World news – Extreme e-competitors try to learn on shakedown runs


Teething troubles were inevitable on the first day, but when Sara Price raised the dust with a whine of her twin-electric Odyssey 21 for the inaugural Extreme E shakedown run in Saudi Arabia on Friday morning, the minimal hope and expectation must have been that she would return under her own spark. That wasn’t the case, though.

An electrical fault forced her to stop four miles on the five and a half mile X-Prix course at Al’Ula, and half an hour later her Chip Ganassi Racing returned entry in the truck bed of a truck back to the paddock. The problem was a setback for Extreme E, but especially for Price, who lost valuable track time that they couldn’t regain as the other eight cars on the fast desert track set off for their breakdowns.

Everything about this Extreme E opener exudes experimentation and improvisation, which was inevitable. Three training races before the event were scheduled to iron out the mistakes, but pandemic restrictions have spoiled that plan. Therefore, the shakedown here in Al’Ula has taken on a more literal meaning before qualifying on Saturday morning. Nobody is going to feel anywhere near fully prepared as the action gets serious by the weekend.

Teams and organizers must face the challenges that arise. A late switch from Oz to Vision beadlock rims gave the teams another new issue to consider, especially if they were late shipped after a delay in customs. Earlier, on Thursday morning, it was confirmed that the race format had been adjusted as it was feared that the amount of dust thrown up by the cars would make it almost impossible to follow closely in the heat of the race. The problem did not arise during trial runs in January due to wetter conditions. Instead of the qualifying runs, each of the nine cars will now drive individually on Saturday morning to decide who will reach the semifinals, the so-called “crazy race” and the runoff for seventh, eighth and ninth place. Then on Sunday afternoon three cars, two from the semifinals and one from the “crazy race”, will be lining up for the X-Prix final.

RACER caught up with Ganassis Kyle LeDuc while he was waiting for teammate Price to come after hers Collapse returned to the paddock. He was still smiling and enjoying our claim that the off-road couple are the pre-event favorites.

« It feels good to hear that, but we have moderate expectations, » he said. “Chip hired us to do a job and we’re planning to deliver. I grew up in the sand and so did Sara. This is new to others – it’s only Saturday to us! We share information with others because we need it to function – we need it to be crazy. « 

Like all drivers, the American, who later rolled on his shakedown lap and had a difficult day for the Ganassi team, has concerns and suggestions about how Extreme E can work, but all that is said will be in the For LeDuc the organizers have to overcome the fear of damage in the bike-to-bike race. « This series is in a rookie state, » said LeDuc. « We want contact, we want to rub and that is what we want You too. How do we show people that this is crazy? If you want this to be extreme, do it that way. Extreme is to be side by side. « 

Two-time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz Sr . shares this concern and believes that the track is too fast and therefore too dusty to encourage close races.

« It is a pity that it is not slower with smaller dunes, » said the Spanish legend who has to cancel his own shakedown lap due to a power steering error ste (each driver only gets one). “It’s a high speed that creates a lot of dust, and it’s very difficult. It has to be rougher. If it’s just shallow and easy for everyone, it’s difficult to catch and pass. If everything is flat, it’s not technical. In small dunes, you can follow a car and learn from them. This is a learning curve, but it’s a shame. We have to be open-minded and learn because this is a great opportunity.

Sainz’s experience comes from the Dakar Rally, where he remembers running 400 km at a distance of just 10 meters from his teammates . But at Al’Ula, a strong start seems key as it is difficult to get close to and overtake a rival. He would trade the breathtaking mountain scenery for an optimized route over the sand.

“That’s nice, but after two minutes, what do you want? A really nice setting or a good racetrack?  » he noticed. “I do not criticize; I try to help. We have to learn. “

 » We had a little breakdown, an electronics problem on one of the cars, but they’re all running, « he said. « It was good to have it early because we didn’t practice a lot. In the race you just park them, don’t bring back cars because it takes an hour here. There wasn’t a TV here today. That’s why we’re doing it. « 

And as he pointed out, this is not Agag’s first rodeo. » For Formula E, the first [the Donington Park shakedown in 2014], 18 cars stopped in the first session, « he says with one Smile. « Eighteen! From 20! So we’re doing great! It was two corners, then another – three corners. S ** t! We cheered when you drove a lap … It’s more extreme. That makes it more exciting. “

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