Extreme E completes first group test in Aragon Spain before March 2021 launch

Extreme E completes test
Extreme E
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Extreme E completed its first group test on Saturday in Aragon, Spain at MotorLand as the series prepares to launch in March 2021.

“We’ve been working towards this day for over two years,” Alejandro Agag, Extreme E CEO said in a release. “The dream is finally becoming a reality and it’s certainly been a proud moment to see such a talented group of drivers all together. This championship has one of the strongest line-ups of drivers anywhere on the planet.

“Testing has been a huge success and a great way to end out what has been a challenging year in so many ways; 2021 is set to be the year where the world can see the realization of all our hard work and I cannot wait to show-off one of the most innovative motorsport formats the world has ever seen.”

The Extreme E series competes with Odyssey 21 electric SUVs in a off-road rally format and its drivers include world class racers including Sebastien Loeb, Carlos Sainz, Johan Kristoffersson and Mattias Ekstrom. Each team pairs a male and female driver, so some of the fastest women in the world are also a part of the series including Cristina Gutierrez and Laia Sanz, W Series Champion Jamie Chadwick, and Australian Rally Champion Molly Taylor.

During the two days of testing, the drivers raced on two off-road circuits including a 1.92-mile open course and a 0.62-mile short course.

“We battled the weather a little bit as we had strange conditions with the fog, but overall it’s been really really good,” said Scot Elkins, Race Director for the series. “The cars have been really reliable and it’s exciting to see them running at full power and seeing the drivers all getting a chance to try out the new machinery.  We’ve achieved exactly what we wanted to.”

“We have used two courses during the test, the first was much longer and much more open,  it’s actually more suited to what we’ll see on the real events in terms of having the course laid out by markers and typical designations, whereas the other course was more of a closed course; it’s a single material so it’s just dirt as opposed to the other, which has some different materials to deal with on the races.

“The test has given everybody a good opportunity to see the different environments that we’re going to be racing in next year.”

Extreme E will race in environments most at risk of climate change including the desert, the Arctic, and the Amazon.

As part of the test, the series debuted an innovation that will be available to drivers and teams. Each car will be equipped with a tire monitoring system from ContiConnect that monitors and displays in real time tire pressure and temperature. Through a display in the cockpit, drivers can immediately tell how much force is demanded of the tire.

Following the test, cars will go back to the respective teams’ workshops for final adjustments before being loaded onto the championship’s floating centerpiece, St. Helena, which will depart in mid-February for its voyage around the world. Extreme E’s five-event calendar starts in Saudi Arabia in March followed by Senegal in May, Greenland in August, Brazil in October and Patagonia in December.

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
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To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

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“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”