Audi’s di Grassi maintains Le Mans focus before prepping for Formula E finale

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LE MANS, France – Despite a bitter disqualification to his Berlin race a few weeks ago and a hard-to-swallow runner-up finish in Moscow on Saturday, Lucas di Grassi isn’t getting down before the FIA Formula E Championship finale in London in two weeks time.

He’s got a slightly more important piece of business to take care of this week.

Di Grassi co-drives with Loic Duval and Oliver Jarvis in the No. 8 Audi R18 e-tron quattro in the FIA World Endurance Championship, with the marquee race of the season, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, occurring this Saturday and Sunday.

In essence, this trio is the replacement group for the long-standing, long-dominant trio of Allan McNish (di Grassi), Rinaldo Capello (Duval) and Tom Kristensen (Jarvis), who have retired one-by-one each of the last three years.

This new trio looks to write their own chapter in the history books, and the conquest begins this week as di Grassi and Jarvis look to join Duval as overall Le Mans winners.

“Formula E preparation is much lower than Le Mans,” di Grassi told MotorSportsTalk at Le Mans scrutineering this week. “We’re prepping for Le Mans, and Formula E is in the middle.

“We have been in ‘Le Mans spec’ since the pre-test [on May 31]. Physically, fitness-wise, mentally wise, you’re on the Le Mans spec. Then you go to Formula E. We had a good result. Now we come back to the most important race of the year here.”

Audi has opened the year with a pair of wins at Silverstone and Spa, the latter with its 2015-spec version of its lower drag, lower downforce kit. But it’s been the now more veteran trio of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler who have scored both wins.

Di Grassi is more focused on joining them as 2015 race winners than worrying about FE, until Le Mans is over with.

“The focus of course is here in Le Mans,” di Grassi said. “I would exchange the Formula E title for this race, if I could choose. We try to win both.

“But yeah, Formula E is at the very beginning. There is a lot to improve. We still have a lot of reliability problems and other small issues.

“So the number one priority is WEC and Le Mans. To be here with Audi, third time here, it’s more than a pleasure. It’s an honor to be sharing this car.”

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.