Two new winners at Season 3 opener hints at closest championship yet
Veloce Racing and ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team claimed their maiden Extreme E victories at the Desert X Prix in NEOM, Saudi Arabia, last weekend.
Both teams have set the benchmark for the year ahead, which could prove to be the most competitive season yet in the series, with several teams showing signs of challenging for wins in 2023.
Having claimed just one podium from their first two Extreme E campaigns, for Veloce Racing the Desert X Prix in NEOM was the culmination of a remarkable turnaround.
Having finished 2022 tenth in the overall standings, the British outfit top the Extreme E standings at the end of the first X Prix double-header having taken a debut victory and a deserved second place from their desert excursions in Saudi Arabia.
For drivers Molly Taylor and Kevin Hansen, their start to life at Veloce Racing could not have been much stronger.
Molly Taylor, Veloce Racing, said: “As weekends go it couldn’t have gone much better. Everyone in the team has done such a great job and I don’t think I have ever had so much fun along the way.
“A victory, a double podium and being inside the top two in every session is not easy to achieve, particularly in this championship, so we can all be delighted with the performance and look forward to the rest of the season.”
The duo made their debuts for Veloce Racing at the Season 2 finale in Punta del Este, Uruguay, where they became the first team outside of X44 Vida Carbon Racing and Rosberg X Racing (RXR) to finish as top Qualifier.
It is evident that such momentum has been carried into the 2023, with the team aiming to ensure their success in Saudi Arabia is not a flash in the pan.
Kevin Hansen, Veloce Racing, said: “We have shown that we can lead from the front, but we can also go wheel-to-wheel for position, as both Molly and I have made up places during the weekend. Both of us believe so much in what the engineers and mechanics are doing, so we feel so safe when we get in the car. We believe in what we are going to drive, and I think that is also giving some results.
“We know we have the right package in place, and we look forward to taking this confidence to Scotland in May.”
Taylor added: “I've obviously been out of the car for a little while – so you need confidence in yourself that you can deliver. But the team have been so supportive and brilliant at bringing the best out of every aspect that we look into.
“Our Team Principal Luc [Alphand] knows what it takes to win. Having that faith in someone like that, who's got the scores on the board, who knows what you're feeling, and knows how to translate that into results, I think that's a real advantage for us.”
ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team join Veloce Racing at the head of the Extreme E Season 3 standings with their debut win in Round 2 at the first X Prix of the year.
Although a contender throughout their time in Extreme E, their maiden victory had been elusive up until the second leg in NEOM, where Laia Sanz and new team-mate Mattias Ekström crossed the line first to secure that long awaited win.
Having been so close to victory on a number of occasions, Sanz and Ekström hope that this victory will take the team from front-runner to championship contender in the series.
Although unable to drive for the team currently due to injury, the Spanish outfit still has talismanic Carlos Sainz Snr. in their corner this term.
Laia Sanz, ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team, said: "Finally! I think we did a great job. Not only this weekend, but these two years with Carlos [Sainz Snr.] and all the team. I think he really deserved this win and they deserve this win and I'm super happy also with Mattias [Ekström] who has helped me so much and played a huge part in the good results in Saudi Arabia.
“This victory is for all the people on the team because they truly deserve it for all the work we have done to be in this position, especially for Carlos. I learned so much with him as my teammate and it is fantastic that he is with us here, helping us and giving advice.
"Look how difficult it was to get to the Final that we won, though. For us, it was really close. We felt we were strong throughout but then you can see the other teams performing well and being strong – it will be a long season.
“We can feel proud, but we must keep up the good work. To win the championship we need to avoid big mistakes.”
Mattias Ekström, ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team, said: “It's always great to be racing and to be on the podium, but I think this one is a little different. It was a late c-all for me to join the team, and I'm really happy that Carlos [Sainz Snr.] called me and trusted me to step in for him.
“During the weekend, when you are not driving, it can be difficult to keep looking at data and finding the motivation throughout the days to look for details. But Carlos can do the same thing five times and he never get bored. He can repeat, repeat, repeat – that’s so impressive and crucial to our performance as a team.
“We have had strong pace so far this season, though, with two very positive days of racing. We can be happy with a lot of things in this championship to date.”
Such strong weekends from the aforementioned debut winners have indicated just how competitive it will be in Season 3, and that X44 Vida Carbon Racing and RXR may not have it all their own way in their pursuit of a second Extreme E championship.
The pioneering series now looks towards its next race weekend in Scotland (13-14 May), which will be just as closely fought as the opening round in the desert of Saudi Arabia.