Tamara Molinaro will make her Extreme E début in the 2022 season-opening Desert X Prix, though not in the circumstances that anyone would have wanted. Due to Klara Andersson testing positive for COVID-19 prior to heading to Neom, Saudi Arabia for the X Prix, Molinaro will invoke her title as a Championship Driver to fill in as a substitute in the XITE Energy Racing entry.
Andersson, a Swedish Rallycross Championship driver, was set for her first season in Extreme E as team-mate to XITE Energy owner Oliver Bennett. However, the positive test means her first series race will have to wait until at least the Island X Prix on 7/8 May.
“I’m so, so disappointed about this. I’m devastated,” Andersson said in a release. “This was such a huge opportunity for me. Last week, I told you it was a dream come true and that’s exactly what it was. It’s become a nightmare to be honest. I’m so sorry for Oli and the team. I’ll be watching and cheering them on from the side, but feeling very, very frustrated.”
Molinaro is a Championship Driver, who is not employed by any team but rather works for Extreme E as an advisor and reserve driver in the event that a regular is unable to race. She inherited the position midseason in 2021 from Jutta Kleinschmidt, who became ABT CUPRA XE‘s permanent driver at the Island X Prix after replacing an unwell Claudia Hürtgen. While Molinaro takes over for female drivers, Timo Scheider does so for males. Romain Dumas and Hedda Hosås are also on hand as guest Championship Drivers for the Desert X Prix if further driver changes are necessary.
The 24-year-old Molinaro arrived in Extreme E with experience in rallying and rallycross, having competed in divisions like WRC2, Titans-RX, and the Italian Gravel Championship. She is the 2017 Ladies European Rally Champion, the second youngest to achieve the feat behind Andretti United XE‘s Catie Munnings, and 2020 Italian Gravel Ladies Champion.
“It’s tough to come to the race seat under these circumstances and I’m sorry for Klara,” said Molinaro. “I’m looking forward to working with XITE Energy Racing and especially with Oli. I’ve had some running time in the car, but I really can’t wait to get to Saudi and get going with the event.”
XITE Energy Racing began its Extreme E life as Hispano Suiza before a re-branding entrenched XITE into its identity. The company, which produces energy drinks and bars, is an official partner of Extreme E.
In 2021, the team finished ninth of nine cars in the championship with Bennett and Christine “GZ” Giampaoli Zonca, with a best run of fifth in the Desert X Prix. Zonca moved to Veloce Racing for the 2022 season.
“We’re fortunate to have Tamara in the series,” commented Bennett. “As the reserve driver, she has experience of the Odyssey race car and of the format of the racing. Like Klara, Tamara’s a really experienced competitor. The circumstances are unfortunate, but we look forward to welcoming Tamara to the team and look forward to racing alongside her.”
The Desert X Prix will take place on 19/20 February.