Extreme E

Heikki Kovalainen making Extreme E debut with JBXE

2 Mins read
Credit: Heikki Kovalainen

While he made his name in circuit racing, Heikki Kovalainen has been easing himself more into rallying in recent years, most notably winning the 2021 Japan Rally Championship and making his World Rally Championship début in 2022. For 2023, his growing plate of off-road racing will include Extreme E for the first time as he will contest the upcoming season for JBXE alongside Hedda Hosås.

Kovalainen and JBXE owner Jenson Button have raced against each other in Formula One from 2007 to 2013, the former ironically being replaced by the latter at McLaren in 2010. They reunited on track again in Super GT between 2017 and 2019, a series in which both have won the championship. The two’s maiden F1 victories even came at the Hungarian Grand Prix, with Button in 2006 and Kovalainen two years later.

“To bring such an established name from the world of motorsport and someone I had the pleasure of racing against in Formula One is brilliant for the team and the series,” said Button, who raced for his own team at the inaugural Extreme E round in 2021. “Following his move into the world of rally, it was a no brainer for the team to approach him and I’m over the moon he’s agreed to join the team and equally delighted to be keeping Hedda after she has continued to make great progress in the car, she fully deserves her place.”

The first Finn to compete in Extreme E, Kovalainen’s first WRC start at the 2022 season-ending Rally Japan saw him score points as he finished tenth. For 2023, he will focus on the Finnish Rally Championship back home, racing for Secto Automotive Labs Rally Team alongside Justus Räikkönen, nephew of F1 alumnus Kimi Räikkönen.

“It’ll be something new again in my career,” commented Kovalainen. “After my Formula One stint I’ve done GTs as well as some rallying and I’m always looking for new challenges and looking forward to giving this a try. It’ll be a steep learning curve no doubt but I’m up for it and hopefully we’ll get up to speed quickly.”

Kovalainen and Button are the only drivers with experience in both F1 and XE, to which the latter’s Chief Marketing Officer Ali Russell offered, “With crossovers from both worlds of motorsport, this is fantastic to see for our series, reinforcing our approach to building a family with the best of motorsport to tackle climate change.”

Hosås was previously a reserve driver for Veloce Racing and a guest Championship Driver for the series at the 2022 season opener in Saudi Arabia, eventually fulfilling both roles when Veloce’s Christine GZ got hurt in qualifying. She joined JBXE for the Island X Prix doubleheader, where she and Kevin Hansen scored a podium in the first event before returning for the rest of the year. JBXE finished ninth in the championship with Hosås and Hansen doing the bulk of the calendar while Molly Taylor ran the opener and Fraser McConnell the finale.

“Super excited to be driving again for my second season with JBXE in Extreme E,” Hosås stated. “To have the support and expertise of both Jenson and Heikki, two ex Formula One drivers, will help me to continue my development as a driver.

“NEOM was my first ever race in the series when I stepped in as a reserve driver last year, so incredibly excited to be going back to where it started for me. I’m looking forward to working with my new team mate Heikki, he has a lot of experience from Formula One to rally so I am sure he will adapt to Extreme E very quickly.”

JBXE is the ninth team to reveal their driver lineup with a week until the 2023 season begins in Saudi Arabia.

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