Rosberg X Racing teammates Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor reigned supreme once more at Extreme E’s second event in Lac Rose, Dakar, Senegal (29/30 May) with the ever-impressive duo overcoming intense pressure from their adversaries to be crowned winners of the first-ever Ocean X prix.
The pioneering electric SUV, off-road racing series backed up its dramatic curtain-raising Desert X Prix at the beginning of April by delivering even more spectacular moments and overtakes against the stunning backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.
It was low tide but high drama in the grand final with two of the four cars retiring at the first corner, that left Rosberg X Racing to extend their championship lead and Veloce Racing to snatch a surprise result, bouncing back from their disastrous Desert X Prix.
The tight and technical Ocean X Prix course was a hit with the all-star field of Extreme E drivers and yielded close racing and several options for alternate routes which were deployed throughout the two days of competition.
It was Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle LeDuc that took the Super Sector title, earning an extra five points for his team setting the fastest time of 1m50.891s - 1.289 seconds ahead of X44’s Sébastien Loeb.
Nico Rosberg, Founder and CEO of Rosberg X Racing, said: “I’m so happy for us as a team to have won in Extreme E for the second time. Two out of two – wow!!
“You know, it’s not to be underestimated the challenge that was out there this weekend. It’s so difficult because no one really understands the cars properly, as you don’t get a chance to test them. So, you have to guess and figure things out – as a team, we’re really trying to bring a Formula One approach to Extreme E here which is really helping us a team to perform. It’s been an amazing team effort, we just kept building it up through the weekend. And it’s so cool as well that in AlUla, it was Johan that very much did it at the start and Molly followed on, but today it’s Molly that made the magic in the final and then Johan brought it home – such a brilliant dynamic which really underlines the topic of equality which is one of the things that this championship is based on - that’s fantastic to see.
“The race format here has been a big step forward from AlUla in terms of development for race excitement – but it’s still early stages and there’s still a way to go. One needs to analyse again, and I think we keep on seeing more and more glimpses of such awesome motor racing and this will continue to evolve into a super spectacle the more we go on. Remember, nobody’s ever done this before, and you have to be openminded and accept that you are going to learn and make it more and more exciting each time.
“I love this whole championship and being in the role of team principal - I’m still as competitive as hell even though I’m not actually driving.. Anyway, we have the two best drivers in the car who are doing a much better job than I could - and I couldn’t be happier!”
Drama unfolded before the first corner in the Ocean X prix grand Final as GridPlay winners Veloce Racing opted to start on the third grid slot, but the advantage was quickly lost as Stéphane Sarrazin was squeezed out at the first gate dropping back to last position.
JBXE’s Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky picked up rear-wheel damage before she even reached the first corner and inevitably was forced to retire the car, as was Cristina Gutiérrez in the X44 car who came to blows with the Rosberg X Racing ODYSSEY 21 – in an incident reminiscent of the two Formula 1 World Champions on-track disputes in 2016 – at turn one and ended her day on the sidelines.
Molly Taylor and Sarrazin were therefore left to duke it out for the lead, with the Frenchman closing the gap throughout the lap and ending his stint hot on the heels of the 2016 Australian Rally Champion.
To ensure officials could safely clear the stricken X44 and JBXE cars, a brief red flag was deployed, as the intense battle for the lead was put on hold whilst the drivers made their way into the switch zone.
A standing start restart was initiated as Jamie Chadwick and Johan Kristoffersson prepared for an all or nothing, one-lap showdown.
A close-fought drag race down to the first gate ended with light contact between the two ODYSSEY 21s handing Kristoffersson the advantage. Once he had reached the technical section of the course, the three-time FIA World Rallycross Champion began to stretch his legs opening up a 15-second advantage to win Rosberg X Racing’s second Extreme E X prix in succession.
Molly Taylor, Rosberg X Racing driver, said: “It’s so fantastic to have won today! Coming here, it felt like we had a lot of work to do over the weekend, and it certainly didn’t come easy, but with every session we just kept our heads down and just saw where we needed to improve, and everything totally paid off in the end.
“It’s difficult to predict anything in Extreme E even when you have the best laid plan, but the team was awesome, and Johan really did a phenomenal job too.
“Obviously, we didn’t get to choose our grid position for the final, so we were where we were and that for me was on the inside, so it was all about trying to get the track position - I really just tried to get that established as early as I could and then hold onto it. It’s a steep bank and pretty tight coming into turn one, and as I went through, I made some contact, but this is close racing and that can happen.
“A really huge thanks to the team who did an incredible job and to Johan, equally incredible.
“I’m just really delighted to have won and it’s been an amazing weekend!”
Johan Kristoffersson, Rosberg X Racing driver, said: “I’m super happy to be Extreme E winners for the second time! Molly executed everything perfectly, she did an amazing job taking care of the traffic in her lap - I was really impressed with that. The team also did a fantastic job, I have to say a big thanks to them for bringing me and Molly up to speed over the weekend, as we really weren’t the fastest coming into this event but in the end, we were quick where we needed to be and got good starts, so we couldn’t wish for more than that. It’s very important as well to keep the car in one piece as you get heavily penalised if you aren’t able to finish a race – so that in itself can be challenging as the racing is close here and there’s always the possibility of contact plus of course there’s the terrain which is hard on the cars – but it all makes for a great spectacle which is great.
“When I got in the car for the standing start for the final, the steering was a little bit off, so when I hit hyperdrive early on, it was a struggle to hold on to it - unfortunately this led to a bit of contact with Jamie which was not intentional at all. But from there on, the car was working really well, and I could do what I needed to do. And here we are as winners - happy Days!”
Jamie Chadwick, Veloce Racing driver, said: “Honestly I’ve just really enjoyed the weekend. We went into the weekend with a bit of a plan, we needed the track time, the car wasn’t where we needed it to be at the beginning and I think we lacked a bit of seat time so our pace wasn’t outright quickest so we just focussed on our plan.
“This is very different to driving single seaters and I’m constantly learning and I can’t really underestimate that but I think everyone is, it’s new for everyone. I’m really really enjoying the challenge and I think the coolest thing for me this weekend was I nearly had the chance to be racing wheel to wheel with the likes of Sébastien Loeb and Johan Kristoffersson. To ever have thought that was going to happen is crazy.
“I think Extreme E’s such a crazy crazy championship that to take P2 with the alternate strategy was great. A massive, massive thanks to the team, I’m so grateful we’ve managed to get through the weekend and get a podium.
“Over the next three months we will be pushing hard to train, and Greenland will present a new challenge. I want to be able to jump in anything and be quick.”
Stéphane Sarrazin, Veloce Racing driver, said: “This weekend the plan was to really not make any mistakes. We’ve improved the set-up of the car run-by-run and we need milage, we need to learn the car, and the team do also. We are happy, it’s just amazing.”
“To improve during the weekend we had to look at the various lines and improve the car and in the end we found a really good line. This stage was really good as we found a different line to overtake.”
Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, JBXE driver said: “Overall performance has improved greatly session by session working with Kevin has been really good. It’s a shame to just make it to Turn 1 of course in the Final, but to end in P3, we are happy with that.
“The first contact at the start really hurt us, after that I felt the car was really slowing down, after a few hundred metres I heard a big noise and then it was almost impossible to drive but I tried to take it as far as possible which gave us P3 in the end.
“I would say we found a much better setting for how we want the car to perform. Kevin and I have quite similar driving styles, so we want the car to be quite similar in handling and that’s the way we’ve developed the car in each session, so I think it’s that work that made us feel comfortable in the end, and when you feel comfortable and you can rely on the car, that’s when you can push and be quick.
“Jenson [Button] has approved our performance this weekend so he’s super happy for us.”
Kevin Hansen, JBXE driver said: “I think Mikaela and I have been a really good duo this weekend!
“I didn’t have any expectations coming into the event, I just knew we had to work really hard to be competitive and I think we have done that. For the past twelve days we have known we are going to race together, and the team has done a great job to make progress with the car. It was kind of a rough start for them in AlUla so coming here was almost like starting over so I am really happy to have helped them this weekend and, in the end, to get a podium which has been really good. Sometimes it’s about the few hundredths in the races to get a win or a podium and today was about getting the car as far as possible after a problem.
“We are all super happy to go home from this weekend with some trophies! Next stop is Greenland – I’ve no idea at the moment whether I will be driving in that race yet but I’m certainly ready for more races and I’m ready for a seat full time if the opportunity comes – hopefully I’ve proved myself this weekend and would be super happy to continue!”
With the tide coming in on a spectacular Ocean X Prix, the Extreme E fraternity will return to the championship’s floating paddock – the St Helena – and head north to Greenland for the Artic X Prix on 28/29 August.
- Rosberg X Racing (Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor) 2 laps
- Veloce Racing (Stéphane Sarrazin / Jamie Chadwick) +14.676s
- JBXE (Kevin Hansen / Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky) DNF
- X44 (Sébastien Loeb / Cristina Gutiérrez) DNF
Last but not least, the Semi-Final featuring the fastest three teams from yesterday’s qualifying did not disappoint. Mattias Ekström aboard the e-CUPRA ABT XE1 utilised the third grid slot to get the all-important holeshot and, with the flat, damp sand running along the sea underneath him, scampered up the road and into an early lead.
Meanwhile, Rosberg X Racing ace Johan Kristoffersson pulled off a move similar to his Saudi Arabian Turn One switchback overtake as he swept around the outside of X44’s Sébastien Loeb and the pair began to hunt down Ekström.
Coming into the last section of corners, the trio were separated by less than two seconds as they dived into the switch zone nose to tail. The driver swap spelled disaster for then-race leaders ABT CUPRA XE as weekend stand-in Jutta Kleinschmidt was slow away from the box, leaving X44’s Cristina Gutiérrez and Rosberg X Racing’s Molly Taylor in a drag race down to Turn One with the Australian snatching the advantage before entering the tight and twisty wooded section.
Try as she might, Gutiérrez was unable to overhaul Taylor despite an inspired attempt to pass with an alternate line over the ‘Moguls’. Rosberg X Racing led them home with X44 claiming the other spot in the final and ABT CUPRA XE were left wondering where it all went wrong.
The middle three qualifiers were all hungry for a place in the final as they lined up on the grid. JBXE’s Kevin Hansen followed up an impressive Saturday with a sensational start to get ahead of the duelling Jamie Chadwick and Oliver Bennett.
The XITE ENERGY RACING powered by myenergi driver got alongside the W Series Champion on the exit of Turn One but Chadwick was having none of it, masterfully defending to hang on to P2. It didn’t last, however, as a malfunctioning pit limiter for the Veloce Racing car handed Bennett the advantage in the closing stages of the lap.
At the driver swap, Hansen passed the reigns over to Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky who hopped in with a healthy 25-second lead, an advantage she held and even extended crossing the line with nearly half a minute in hand over her rivals.
Further back, Stéphane Sarrazin and Christine GZ were now behind the wheels of their respective ODYSSEY 21s and still locked in combat. The French racer got his elbows out, muscling his way into P2, all the while with the persistent pit limiter issue keeping Veloce team personnel on tenterhooks back at the Command Centre. JBXE and Veloce Racing progressed to the Final putting pay to their respective Desert X Prix events.
A Shoot Out for the ages saw three top-drawer teams face off in spectacular fashion. Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing, Andretti United Extreme E and ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team all endured difficult Saturdays with mechanical gremlins plaguing their qualifying runs.
Timmy Hansen stole the advantage into the first corner with Sara Price and Carlos Sainz in hot pursuit. The matador patiently waited for his opportunity and wrestled the lead away from Hansen before entering the switch zone.
At the driver swap, Laia Sanz ran into trouble failing to successfully connect her communications cable. Nonetheless, Sanz re-joined in the lead and looked to have the edge but Kyle LeDuc had other ideas. The 39-year-old fired out of the switch zone in third place but quickly set about closing the gap to the top two.
LeDuc showed his mettle by slicing through the gap to Catie Munnings and claiming second place, followed quickly by a spectacular move on Sanz to claim victory in the Shoot Out.
With the Desert X Prix now done-and-dusted, the cars will be loaded back onto the St. Helena – Extreme E’s floating centrepiece – to set sail for Lac Rose in Senegal, the setting for the Ocean X Prix on 29/30 May.
- Rosberg X Racing(Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor) 71 points
- X44(Sébastien Loeb / Cristina Gutiérrez) 57 points
- JBXE(Jenson Button / Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky) 44 points
- Andretti United Extreme E(Timmy Hansen / Catie Munnings) 37 points
- XITE ENERGY RACING(Oliver Bennett / Christine GZ) 37 points
- ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team(Carlos Sainz / Laia Sanz) 36 points
- ABT Cupra XE(Mattias Ekström / Claudia Hürtgen) 35 points
- Veloce Racing(Stéphane Sarrazin / Jamie Chadwick) 31 points
- Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing(Kyle LeDuc / Sara Price) 30 points