For the first time, ABT Cupra eventually had their share of proper wheel-to-wheel action with Rosberg x Racing and X44 in the semi final 1. One day before qualifying the team announced that Claudia Hürtgen couldn’t take part in the rest of the race, which led to the calling of Extreme E advisor as well as reserve driver Jutta Kleinschmidt to fill in for Hürtgen place, alongside Mattias Ekström.
Known as the only woman driver who won Dakar Rally in 2001, she still had her pace to maintain ABT Cupra position together with Ekström’s stellar work. Even the team led the qualifying order for quite some time before getting pushed to the second by RXR. They managed to get into semi final 1 with the time difference just 5 seconds from the leader of semi final 2, JBXE.
Everything looked very promising for both until a problem hit them in the mid semifinal. At that time Ekström managed to take the lead in front of Johan Kristofferson and Sébastien Loeb, but an unfortunate delay on the radio happened when he entered the pits to give the car to Kleinschmidt which prevented the team from maintaining position. Kleinschmidt however managed to close the gap between her and Gutiérrez but finished third afterwards.
Despite not having fought for victory, it’s clear that ABT Cupra has shown such a great performance and both drivers have managed to squeeze their potential with the car.
Ekström recounted his journey that unfortunately ended against his will, but felt happy with their pace.
“It started off with a great track walk, I was so excited. Then Claudia got ill, we got Jutta in the car. Luckily Jutta was bang on the pace from the first corner and we suddenly were in the game.
“The real race for me was the semi final one. I was really happy, I got a good start, could go from the lead. Led all the way to the driver change.
“Then we had some struggles with the radio from Jutta. So we lost the lead and ended up P3″
He praised Kleinschmidt for her swift adaptation to the car. “She drove perfectly around the tracks. I am impressed with how quickly Jutta has adapted to our car and to all the procedures.
“We could have achieved more, but despite that we have discovered the potential of our car which allows us to face the next race with confidence.
“The pace we had was good, but simply no luck.”
Kleinschmidt felt the same with her teammate, rather she emphasized the part that she felt happy being given the chance to race again. “I agree with Mattias. We could have been in the final and on the podium, but the feeling is more than compensated by the surprise of having been able to be part of this team and the championship this weekend.”
If there’s one thing we can take from Ekström, it’s his “go hard or go home” philosophy that keeps him and the team going. Knowing he got the pace to win, the Sweden driver feels confident to be on top for the next race.
“I can only promise you one thing. For Greenland there will be some news, and again we are going to go for the win.”
Semi Final 1 Ocean XPrix results
|1||Johan Kristofferson/Molly Taylor||Rosberg X Racing||11:05.029|
|2||Sébastien Loeb/Cristina Gutiérrez||X44||11:07.291|
|3||Mattias Ekström/Jutta Kleinschmidt||Abt CUPRA XE||11:08.271|