Team X44 grabbed the first pole position of the Extreme E era on Saturday, with Sébastien Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez jumping from second to first in the second timed run around the AlUla track in Saudi Arabia.
The duo were five-seconds behind Rosberg X Racing’s Johan Kristofferson and Molly Taylor after the first runs on Saturday morning but did enough to take first place after their rivals were hit with a time penalty for exceeding the speed limit in the driver change zone.
Nine-time World Rally champion Loeb was delighted to end the first day of the #DesertXPrix with the quickest time and a place in Sunday’s semi-final.
“We’re very happy to have finished Qualifying in first place,” said Loeb. “Today went really well and the whole X44 team did a great job with the car in difficult conditions.
“We were the first drivers to get out onto the track so it was hard to know what to expect in the first Qualifying round, but obviously our strategy paid off and we achieved the time we needed to.
“Tomorrow is a new day and the standard of the other teams will be really high, so we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing and pushing to win.”
Team X44 ‘Confident and Ready to Go’ on Sunday – Cristina Gutiérrez
Team-mate Gutiérrez admits it was both an incredible and challenging day in AlUla, and to come out on top of an amazingly talented field without any issues with their ODYSSEY 21 was an ‘amazing’ feeling.
She knows that the rest of the competition will be looking to knock them off their perch when racing gets underway on Sunday, but Gutiérrez insists Team X44 go into race day with confidence and a desire to take the inaugural Extreme E victory.
“We’ve had an incredible day, but it was also very challenging!” said the Spaniard. “We haven’t been able to spend any time in the car for the last few months, so it was difficult to get used to it again, but we managed to fight and achieve a good time.
“To have finished first in Qualifying and have our car still in great condition is amazing; we’re really happy, and we can’t wait to go again tomorrow. We know the other teams are not going to be easy to race against, but we are confident and ready to go.”