Dania Akeel will be in the cockpit of some new machines in 2024. Fresh off running the Dakar Rally in a Taurus T3 Max and set to race a Toyota Hilux Overdrive at the Saudi Baja this weekend, she will also get behind the wheel of a Spark ODYSSEY 21. On Wednesday, JBXE announced Akeel will team up with the returning Andreas Bakkerud for the 2024 Extreme E season.
Akeel adds to an already loaded group of drivers with rally raid experience to also dabble in the electric off-road series. This company includes new McLaren driver Cristina Gutiérrez, who also races a Taurus in the World Rally-Raid Championship and won the 2024 Dakar Rally in her and Akeel’s Challenger category; Akeel retired halfway through with a clutch failure while running twelfth in class. Both drivers will eventually move up to the W2RC’s top Ultimate category, with Akeel already preparing for her Ultimate début at the Saudi Baja.
She is the first Saudi woman to race the Dakar when she entered the 2022 edition, two years after the race moved to her home country. After the Saudi Baja, the first round of the FIA World and European Baja Cups, she won’t have to travel far for the Extreme E season opener as it also kicks off the following week in Saudi Arabia with the Desert X Prix on 17/18 February.
“I’m very excited to join the fun that I’ve been witnessing at Extreme E since it started,” said Akeel. “Sport is the perfect medium for both work and play, and I’m looking forward to what I’ll learn in this type of racing. Being home for the first round will have its comforts, and I couldn’t ask for a nicer start.
“Thank you to the JBXE team for this opportunity. Working with Jenson (Button) is a true privilege given his incredible career, and I aim to deliver my absolute best for us all.”
A rallycross star, Bakkerud returns to JBXE, replacing Heikki Kovalainen at the 2023 Hydro X Prix after beginning the year as the series’ Championship Driver. He and fellow Norwegian Hedda Hosås ran much of the year before the latter joined McLaren for the final two races, and fellow ex-reserve driver Tamara Molinaro took over as his team-mate.
The team hopes to bounce back after ifnishing last in the 2023 standings, the only outfit without a podium finish. They also only reached the Grand Final twice in 2023.
“It is great to be a part of this championship and I can’t wait for the new season,” Bakkerud commented. “This will be my first time racing in the sand, last year I got to be ringside watching the epic scenery of the race in NEOM, and now I’m just pumped getting to race it.
“Welcoming Dania as a teammate is an exciting prospect. Her rise through the motorsport ranks has been monumental and I’m optimistic about what can happen when we head to Saudi Arabia for the opening rounds of the campaign.”