Much like its ties to rallycross, the overlap between Extreme E and rally raid is staggeringly high, and NEOM McLaren XE will double dip into the discipline for the 2024 season as they enlist the services of Cristina Gutiérrez and Mattias Ekström.
Gutiérrez moves over from X44, with whom she won the 2022 championship alongside Sébastien Loeb (also a rally raid competitor). The team’s title defence in 2023 came with Gutiérrez and Fraser McConnell, who won twice at the first Hydro X Prix and second Island X Prix II but finished fourth in the standings.
McLaren’s announcement comes on the heels of Gutiérrez winning the 2024 Dakar Rally in the Challenger category, becoming just the second woman to win a Dakar overall after Jutta Kleinschmidt—herself an XE alumnus—in 2001. Gutiérrez was also the first female champion of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies (predecessor to the current World Rally-Raid Championship) when she claimed the final T3 title in 2021.
Ekström arrives at McLaren after finishing twenty-sixth in the top-level Ultimate class at the Dakar. Despite his poor finish, he won a stage and helped Audi team-mate Carlos Sainz to the victory.
He was part of another rally raid-savvy duo at Sainz’s ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team during the 2023 season, pairing up with Laia Sanz while Sainz was out due to injury. The team broke through for their best campaign to date when they scored victories at the second Desert X Prix and first Island X Prix II, missing out on the championship by fifteen points.
“It’s great to be able to share the news that Cristina and Mattias will be joining the team for our third season in Extreme E,” said McLaren Sporting Director Gary Paffett. “Both drivers have seen success and have proven track records in Extreme E, as well as other categories of racing, and with their skill and determination we’re excited to see what they can achieve this season.”
Gutiérrez and Ekström replace Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust, who finished eighth in the 2023 standings with a best finish of second at the Hydro X Prix Race #2. McLaren débuted their XE programme in 2022 with a fifth-place championship finish.
The 2024 season begins with the Desert X Prix on 17/18 February. Coincidentally, the race is held in Saudi Arabia like the Dakar.