Nico Rosberg’s RXR team have won their second Extreme E Championship, as Season 3 drew to a close in Chile. After an action-packed weekend, only one car crossed the line unbroken in the last Grand Final of the weekend.
RXR won the first season quite decisively in 2021 in Dorset. This season’s final weekend began with five teams technically capable of claiming the trophy. ACCIONA SAINZ and RXR had the biggest chances, but Veloce, GMC Hummer EV Chip Ganassi Racing and X44 Vida Carbon Racing, who won Season 2, all had slim hopes of victory.
The weekend got off to an encouraging start for Veloce, finishing top in the first round of Qualifying 1, and Qualifying 2 looked promising with Molly Taylor taking an initial lead, and again after a red flag. But then damage ended in a DNF. Fortunately, two other DNFs in the same heat handed Veloce a place in the Grand Final.
X44 Vida Carbon Racing placed first and second in their heats, securing them a place in the Grand Final. ACCIONA SAINZ retired in Qualifying 1 but won Qualifying 2. With further DNFs in this heat, ACCIONA SAINZ’s strong Continental Traction Challenge time was enough to put them through too. RXR’s win in Qualifying 2 also put them through. This meant that four out of the five title contenders were in the Grand Final, with only No. 99 GMC Hummer EV Chip Ganassi Racing relegated to the Redemption race and out of contention.
It looked like a cracking first Grand Final of the weekend was in store. Even Veloce had managed to fix their car and made it to the starting line. Struggling with dehydration during the day, Kevin Hansen had also recovered enough to be at the wheel. Unfortunately, neither he nor his car made it much further, as the car failed to get off the line, and just rolled forward a short distance to record a DNF instead of a DNS, securing 10 points.
That left four cars to juke it out. In the end, the battle was between the two top contenders, who finished just 0.35 seconds apart. Acciona Sainz had the upper hand in the first half, but massive dust clouds in the air meant Laia Sanz released late from the Switch Zone, giving Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky of RXR the lead, which she brought home after a titanic struggle.
X44 Vida Carbon took the final podium slot with NEOM McLaren placing fourth. These results meant that going into the Round 10 races on Sunday, only RXR and Acciona Sainz were still in contention. But with only six points to separate the top teams, there was everything to race for with either team.
Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, Rosberg X Racing, said: “I just tried to keep it tidy and keep Laia [Sanz] behind, but it was tight racing. Johan had a great start, and it was a great team effort.” Johan Kristoffersson, Rosberg X Racing, said: “It was a great race between me and Mattias [Ekström]. I really enjoyed that battle.” Laia Sanz, ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team, said: “It’s a bitter sweet feeling after the Grand Final because the victory was really close and we were unlucky in the driver switch because all of a sudden there was a sand storm. That’s where I lost first place.
Despite the Championship becoming a two-horse race, qualifying on the second day remained competitive. Acciona Sainz topped the rounds, putting them into strong contention in the Grand Final, which also cut RXR’s lead to five points due to the extra point awarded for winning their Qualifying 1 heat.
Although RXR finished second and third in their qualifying heats, it was just enough to get through to the Grand Final, thanks to a quicker time than No. 99 GMC Hummer EV Chip Ganassi Racing. Veloce placed second and first in their qualifying heats, providing a Grand Final place. NEOM McLaren and X44 Vida Carbon took the remaining two slots.
The ensuing Grand Final can only be described as carnage. Acciona Sainz knew they would have to place top to be certain of winning the Championship. If they came third or lower, RXR could come last and still gain the trophy.
The race got off to a good start, with Acciona Sainz’s Mattias Ekström taking the initial lead, while RXR’s Johan Kristoffersson ended last with everything to do. As he made his way back through the pack, Kristoffersson ended up on two wheels after hitting a bank, managed the save of the day, but ended up limping round with a flat tyre afterwards.
But Veloce’s Kevin Hansen was on the charge and entered the Switch Zone very close to Acciona Sainz’s Mattias Ekström. McLaren’s Tanner Foust failed to slow enough for the Switch Zone and after colliding with the X44 Vida Carbon car, his team’s race was over. The X44 car was also hobbled by the impact and limped round the track after the changeover.
As soon as she exited the Switch Zone, Veloce’s Molly Taylor triggered her ENOWA Hyperdrive, which gives the Odyssey 21 extra power. This took her past Acciona Sainz’s Laia Sanz, creating a titanic struggle between the two for the lead as Sanz tried to regain the place. A light collision led to a spin for Sanz, which she recovered from, but then her car went off the track and sustained damage, which led to a roll that took her out of the race entirely.
Meanwhile RXR had come into the pit for a tyre change, then continued round at least a lap down. The damage was greater than a flat tyre, though, and soon Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky was struggling to control her car, slowing to a crawl. But control her car she did, eventually passing X44 and the overturned Acciona Sainz car to claim one of the most bizarre second places in motor racing history, and along with it the Championship. X44 Vida Carbon Racing placed third, also crossing the finish line in virtual slow motion.
Four minutes earlier, Veloce had stormed across the line for a faultless win, tinged by the bittersweet consideration of what might have been had the previous day gone better. This ensured third place in the Championship behind Acciona Sainz.
Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, RXR, said: “Winning the 2023 Extreme E Championship is a dream come true. It was neck to neck all season with ASXE, but I'm just so happy and speechless right now. This championship is a powerful reminder that with passion and perseverance, anything is achievable.” Johan Kristoffersson, RXR, said: “After an intense season, winning the Extreme E Championship for a second time is incredible. ASXE put up an impressive fight this season, and I enjoyed every minute of the battles. I want to dedicate this win to Kyle LeDuc, who sadly passed away recently and who we will miss racing against.”
Of their race win, Molly Taylor of Veloce Racing, said: “It feels amazing to end the season with a victory here in Chile. While it stung to fall short of a maiden Extreme E title, our campaign this year has been so strong and we will be riding this momentum into 2024.” Her teammate Kevin Hansen added: “This is the perfect end to such a great season with the team. We had a frustrating time in Round 9 where we fell out of contention for the Extreme E title despite showing race winning pace, but I'm so happy we could repay the team with what is our third victory this year.”
Season 4 of Extreme E begins in Saudi Arabia on 17th and 18th of February. This will be the final season of Extreme E before it transitions to become the world’s first hydrogen-powered motor racing series, Extreme H.