Rosberg X Racing win Desert X Prix
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
Rosberg X Racing made history on Sunday 4th April by becoming the very first winners in the new Extreme E championship. Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor dominated the whole weekend in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, setting fastest times in both qualification rounds, as well as winning the Semi-Final and Final to take the Desert X Prix crown.
Extreme E is a new type of motorsport that aims to raise attention to environmental issues and actively help to protect and repair damaged regions of the world. This all electric championship will be going to "five locations – Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Greenland, Brazil and Patagonia, all representing a different environment – desert, coastal, arctic, rainforest and glacier". The car is an all electric off-road SUV using environmentally sustainable materials in it's construction and is powered by renewable created electricity. The championship aims to not just promote positive changes but is committed to supporting initiatives that research the changing environment and through legacy projects help to restore it.
The very first event held in AlUla, Saudi Arabia drew attention to the important impact of desertification on environments, which is caused by both climate change and habitat loss. In Saudi Arabia Extreme E chose to support the Ba’a Foundation's efforts to protect endangered green turtle and the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. The drivers and team bosses helped with this initiative days before the racing began with a beach clean to help draw attention to the issues of plastic pollution on the turtles breading grounds in Ras Baridi.
Both Johan and Molly set blistering times in both qualifying sessions in Saturday's running. In the first qualifying run the drivers set the fastest combined time of 10:43.565, just over 4.5 seconds quicker than the X44 squad of Gutiérrez and Loeb. The second session would also see the Rosberg X Racing team finish fastest with a 11:03.258 but after a software glitch with the pitlane limiter (also affecting the JBXE squad) they were given a 60 second penalty and finished only 5th. Their combined score from both sessions of 22:16.823 was still enough to give them 10 points for 3rd place and guarantee a spot in Sunday's Semi-Final.
The Semi-Final saw the top 3 in qualifying battle against each other in a 2 lap race with a mandatory driver change mid-race. All the teams opted for the male drivers to take the first lap. Sainz was able to take the early lead due to his immediate use of the energy boost off the line. Loeb was able to momentarily retake the lead with Sainz and Kristoffersson choosing to drift wider into the first turn. Kristoffersson was able to use this to great effect and carry more speed through the corner and emerge in the lead. In clear air Johan was then able to build a 13 second advantage before handing the car over to Molly who would further extend the gap to just under 30 seconds. The X44 squad would finish comfortably second behind Rosberg X Racing with both team making the Final.
The Final race followed the same format as each of the other races, with a 2 lap race and a driver change. Joining Rosberg X Racing and X44 was the Andretti United team of Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen who were victorious in the earlier Crazy Race. Again all three teams chose for their male drivers to take the first lap with Hansen taking the hyper-drive boost straight away, vaulting him into the lead before Loeb and Kristoffersson caught back up using their own boosts. Johan would again use the same tactic as the Semi-Final by sweeping wide at turn one before cutting back in to carry more speed through the exit of the corner. His vast experience in Rallycross meant that again he was able to make this precise manoeuvre work as he took the lead of the race. After building a strong 30 second lead before the change-over, Taylor then expertly guided the car home to seal the win in the first ever X Prix. The Andretti United team would finish 2nd just over 23 seconds behind with the X44 team a distant 3rd due to a power-steering failure.
With their strong performance over every session, Rosberg X Racing scored 35 points and took the lead of the championship, followed by X44 with 30 points and Andretti United with 28 points.
Full results: Extreme E - Desert X Prix 2021
The Ocean X Prix will take be next on the calendar taking place in Senegal on 29th and 30th May 2021.
Official Team Statements
Nico Rosberg, Rosberg X Racing Team Founder and CEO:
“We have a fantastic team of engineers and mechanics, who prepared perfectly for this first weekend with so many unknowns, and Molly and Johan produced some phenomenal driving. Neither of them put a foot wrong in really tough conditions, and they both showed unbelievable speed out there – their performance was really inspiring and I felt really proud watching them.”
“First of all, huge congratulations to the team. We had some minor issues but we came here very well-prepared, which made our life so much easier out on-track. This sport isn’t only about the drivers; it’s about the team giving us the tools to do the job. With such a limited amount of track time, you need to have confidence that the car will do what you ask of it – and the Rosberg X Racing guys did an amazing job to give Molly and myself such a great car.”
“What an amazing start to the season! It feels a bit surreal, with so much anticipation and preparation leading into the weekend and we all came here not really knowing what to expect. It was definitely extreme. It was the first time we had experienced terrain like that, and on every lap, the course was changing – there were so many different variables to deal with.... It’s pretty cool to be part of this journey at the start of something that I think has an amazing future. This series is really throwing the traditional rule book out of the window and starting afresh, and I think everyone will agree it was spectacular to watch.”
Image (top): © Copyright Extreme E
Image (Nico & Johan on beach): © Copyright Nico Rosberg