Extreme E

Team X44 dominates Desert X Prix Qualifying Round 2

3 Mins read
Credit: Sam Bloxham

Much like how its owner Lewis Hamilton probably sees the upcoming Formula One season as a campaign of vengeance, Team X44 is striving to do the same after falling short in the 2021 Extreme E Championship. After leading Friday’s practice session and barely missing out on setting the fastest time in single-car qualifying (though hindered by a time penalty), the team dominated the second qualifying round’s heat race to put the #44 entry in the catbird seat for Sunday’s events.

X44’s Sébastien Loeb began the first heat and led the way on his lap with Sara Price (Chip Ganassi Racing) and Nasser Al-Attiyah (ABT CUPRA XE) in tow. However, in a right-hand turn leading to the eighteenth waypoint, Al-Attiyah attempted an aggressive overtake on Dakar Rally rival Carlos Sainz that caused him to go off course and ride on his left-side wheels. While trying to recover, he slammed into Sainz’s left side, causing substantial damage to the CUPRA car and resulting in Al-Attiyah being relegated to fourth and last of the cars that started the heat. The incident also meant X44’s only other opponent was the Ganassi entry; although CGR’s Kyle LeDuc set a faster time than X44’s Cristina Gutiérrez, he could not catch her for the heat win.

With a runner-up in the first round and the heat win, X44 accumulated the most Intermediate Classification points yet again with nineteen of a possible twenty. The team has dominated qualifying since Extreme E’s inception, winning at least a round of qualifying in all five 2021 rounds and sweeping both on three instances.

“We knew it would be difficult, but luckily we found a good line and we both drove well, so I am very happy,” commented Loeb. “It could be a totally different terrain tomorrow with a lot of dust so the starting position will be important, but we are feeling confident.”

In the second heat, Andretti United XE‘s Timmy Hansen edged out McLaren XE‘s Tanner Foust to lead the opening lap, a rather fitting 1–2 run for the two teams as Andretti United is co-owned by McLaren CEO Zak Brown (though Brown has stressed that his current Extreme E involvement is wholly in McLaren). Rosberg X Racing, who led single-car qualifying, was third with Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky prior to the driver switch.

Once reigning champion Johan Kristoffersson took over the RXR car, he began a furious charge to catch Andretti’s Catie Munnings. As the two reached the downhill to the finish, Kristoffersson caught Munnings and made the pass on the inside. However, the dramatic drive was for naught when the team received a seventeen-second time penalty for Åhlin-Kottulinsky speeding in the switching area at 57 km/h. The infraction dropped RXR to fourth while Andretti was promoted to the heat win and second in qualifying points with eighteen.

“That might have been the first clean Qualifying that we’ve had as a team. That was always the plan,” commented Munnings. “We weren’t necessarily focussed on being the fastest but focussed on not having any issues which we struggled to do last year, so it was really nice to finish P2 overall and get a taste of the side-by-side racing that we’ll have tomorrow.

“I think it’s going to be pretty intense, and the races are definitely going to be tight so I know we’re heading into a really tough Semi-Final here, but we’ll do our best.”

For Sunday’s racing, X44, RXR, and XITE Energy Racing were assigned to Semi-Final #1 as the first, fourth, and fifth-place finishers in the Classification. Andretti United (second), Chip Ganassi Racing (third), and ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team (sixth) will be in the second Semi-Final. The bottom four—JBXE, McLaren XE, ABT CUPRA XE, and Veloce Racing—will be in the Crazy Race.

Veloce Racing did not run the heats after Christine Giampaoli Zonca was involved in a massive crash in Round #1 that fractured her foot. Hedda Hosås will take her place for the Crazy Race and Final if the team makes it to the latter.

Heat #1 results

FinishNumberTeamTotal TimeDriver #1Lap TimeDriver #2Lap Time
144Team X449:00.620Sébastien Loeb3:29.832Cristina Gutiérrez3:36.713
299Chip Ganassi Racing9:20.200Sara Price3:52.581Kyle LeDuc3:31.466
355Sainz XE Team4:59.752 (DNF)Carlos Sainz4:59.752Laia SanzN/A
4125ABT CUPRA XE12:14.592*Nasser Al-Attiyah3:35.379Jutta Kleinschmidt6:34.864
55Veloce RacingDNSLance WoolridgeN/AChristine GZN/A
* – Received a penalty

Heat #2 results

FinishNumberTeamTotal TimeDriver #1Lap TimeDriver #2Lap Time
123Andretti United XE9:10.693Timmy Hansen3:32.649Catie Munnings3:42.921
242XITE Energy Racing9:24.396Oliver Bennett3:47.203Tamara Molinaro3:41.502
322JBXE9:26.064Kevin Hansen3:57.937Molly Taylor3:34.199
46Rosberg X Racing9:26.772*Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky3:46.755Johan Kristoffersson3:27.356
555McLaren XE10:03.366Tanner Foust3:34.374Emma Gilmour3:49.470

Intermediate Classification

RankTeamRound #1 PointsRound #2 PointsTotal PointsSunday Race
1Team X4491019Semi-Final #1
2Andretti United XE8018Semi-Final #2
3Chip Ganassi Racing7815Semi-Final #2
4Rosberg X Racing10014Semi-Final #1
5XITE Energy Racing6014Semi-Final #1
6Sainz XE Team5611Semi-Final #2
7JBXE208Crazy Race
8McLaren XE406Crazy Race
9ABT CUPRA XE325Crazy Race
10Veloce Racing000Crazy Race
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Justin is neither a NASCAR nor off-road racer, but he has covered them for The Checkered Flag since 2018.
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