Extreme E

Andreas Bakkerud, Tamara Molinaro named 2023 Extreme E Championship Drivers

3 Mins read
Credit: Extreme E

Since the inaugural season in 2021, Extreme E has employed “Championship Drivers”—one male and female each—who serve as advisors to the series and last-minute reserves in the event of a full-timer being unable to race. For 2023, Tamara Molinaro will return to that post while Andreas Bakkerud joins the series as one.

“We are delighted to welcome Andreas and Tamara as Extreme E’s Championship Drivers for Season 3,” stated series Chief Championship Officer James Taylor. “Both of them are seasoned off-road professionals with invaluable experience and, not only that, but Tamara has been a podium finisher in our series when she made her incredible race début last year in NEOM.

“The role of Championship Drivers in our series are vital ones. Not only do we rely on their vast racing expertise when we are designing our challenging off-road courses, they are invaluable to the teams when they may need a replacement driver.”

Molinaro became Extreme E’s Championship Driver in mid-2021 after the original reserve Jutta Kleinschmidt was hired to finish out the year with ABT CUPRA XE. The replacement duties were quickly carried out the following year when she subbed for Klara Andersson, who tested positive for COVID-19, at XITE Energy Racing for the season-opening Desert X Prix. After she and team owner Oliver Bennett nearly reached the Final, Bennett elected to keep her in the seat for the rest of the season while also replacing himself with Timo Scheider, the male Championship Driver; the duo scored a second-place finish in their maiden start together at the first Island X Prix. Scheider returned to his reserve role at the finale in Uruguay, and Molinaro and Ezequiel Pérez Companc closed out 2022 by placing eighth in the championship.

“It’s always nice to be back with the Extreme E family,” commented Molinaro. “Of course, I’d like to be competing, but being Championship Driver is a great role and I’m looking forward to an action packed season. The course here in NEOM is completely different from last season but I think its super fun and I’ve really enjoyed driving it during the testing. I think it will be very interesting for the drivers.”

Credit: Extreme E

Bakkerud was one of the first drivers picked up by Extreme E shortly after its reveal in 2019, being part of the “Drivers’ Programme” for interested competitors and testing the Spark ODYSSEY 21 a year later. Although Bakkerud was ultimately not signed by any teams, he has long been positive about the series’ blueprint. The 31-year-old Norwegian has competed in a variety of rallycross series including the FIA World Rallycross Championship, in which he finished runner-up in 2019, and Nitro Rallycross where he currently sits second in the Group E standings. He won the FIA European Rallycross Championship in 2021.

“I was pumped to get the call to be Championship Driver,” Bakkerud commented. “I’ve tested the car before but coming to a race and seeing the craziness of it all blew my mind. It’s absolutely like nothing else I’ve experienced in motorsport before. I think it’s going to be awesome.

“It’s also great to be working with Tamara, who has extensive experience in Extreme E. I’ve been learning a lot from her and everyone has made me feel very welcome in the paddock. I can’t wait to see it all unfold.”

Although Bakkerud has noted driving Extreme E cars require a different style than rallycross, there is heavy crossover between the two disciplines. Much of the eighteen drivers currently confirmed for the 2023 season have competed in rallycross including Bakkerud’s World RX rivals Timmy Hansen (for Andretti) and Johan Kristoffersson (2021 XE champion with Rosberg). Molinaro also has rallycross experience, though spent much of her career in rallying.

As part of their responsibilities, Bakkerud and Molinaro are also assisting in developing the course for this weekend’s Desert X Prix opener in NEOM, Saudi Arabia.

“The course is very different for me as I have never raced on sand before,” Bakkerud added. “To race on the beach, next to the ocean, is very different. The course here has some complex features and the drivers are going to have to be smart and manage their desire to go flat out, with some tight turns and gates, as the soft sand can rut up quite a lot. The new Continental tyres have very good side support but if drivers risk too much, we could end up seeing some rolls.”

Others to have worked as Championship Drivers include Romain Dumas, Christine GZ, Hedda Hosås, and Fraser McConnell; Dumas and Hosås were strictly guest reserves for the 2022 Desert X Prix before the latter became a regular for JBXE. McConnell currently races against Bakkerud in Nitro RX.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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