Andretti United Extreme E keeps its cool to claim victory as Arctic X Prix reaches thrilling crescendo
Andretti United Extreme E came out on top after a titanic battle with championship leaders Rosberg X Racing during Extreme E’s first-ever five-car Final. The Arctic X Prix in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, provided non-stop action from Shakedown on Friday all the way through to the dying moments of the all-important Final.
After a thrilling opening round in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, and then an epic battle on the beach in Lac Rose, Dakar, Senegal, the pioneering racing series had a lot to live up to when it arrived in Greenland for the country’s first-ever motorsport event, and it certainly delivered the goods.
It was the ever-popular Andretti United Extreme E pairing of Timmy Hansen and Catie Munnings which claimed a sensational victory over event-long adversaries Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor who fell at the final hurdle, blowing the championship wide open in the process.
Timmy Hansen, Andretti United Extreme E said: “It feels awesome! It’s been a great afternoon and day! We’ve both had great races today and we had to work really hard for it. Catie [Munnings] did an amazing job both times. We both were involved in very close battles with the Rosberg X Racing car both times, it just feels incredible to be here.
“I think it (the course) was a good change (from yesterday) for the racing coming into today actually, it kept the grid very close and for a long time. So the course was good – it was getting very rutted in the narrow section and I had a couple of moments really on the limit in the Final and then I realised I had to back off a little bit and take it easy but yes it’s been a very fun track especially the second half because there are so many options.
“I’m really proud of Extreme E as a whole and of us coming here together, you know we are in the middle of nowhere in Greenland. Kangerlussuaq has I think 500 people living here and we arrived and everyone is doing their part. Pulling this massive event together is an incredible achievement and I think we are all the winners today.
“It’s the third race in a row where Kevin [Hansen] and I are on the podium, two times World Rallycross Championship and now Extreme E – that’s crazy!”
Catie Munnings, Andretti United Extreme E said: “I have literally no words for it. At the start of the weekend in Qualifying 1 we thought we’ll just go with it and see but we never imagined we’d come out on top so it’s a really special feeling. Timmy is a really incredible teammate, I learn so much from him, he’s such a good driver and obviously he always pulls it out of the bag so it’s really cool to be working alongside him.
“I loved the challenge of this course. I think it was really different to what we’ve seen before and a new challenge for the car as well. I think what was interesting was that it literally changed every time you saw it. Every car would chuck out massive rocks and so your line might not be there so it was a very spontaneous style of driving and I also found it very hard to judge what the correct speed was, you have to think a lot more especially if you’re the first driver. Credit to Sarrazin as well for sending it across the big rocks in the Semi-Final – I think that was one of my key moments of the weekend. Fair play, if that had been pulled off that would have been incredible.
“It’s the first motorsport event to come to Greenland so yeah it’s incredible that it’s at this level but I’m also really proud of how far we’ve come as a team especially from Senegal where we didn’t have a brilliant result so to come back now, it gives us a really good feeling going into the Island X Prix.”
The unforgiving Arctic X Prix course, combined with the series’ revised sporting format produced some of the most exciting racing yet with the 18 world-class drivers battling not only themselves, but the conditions and various track hazards en route to the finish line.
Adding an extra element of excitement to proceedings was the returning Super Sector, with the fastest driver over the course of the weekend earning themselves five extra points for the team. This weekend, it was eventual joint-winner Timmy Hansen who would also post the fastest time.
Extreme E’s first-ever five-car final was a mouth-watering prospect and the all-or-nothing showdown didn’t disappoint. A great start for Molly Taylor and Sébastien Loeb looked to set up the much-anticipated Rosberg X Racing vs X44 contest that fans had been waiting for. Catie Munnings had other ideas as the Brit used her Hyperdrive to snatch the lead. As she reached the first turn, the trio was three abreast with JBXE’s Kevin Hansen and ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team’s Carlos Sainz Snr. in hot pursuit.
Loeb seized the advantage as the pack raced through the single-file section of the course and past the lake. Munnings attempted to replicate her sensational move on Taylor from earlier in the day, as the pair were side by side through the Super Sector but the Australian would hang on to second as the field held station – albeit in tight formation – into the Switch Zone.
Disaster struck for the luckless X44 squad in the pits, discovering a puncture meaning the right rear wheel needed to be replaced. Loeb leapt into action along with his mechanic to get the job done but it would see the squad’s hard-earned 19-second advantage diminish to nothing.
Timmy Hansen in the Andretti United Extreme E machine emerged from the Switch Zone in the lead, closely followed by Johan Kristoffersson and Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, leaving Laia Sanz and Cristina Gutiérrez to go wheel-to-wheel for the final two positions.
Kristoffersson immediately began applying pressure to his fellow World Rallycross Champion and by the time the pair had reached the far corner, it was time for the Rosberg X Racing car to make its move. The 32-year-old went for the wide line into the turn while Hansen defended, inevitably providing him with better exit speed and enabling him to draw alongside his rival. The duo remained doorhandle-to-doorhandle as they executed several of the course’s larger jumps in similarly exuberant fashion.
The Andretti United Extreme E car would come away from the encounter unscathed, the same could not be said for Rosberg X Racing’s ODYSSEY 21 however, as Kristoffersson ground to a halt having landed too aggressively in his attempt to snatch the lead.
A calm and collected Hansen crossed the line first giving Andretti United Extreme E their first win in the series and putting an end to Rosberg X Racing’s dominant Final form in 2021. Åhlin-Kottulinsky kept Hansen honest to claim the runner-up spot, finishing just four seconds behind while Sanz and Sainz Snr. completed the podium with a brilliant comeback drive.
Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, JBXE: “With a 30-second penalty going into the Crazy Race knowing we had to win, it’s just incredible to be here. I had so much adrenalin watching Kevin racing – it’s such a great course and I’ve been very impressed.
“We are all living in this world and we all want to make a great future so I think closing your eyes to what’s happening is not the right way. We all have to be open to see what is happening to the world and that is why Extreme E is trying new technologies and new ways to improve, we are all in this together and we all have to do this right. I think the fact that it is raining here in Greenland is as unusual as it would be in the desert and seeing how much rain we actually had this weekend is devastating so you can’t just close your eyes to it.
“I’d say the tough part was the different surfaces around the track and I’m speaking about the Rock Garden – that was very challenging. I think it’s really fun to have the mix of male and female, I was behind the guys and I was thinking I just have to do my best. It’s so fun to race against them and I was thinking when I saw Johan’s [Kristoffersson] jump I thought that is not going to end well, it was a big jump.”
Kevin Hansen, JBXE: “We didn’t really think we were going to get through as Ganassi were very strong and XITE so from grid place 2 with a 30-second penalty it wasn’t very realistic but after the first stint we were leading, Mikaela made a great start and we had a great opportunity. When Ganassi stopped, I felt that there is something on the table for me to grab and on that last lap I put it all out there and I think I did one of my better laps and did everything I really wanted to do out there, in the end we got it so that was pretty amazing.
“I was really emotional after the Semi-Final, I think you could hear it in my voice, when it’s something really impossible and you pull it off the feeling is amazing. I got on the radio and the gap was shrinking all the time and the lap was amazing and I pushed 100 per cent and to get it in the end was incredible. I celebrate a lot and I show my emotions just like my mum.
“I think the people that ignore global warming are actually the problem, they don’t understand that we have to do even harder work, it’s a crucial time in the world and we all have to continue sharing our story and show everything that we have seen. To be here is pretty life-changing.
“I think it’s one of the most fun parts of the weekend to go to these amazing locations and to actually experience the Legacy Programmes. When I go to a rallycross race, I just go to the location and I race and hopefully get a one-two with my brother, but to come here and see what it is actually around is so so nice – to see the reality of the world. We all hide in our bubbles but to actually go to the tough places and see the suffering is really important.”
Carlos Sainz Snr., ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team: “I am very happy with the team’s first podium in Extreme E. This Sunday maybe we had luck on our side that we were missing in the previous events, but luck always tends to balance itself out. We are very pleased, but we know that we have to keep improving because the Championship is getting tighter and the two remaining X Prix events will be very tough.”
Laia Sanz, ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team: “I am very pleased with this result and very happy for the team and for Carlos. The start of the weekend wasn’t easy at all, because we had a technical issue in Free Practice that was beyond our control and I didn’t feel comfortable on Saturday during Qualifying, but today I felt an improvement and I am very happy with the result we achieved in the Final.”
- Andretti United Extreme E (Timmy Hansen / Catie Munnings) 2 laps
- JBXE(Kevin Hansen / Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky) +4.159s
- ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team (Carlos Sainz Snr. / Laia Sanz) +22.866s
- X44(Sébastien Loeb / Cristina Gutiérrez) +27.914s
- Rosberg X Racing(Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor) +1:01.005s
The first of Saturday’s wheel-to-wheel contests – hailed by Extreme E commentator Andrew Coley as the ‘best race of the season’ – was packed to the rafters with thrilling action right from the off. Before the start lights had even gone green the heavens opened, giving the series its first-ever wet race.
Extreme E newcomer Emma Gilmour seized the early advantage down to the first corner with an audacious move around the outside of Gutiérrez. After dispensing with the X44 car, Sainz Snr. was hot on the Kiwi’s heels and tactfully utilised his HyperDrive to snatch the lead as the trio headed into the single file section of the course.
The Veloce Racing car would hold off the advances of Gutiérrez for the remainder of the lap as Sainz Snr. streaked into a seemingly unassailable lead. As the ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team car headed for the driver Switch zone, the gap to Veloce Racing was over 12 seconds and a further five back to X44.
The trio left the pits with Laia Sanz leading the way followed by Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Loeb respectively. The duelling Frenchmen battled it out in the opening stages of the lap before Loeb made an inspired overtake, diving through on the inside of what was previously known as the ‘single file’ lake section.
The nine-time World Rally Champion then began carving seconds out of Sanz’s lead. As the pack arrived at the back end of the course, Loeb expertly used his HyperDrive to make his way into the lead.
The drama wasn’t over yet, however, as Sarrazin closed in on the leading pair and opted for an alternate line through the treacherous Rock Garden, catapulting the Veloce Racing car from third to first with an excellent undercut.
Unfortunately, the elation was short-lived, as the #5 car slowed with a broken steering arm, handing the two Final-qualifying spots back to X44 and ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team respectively.
Following on from a thrilling first race of the day, Semi-Final 2 backed it up with yet more wheel-to-wheel action. A flat-out run to turn one saw Kristoffersson lead the pack through the uphill section followed by Hansen and ABT CUPRA XE’s Jutta Kleinschmidt.
Hansen began to apply pressure to the Rosberg X Racing car as they approached the lake, he was rewarded for his efforts with an uncharacteristic mistake from Kristoffersson who hit a track marker earning himself a 10-second penalty.
The Andretti United Extreme E driver wanted to get the job done on course, however and went side-by-side through the Super Sector to take the lead and duly used his HyperDrive to open up a gap.
By the time the duo had reached the Rock Garden, Kristoffersson had closed up the gap once more. Never to be outwitted, the Rosberg X Racing driver pulled a surprise outbreaking manoeuvre to lead heading into the Switch Zone.
As the pack left the pits, it became apparent that all was not well with the ABT CUPRA XE car. A broken driveshaft meant Mattias Ekström was unable to make any significant progress on his lap.
With no pressure from behind, Taylor and Munnings picked up from where Kristoffersson and Hansen left off as the pair locked horns on the far side of the course. A wide line for the Australian heading on to the back straight left the door open for Munnings to nip past and seal the victory from Taylor and Ekström.
The Crazy Race
The aptly named Crazy Race saw drama before the drivers had even reached the grid with the JBXE squad receiving a 30-second penalty due to excess tyre use that would be taken during the driver switch.
With that in mind, Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky was on a mission and took control of the race from the outset with SEGI TV Chip Ganassi Racing’s Sara Price and XITE ENERGY RACING powered by myenergi’s Christine GZ not far behind.
Following a sensational move from Christine GZ to move her up into second position, Price set about regaining the place. In doing so, the American suffered from a loss of steering after landing too harshly from one of the course’s steep jumps and ended her day on the sidelines.
As the remaining duo headed for the Switch Zone, Åhlin-Kottulinsky had built a small buffer to GZ. Bennett took over and was swiftly back out on track while Kevin Hansen waited for the 30-seconds to tick away.
Once released, Hansen was on the prowl. Clipping a track marker in the process of reducing a 22-second deficit down to under 10 seconds. Before the World Rallycross Winner could reach him, Bennett had slowed to a stop, having hit the front of his car while landing from a jump. That enabled Hansen to bring home the victory and book the last slot in the grand Final.
With the Arctic X Prix having reached its conclusion, the Extreme E paddock will be loaded onto the St Helena, and set sail for Sardinia, Italy (23/24 October) for the fourth round of 2021.
- Rosberg X Racing (Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor) 93 points
- X44 (Sébastien Loeb / Cristina Gutiérrez) 84 points
- Andretti United Extreme E (Timmy Hansen / Catie Munnings) 76 points
- JBXE (Jenson Button / Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky) 68 points
- ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team (Carlos Sainz / Laia Sanz) 61 points
- ABT CUPRA XE (Mattias Ekström / Jutta Kleinschmidt) 54 points
- Veloce Racing (Stéphane Sarrazin / Emma Gilmour)49 points
- XITE ENERGY RACING powered by myenergi (Oliver Bennett / Christine GZ) 47 points
- SEGI TV Chip Ganassi Racing (Kyle LeDuc / Sara Price) 40 points