FIA Junior WRC driver Catie Munnings joins Extreme E Drivers' Programme

Catie Munnings poses for a portrait during Red Bull Day2Day photoshoot in St. Etienne, France, on March 5, 2019

 FIA Junior World Rally Championship driver Catie Munnings has signed up to to the Extreme E Drivers’ Programme, joining a growing list of top talent vying for a seat in the revolutionary electric off-road racing series’ inaugural season, set to get underway early next year.

The 22-year-old competes in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship, inspired by 1982 FIA WRC runner-up and pioneering female motor racing legend Michele Mouton – who last week said that Extreme E provides “a great opportunity for women and men to team up, compete together and against each other with the same material.”

Munnings joins former IndyCar Series, ABB FIA Formula E and Supercars racer Simona de Silvestro, Continental Tyres’ Extreme E development driver and touring car hot-shot Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, W Series champion Jamie Chadwick and sportscar driver Katherine Legge as leading females on the Drivers’ Programme all looking to race in Extreme E, which last week announced that its grid would be comprised of a 50-50 male-female split.

Growing up driving off-road vehicles since she could reach the pedals, Catie developed a feel for the nuances of handling cars; grass-autotesting at 14-years-old, before beginning her rallying journey at 17.

In 2016, after entering six club rally events to meet the FIA European Rally Championship’s entry requirements, Munnings jumped straight into the Ypres Rally, and was the only female competitor to finish. On her second ERC outing, she scored points and secured the FIA ERC Ladies Trophy – the first Brit to secure a European rally title in 49 years.

Catie’s ERC career continued into 2017 and 2018, with fourth place overall in the two-wheel drive championship in the latter seeing her seal backing from Red Bull UK for the 2019 campaign.

In Extreme E, the Brit sees a strong potential next step for her career and a completely different experience with the opportunity to use her passion for motorsport to spread a vital message on climate change and the future of our planet.

“Extreme E’s races are all in incredible locations and I can’t wait for the challenge of mastering all those different types of surfaces and conditions. I see it as a natural progression and a very exciting prospect,” she said. The high level of competition that I think we’re going to see in the series is one big draw as a driver but I’m really inspired by the sustainability and equality aspects of Extreme E and its overall goals – with all the work that will take place to help change the world for the better. Achieving something this important through competition would mean a lot for motorsport.

“I would jump at the opportunity to race in any of the locations, so to include them all in one championship is fantastic. The one that stands out to me at a first glance would be the Amazon – I just cannot imagine seeing the car racing in those environments, but why not?

“Every aspect of life is affected by climate change. This is true now and will only become even more pressing in the years to come. This includes motorsport. It’s vital for us to remember that we only have one planet and we have to take good care of it – not only for us but for future generations, too.

“Extreme E’s goal of making a link between the sport we love and doing something incredibly important and constructive for the world is a massive thing. Every form of motorsport is looking to make positive environmental changes, and Extreme E’s foundations are set in sustainability and raising awareness as well as driving that change. It’s an exciting time for the industry.”

Catie’s experience is based squarely on loose-surfaces - from the Cypriot desert to the Swedish Arctic Circle and the Volcanic gravel of the Azores, As such, the rally driver should have a leg up when it comes to jumping behind the wheel of the ODYSSEY 21 as opposed to some of the more asphalt and circuit-focussed racers on the Drivers’ Programme. That said, the E-SUV is quite unlike anything else out there in motorsport, and she feels it’ll be a case of starting from square one for many.

“I don't know what to expect fully,” started Munnings. ”I can imagine the car is able to drive in a way you couldn’t quite envisage given its size and presence, on surfaces you wouldn't think it could be capable of performing on. Certainly, from what I’ve seen from Ken Block’s Dakar outing and testing, and the feedback that others have reported in with, I cannot wait to sample it for myself – I’d love to experience it.

“Once I test and get a good feeling for it, then I'll know which skills I can adapt from rally and which I need to learn from scratch. I read that Theo Gouzin from Spark (Spark Racing Technology - the ODYSSEY 21’s designer and manufacturer) said the cars have the power and torque of World Rally Championship and rally raid cars. That would be very impressive and quite surreal to feel in something in the size and package of an SUV.”

“I think it will be similar, in that you’ll still be driving with your instincts. Rallying is probably the closest in the motorsport family, and the changeable conditions and surfaces will be directly relatable.”

“Competing on different surfaces, in different climates and adapting quickly is something I'm used to. However, the physical side of learning this new car, an electric car, also the size, the manoeuverability and judging the pace of a new championship, will be a completely new challenge, for every driver.”

The Drivers’ Programme is designed to promote professional drivers and assist teams and prospective entries. Series organisers will recommend prospective competitors from its Drivers’ Programme, however, if teams prefer, they will have the autonomy to select their own drivers from outside the pool.

Extreme E drivers will compete wheel-to-wheel on the same stages, in the same 550 horsepower E-SUVs, using the same bespoke all-terrain Continental tyres in heats, semis and finals, taking place across the series’ five formidable environments in some of the most remote regions on the planet.

As well as being used as platform for equality and the promotion of electfication, Extreme E will highlight the impact that climate change is having on its remote race locations, using a committee of leading scientists to help bring global attention to issues such as deforestation in Brazil, rising sea levels along the West African coastline, melting icecaps in Greenland, and more.

Further team, driver, sporting and partnership announcements will follow as the championship continues to take shape ahead of Season 1, starting early 2021.