and Mattias were spectacular and they already showed that they are one of the strongest driver pairings in the Championship.”
This was the second race of the weekend, with the same three teams sharing the podium on Saturday but the top two reversed. RXR had originally crossed the finish line first on Saturday but were penalised 136 seconds for speeding in a yellow flag zone, dropping them to third.
After the Sunday victory, Molly Taylor of Veloce Racing, said: “It was a really cool weekend for us and a great way to start the new season!” Her teammate Kevin Hansen added: “It has been great to kick off the season like this and to get two podiums to start the year. It was a treat to start this way but there were the same three teams up there on the podium so we can expect all the others to improve as well before the next race and we need to do the same.”
As the inaugural racing weekend of the third Extreme E season, the Saudi Arabian event was the first to showcase the new double header format. This provided a much more intense two days of racing, with greater opportunities for points, more risk of failure, but also the ability to come back immediately from a bad day.
Clever driver strategy by ABT Cupra, for example, enabled the team to make the Grand Final on Sunday despite having the replacement Championship car after its own vehicle became inoperable on Saturday. ABT Cupra’s Nasser Al Attiyah was the only male driver for the first two laps in second qualifying, and he built a massive lead, which female teammate Klara Andersson was easily able to defend from the male competition after the switch to give the team its place in the Grand Final, where they came a tight fourth, just 0.558 seconds off the podium.
“The new format means there’s more racing which is a good thing and more fun for sure,” said Veloce’s Taylor. “We’ve seen how close everyone is. The teams that were on the podium were fast but there were plenty of teams that were also very fast and not on the podium.”
In Sunday’s Redemption Race, X44 Vida Carbon Racing topped the rankings, building an unassailable lead, having failed to finish in Saturday’s Grand Final. NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team was over ten seconds adrift in second, Andretti Altawkilat Extreme E 23 seconds further back, and Carl Cox Motorsport finished fourth after a roll from Christine GZ, who had been challenging the podium up to that point. JBXE also rolled but failed to complete the race.
Despite these events, Sunday’s action was a noticeably smoother affair than Saturday’s. The Saturday Grand Final had proven challenging, with both X44 Vida Carbon Racing and No.99 GMC HUMMER EV Chip Ganassi Racing unable to finish.
The Redemption Race was even more calamitous, with two crashes taking out both the ABT CUPRA XE and Andretti ALTAWKILAT Extreme E cars, and then JBXE coming to a halt with a technical issue. This left the NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team and Carl Cox Motorsport fighting for the win, with McLaren taking the spoils.
With the points spreading out between both Grand Final and Redemption Race, there will be plenty of opportunities for the teams that fared less well in Neom to improve. Season one champions and season two runners up RXR had a disappointing weekend after the demotion to third on Saturday.
Johan Kristoffersson, Rosberg X Racing, said: “It’s always nice to be on the podium but it’s never the nicest thing to cross the finish line first and not win!” His teammate Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky added: “We were happy to make it the Final. Johan made an amazing start but then I made a mistake in the slow zone.”
However, with four more double-headers to go, the standings are likely to shift a lot over the season. There will be plenty of opportunities for teams currently in the bottom half of the table to rise up the rankings over the coming months.
The next stop will be a local UK race in Scotland on 13-14 May. It’s sure to deliver more fast, furious, rough-riding electric SUV action.