Extreme E E-SUV and Ken Block prepped for maiden Dakar Rally outing

Legendary off-road racer and YouTube star Ken Block is all-set for his first on-stage outing in an electric race car, as he prepares to take the wheel of Extreme E’s E-SUV as a guest of the A.S.O., in the final stage of the 2020 Dakar Rally today, Friday 17 January.

The American arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday (16 January) and wasted no time in strapping into the ODYSSEY 21, to set up, shake down and get to know the cutting-edge E-SUV ahead of the Grand Prix of Qiddiya – the special stage that completes the gruelling twelve day, 7000+ kilometre event which tests man and machine to the limits across harsh desert terrains.

“It’s my first time driving an electric race car, first time in Saudi Arabia and first time I’m driving in the Dakar Rally – it’s a lot of firsts for me and I get to figure it all out today!” said Block, whose viral Gymkhana video series has topped 550 million views. 

“My whole career’s been spent driving combustion-engined cars with turbochargers – the type of driving there with left-foot braking and the spool of the turbo to try and get drive out of corners is entirely different. 

“Here, you can be more progressive with the throttle and wait a little longer because the torque is there the second you get on the throttle – the thing just wants to leap forward. I’m having to tone down my style a little as the car reacts so quickly and the power delivery is so fast.”

The ODYSSEY 21 was invited by Dakar Rally organisers to take part in the Grand Prix of Qiddiya finale of the legendary 7000-kilometre endurance event’s 2020 iteration, and will run in support of Dakar’s commitment to alternative energy vehicle participation in future editions. 

The stage itself is an unforgiving mix of surfaces ranging from sand to rocks and boulders which will no doubt prove a formidable challenge for the Extreme E E-SUV at a relatively early stage in its development cycle.

Block continued: “It’s been incredibly fun – I’m enjoying myself. Going 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds, despite the size of the vehicle and being on dirt, the ODYSSEY 21 is really impressive. Seeing performance and acceleration similar to the smaller cars I usually race is the most exciting thing for me.

“It’s obviously had a lot of testing work and set-up work go into it already. To get the car feeling as far down the line as it does at this stage of its development is pretty incredible, and it has surprised me – it’s much further along than I’d anticipated. 

“The development process is always incredibly taxing, from the initial design to the thousands and thousands of miles needed to get the car ready to race. Spark and Extreme E, and its partners, have done a fantastic job so far. There’s a lot of refinement to come but the potential is huge. The door-to-door, head-to-head racing is going to be extremely exciting.

“Saudi Arabia’s stunningly beautiful, too. There’s an amazing desert landscape just half an hour from the capital, Riyadh. I’m so stoked to be here for this event and I’ve been so impressed by this whole experience. I’m very happy to be here.”

Since the turn of the year, the ODYSSEY 21 has been put through its paces throughout an intensive development programme in Saudi Arabia. 

Théophile Gouzin, Technical Director of Spark Racing Technology – the company building the series’ pioneering E-SUV – says an invaluable amount of information has been learned.

“We took the decision really late to be here for the Dakar, so it’s been quite a process getting set up in the desert – learning how exactly to transport the car, where to drive it and dealing with the development programme itself,” said Gouzin. 

On Block being the driver to take ODYSSEY 21 out for its first ‘on-stage’ outing at an event of the Dakar Rally’s stature, Gouzin added: “He’s a serious guy who competes at the very top of our sport, and he’s someone perfectly suited to helping us develop the ODYSSEY 21 on-stage here at the Dakar Rally.”

Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Extreme E, said: “We’re all very excited to see the Extreme E E-SUV taking on the final stage of the prestigious Dakar Rally. 

“On behalf of the whole team here at Extreme E, I would like to personally thank Ken Block for making the journey to join us out here for this historic moment in our series’ development. We are all behind him and hope he fully enjoys his first electric car outing. We’re confident it won’t be his last!”