Having launched its Drivers’ Programme back in September, Extreme E has today announced the latest batch of those declaring interest in competing in the pioneering electric SUV off-road racing series.
The second group of inductees into the programme includes; the first British competitor to win the Dakar Rally, Sam Sunderland; sportscar and DTM star Loïc Duval; former Formula E and Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok; young British single-seater racer Billy Monger; ABB FIA Formula E racers Jérôme d'Ambrosio, Daniel Abt, Antonio Felix da Costa, and Oliver Turvey; Japanese superbiker Takuma Aoki; GT driver James Rossiter; European Rally Champion Chris Ingram, and Hungarian rallycross and rallying heroes Krisztián Szabó and Zoltán Bessenyey.
Extreme E, which unveiled the Nepalese Himalayas as the fourth of its five locations last week, is set to break the mould in motorsport and entertainment with its E-SUVs racing across five of the world’s most remote and formidable environments that have already been affected by climate change or human interference. The goal: raising awareness, driving sustainability and inspiring action.
Billy Monger aims to play his part in achieving that goal. The 20-year-old Brit fought back from an horrific on-track accident in 2017 to make his return to motorsport and take an astonishing comeback victory just two years later. He has joined the Extreme E fold and feels highlighting climate action is a priority.
"Fighting climate change is incredibly important,” said Monger. “Everything we do now will affect future generations. It’s definitely a responsibility, and one that I can’t and won’t just ignore.
“The locations of Extreme E races are far from the public eye, and so they’re not the kind of place that most of us get to see day to day. Bringing attention to the impacts of human interference on these places to people who might not otherwise see it is an interesting concept - and the fact that people can learn about it whilst watching racing is really cool too.
“Knowing that the Extreme E legacy program is going to mean we leave the locations in a better place than we’ve found them is a massive draw too; it’s something that I would be really proud to be involved with.”
The spectacle of a leading global motorsport series, cutting-edge cars and world-class motorsport will be used by Extreme E to encourage change, and that’s key to former F1 and Formula E driver Karun Chandhok’s involvement.
“Extreme E is certainly going further outside the box in terms of the locations and the type of cars that will compete which will make it a very interesting challenge,” he said. “Of course, the series is highlighting environmental and climate change issues which are so important for us to address, especially with the younger generations in mind.
“I want to be able to take my kids to see greenery, clean rivers and snow-capped mountains in the future and that's not going to happen if the people worldwide keep burying their head in the sand.
“You only have to visit places like the Great Barrier Reef to understand very quickly what a problem climate change is at the moment. In a five-minute conversation with people out there you quickly realise that this is a real problem that needs to be actively dealt with on a global level.
“From a sporting side, it's appealing for someone like myself who's spent my career racing on asphalt to do something so far outside my comfort zone. The head-to-head format is very interesting and the ODYSSEY 21 looks wild! It should be a riot to drive.
“My dad took part in the Himalayan Rally in the mid 1980s in a Ford Escort and the pictures always looked amazing – I would love to follow in his footsteps and experience that for myself!”
Sam Sunderland is a rally raid biker and the 27-year-old became the first Brit to win the Dakar Rally in 2017. His CV looks perfectly tailored for the formidable challenges of Extreme E, even if he is more used to two wheels than four!
“There’s always a steep learning curve when jumping into a new form of motorsport, especially as all top racers have a huge desire to win. During my rally career, I have encountered almost every type of terrain you can imagine, which will be a big help when looking at Extreme E’s locations.
“Combining the racing challenge with bringing attention to global warming and endangered areas of the world is massive. These issues are important to everyone and affect everyone; it’s just that some people don’t quite see it yet and we have to show them. I’ve been lucky to see many corners of the world while racing and I would hate to think that the future generations wouldn’t be able to enjoy the same.”
The group joins earlier inductees into the Drivers’ Programme which already includes; multiple FIA World Rally Championship title-winner Sebastien Ogier; FIA World Rallycross frontrunners Andreas Bakkerud and Kevin and Timmy Hansen; double DTM champion and FIA World Rallycross driver Timo Scheider; W Series winner Jamie Chadwick and female racers Katherine Legge and Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky; 2016 ABB FIA Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi; 2014 Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr., fellow Formula E racer and Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer; and Former F1 and Formula E racer Bruno Senna and Sacha Prost - ice racer and the youngest son of Formula 1 legend Alain Prost.
Alejandro Agag, Founder of Extreme E, said: “The interest from top-level racing drivers from all disciplines, backgrounds and corners of the globe in joining Extreme E and being part of our odyssey in our inaugural campaign is extremely exciting.
“Any motor racing championship, and in-fact any new sporting prosposition, needs to provide compelling, high-quality competition and what we have so far achieved with Extreme E is vindicated by those that have signed up to be a part of our Drivers’ Programme.
“Aside from talking about their will to win, each of the drivers we have spoken to has shown a sincere and genuine will to immerse themselves in using the championship’s platform to make their own positive impact and raise awareness of the issues facing our planet. They all have a story to tell and a real personal investment in trying to generate change and drive sustainability.”
The Drivers’ Programme is designed to promote professional drivers and assist teams and prospective entries, with Venturi, ABT, Veloce Racing and HWA already signed up to the championship for the inaugural campaign, which gets underway in February 2021. Series organisers will recommend prospective competitors from its Drivers’ Programme to teams, however, if teams prefer, they will have the autonomy to select their own drivers from outside the pool.
Extreme E will be unveiling its final confirmed location very soon ahead of a provisional calendar unveil and further announcements on teams, drivers and partners ahead of lights-out on the inaugural season in February 2021.