Is Extreme E setting an example in motorsport?

Timmy Hansen, Catie Munnings, Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Johan Kristoffersson opened up on the importance of Extreme E in the world of motorsport

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Extreme E has an interesting place in the motorsport world as it bids to raise awareness about climate change, whilst also providing entertainment with its racing.

It has attracted some huge names with Formula 1 champions Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button as team owners, plus some of the biggest names from the off-road world.

Breaking into the motorsport world is difficult, but Extreme E did it impressively, even with the coronavirus pandemic standing in the way.

Andretti United driver Timmy Hansen has been one of rallycross’ top drivers over the last decade and revealed he couldn’t believe what he was hearing when first told about Extreme E in 2018.

“I heard about it when it was first launched and didn’t know much about it,” Hansen exclusively told Total-Motorsport.com.

“I heard someone said they would race on these remote places with this electric car. It sounded too big to be true, I thought ‘nobody could pull this off’.

“Then I read a little bit more and that Alejandro Agag was involved so I thought ‘maybe it’s serious after all’. But it still sounded impossible.

“It was a very surreal feeling when going to the first race in Saudi Arabia. Seeing all these cars line up, the whole paddock structure, this incredible team making this incredible event happen in the middle of nowhere. Absolutely mind-blowing.

“As an event it far exceeded what I thought was possible. From first seeing the championship, then racing was amazing. It’s now a high level championship and a pleasure to be part of it.”

The inaugural season in 2021 saw tweaks to the format just hours before the event began, including changing the qualification system from heat races to a time trial.

The racing we did see was met with criticism that the cars were too spread out and there was no overtaking.

“It’s a constant adaptation,” said Hansen. “Sometimes it’s frustrating with the changes but in the bigger picture, we need to find out feet, find what works.

Extreme E has done a great job of what fans want to see. It needs to be entertaining to watch, that’s what sport is about.”

Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen (Credit: Extreme E)

Hansen‘s teammate Catie Munnings added: “I think all of the teams and drivers accepted that the format changes were part of the process.

“You want it to be a success. So I think it has evened out a bit more. We’ve got more reliability in the cars this year. So it’s really exciting.

“Hopefully the championship will be down to a bit more of the racing rather than luck.”

Extreme E has a Legacy Programme which intends to provide social and environmental support for the locations they visit.

Prior to each event, the drivers take part in environmental activities and highlight the problems on social media.

Munnings believes it’s “incredible” how much the championship has developed on and off the track.

“I think the cool thing about it is that it’s not just about the racing and some of the best racing drivers in the world, but it’s much bigger than that,” said Munnings.

“It’s about the environmental messages and the work that goes on with the scientists, really giving them a platform and using the voice of the sport to be able to propel their messages to our audiences much bigger.

“So it’s really nice that we can still have fun and of course, that’s got to continue, but we’re able to do that in a more sustainable way.”

Catie Munnings in the Andretti United Extreme E car

Extreme H (Hydrogen) will launch in 2024, which will run on the same weekends in what will be a world first for a series that runs on a hydrogen fuel cell.

Munnings, who was relatively unknown before Extreme E, believes it’s another very positive step for motorsport.

“I’d like to have another sustainable fuel source that also gives us the sound, as I think that’s a big part of motorsport, so I think hydrogen is very exciting, I’m excited to see where that future goes.

“I think Extreme E is setting a massive example, not just from the electric racing side, of course, that’s really important but promoting EVs in a cool way and the core message around that.

“The state of sustainability and how we can give scientists a voice, which is completely unconnected to the sport, but it’s done in a really nice way that is overwhelming, but it’s still powerful.”

What about the racing side?

The off-road side of motorsport is less known compared to single-seaters and sportscars so Extreme E has provided a platform for some of the drivers.

Having one man and one woman for each car is unique but it normalises the fact that you don’t have to be male to drive at a high level.

Drivers such as Munnings, Molly Taylor and Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky have been just as quick as some of the men.

“It’s definitely got a lot more competitive and I think the timing between the girls and the boys is a lot smaller, we are almost doing the same times now,” said Munnings.

“I think that’s because we are provided the same opportunities, that girls wouldn’t necessarily have had in motorsport, but now have a full programme. It’s definitely opened a door.

“The margin between the teams is getting very tight now so fine tuning details is more important.”

SEPTEMBER 25: Catie Munnings (GBR), Genesys Andretti United Extreme E during the Antofagasta on September 25, 2022. (Photo by Andrew Ferraro / LAT Images)

Finding the right line on the long courses is a key part of being fast in Extreme E, something which the drivers from a Dakar Rally background have a slight advantage.

Rosberg X Racing driver Ahlin-Kottulinsky explains that although Extreme E teams are relatively small, there are many factors that need to come together.

“For us drivers to work as hard as we can on how the track works and prepare as well as we after practice,” said Ahlin-Kottulinsky.

“Also for the team because they are constantly checking the car making sure that everything is right on the car because it is tough tracks and we are really putting the car to to maximum pressure when we are driving it.

“But not only that, we also have a team back home in Germany watching the lines we are taking for example. Therefore we have to take all the opportunities we can to prepare as well as he can have a look at everything and make sure that you don’t forget to prepare.”

Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky being lifted by Johan Kristoffersson and Nico Rosberg

Five-time World Rallycross champion is one of the great modern off-road drivers, having also done very well in one-off individual rally events.

He is arguably the quickest driver in Extreme E as he led RXR to the championship in 2021 and, along with Ahlin-Kottulinsky, head the field going into this year’s finale in Uruguay on November 26-27.

There were just five events last year and there are five events this season, with numerous rounds cancelled.

Kristoffersson says it’s “really nice” that Extreme E is inspiring a younger generation into off-road racing in a different way, but admits he would like to see more rounds.

“I love driving so it would be fun to have more events, that’s for sure,” stated Kristoffersson.

“We would like to drive as much as possible. Also it’s always fun when you can develop more and more the car and work hard, to get the car to get as faster as possible.

“The only way to do that is to drive more.”

Nigel Chiu
Nigel Chiuhttps://total-motorsport.com/author/nigel-chiu/
Nigel Chiu is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who worked at Total-Motorsport for 18 months until May 2023. He has been following F1 since 2007 and hasn’t missed a Grand Prix weekend since. Nigel’s worked with several motorsport websites, plus Eurosport and subsequently went on to work with Sky Sports F1 where he travels to multiple F1 races each season.
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