Stage set for Extreme E Season 4 opener in Saudi Arabia

15 February 2024, London: The fourth instalment of Extreme E is almost upon us, with the 2024 campaign opening in Saudi Arabia this weekend (17-18 February).

There are new teams and new line-ups joining the fray in Season 4, along with plenty of familiar faces, as the pioneering all-electric off-road racing series returns to action for the Desert X Prix.

The deserts of Saudi Arabia have launched each of the three previous Extreme E campaigns, all offering astonishing backdrops for the opening rounds of the championship season, and another special event can be expected for Rounds 1 and 2 of the 2024 campaign in Jeddah.

Extreme E’s inaugural season race in Jeddah forms part of a wider, ground-breaking multi-year partnership with the Public Investment Fund (PIF). PIF plays a vital role in this championship through the recently announced Electric 360 partnership, which also incorporates Formula E and E1, to support the growth and transformation of electric motorsports globally.

The 2024 grid

It is only a couple of months since Extreme E’s dramatic 2023 finale in Antofagasta, Chile, which saw Nico Rosberg’s Rosberg X Racing (RXR) come out victorious to take the championship in a five-team showdown at the Antofagasta Minerals Copper X Prix.

That win ensured their second championship in three seasons and, with the team retaining their strong pairing of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky once again, you can be sure RXR will be amongst the front runners.

ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team (ASXE) were narrowly beaten to their maiden Extreme E title in 2023. Laia Sanz returns for the Spanish outfit in a bid to capture the championship this term, and will be joined by Jamaican Fraser McConnell.

McConnell, who initially joined the series as a Championship Driver, took two victories for X44 Vida Carbon Racing in Season 3, and will look to add to his tally under the guidance of the team’s advisor, two-time World Rally Champion and 2024 Dakar Rally winner Carlos Sainz Snr. ASXE took their debut win in Extreme E in Saudi Arabia last year and will be keen to return to the top step in the desert.

E.ON Veloce Racing also took their inaugural Extreme E win at the 2023 Desert X Prix. After enduring mixed fortunes in their first two Extreme E campaigns, the team surged up the order in Season 3, finishing third overall with Molly Taylor and Kevin Hansen behind the wheel. Taylor and Hansen have proven to be a strong pairing ever since debuting together, and their three wins in 2023 was the joint-highest across the field. After claiming two podiums on their last visit to Saudi Arabia, the British outfit will be looking to replicate their strong start this time around in Jeddah.

There are plenty of new faces in the Extreme E paddock for 2024, but consistency is key for the Andretti Altawkilat Extreme E squad. Their driver line-up of Timmy Hansen and Catie Munnings have competed in every event together for the team since the series’ inception in 2021. The duo will be looking to return to the front of the pack in 2024.

Although Hansen and Munnings claimed two podium finishes in 2023, the pair suffered misfortune and bad luck throughout the campaign, ensuring they could only finish as high as seventh overall. Saudi Arabia, though, brings back good memories for Andretti Altawkilat, the scene of the team’s debut podium at the series’ first event in 2021, and replicating that would signal strong progress for the team.

The NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team returns in 2024 with an all-new driver line-up, signalling a statement of intent for the campaign ahead. Yet to score a victory in the series so far, the team have been frequent challengers and have scored two podium finishes. Their new pairing, however, has experience in Extreme E of taking race wins and the overall championship, with Cristina Gutiérrez and Mattias Ekström leading the team in 2024.

Gutiérrez took the Season 2 title with Sébastien Loeb for X44 Vida Carbon Racing in 2022, and the four-time race winner has yet to finish below fourth in her Extreme E career to date. Two-time DTM champion Ekström finished as runner-up for ASXE last-term, and will look to build on his two victories in the series with NEOM McLaren XE.

Jenson Button’s JBXE return for the 2024 season with a new driver pairing, as they bid to climb up the order in Extreme E. Andreas Bakkerud joined the team from the Hydro X Prix onwards last term, and will look to showcase his off-road racing pedigree across a full campaign in the series to launch the team up the order.

Bakkerud will be joined by debutant Dania Akeel, with the Dakar Rally and Baja competitor set to get behind the wheel of the ODYSSEY 21 for the first time at her home event. The first Saudi female to participate in an international rally competition, Akeel epitomises the series’ ethos of trailblazing and will be hoping for a strong start at the Desert X Prix.

The SUN Minimeal Team will make their Extreme E debut, but the series rookies will have plenty of experience in the ranks when the 2024 season begins. The outfit will be led by Timo Scheider, who will race for the team and utilise his wealth of motorsport experience in the role of Team Principal. The versatile Scheider will be joined by Extreme E race-winner Klara Andersson for the campaign. Rivals in the FIA World Rallycross Championship, the duo have shared a similar path in Extreme E having made the journey from Championship Driver to the podium in the series’ short history, and will be a formidable pairing for SUN Minimeal Team’s maiden Extreme E outing.

The final team to join the Extreme E grid for 2024 is LEGACY MOTOR CLUB IN ASSOCIATION WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON (LEGACY M.C.), an exciting new outfit joining the championship and led by motorsport royalty Jimmie Johnson. Headed by seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and Hall of Famer Johnson, LEGACY M.C. will make its Extreme E debut boasting an all-US line-up and plenty of off-road racing pedigree. Exciting talent Gray Leadbetter will make her debut in the series, alongside three-time motocross champion and a multi-disciplinary X Games gold medalist Travis Pastrana, capturing a unique blend of youth and experience as the team prepares for its Extreme E bow.

Pastrana will make a one-off appearance in Saudi Arabia, before Johnson debuts from Round 3 for LEGACY M.C..With eight teams in the running for championship glory, Extreme E Season 4 is all set to be another classic, with twists and turns throughout the campaign.

The rulebook

Each X Prix is a double-header and plays host to back-to-back rounds across the weekend. With eight teams battling it out for victory at each event, the main change is that there will be four cars per Heat in 2024. What’s more, come the end of the campaign, the starting drivers between men and women must be equal across the campaign, which should spice up the action for the year ahead.

Redemption Race victors will now receive 12 points, an increase of four from the previous eight, with the winners minimising the deficit to those competing in the Grand Final, which could have a significant impact come the end of the season in the overall points tally.

For Qualifying, the grid choices are also now automatically reversed for Q2 as opposed to Q2 starting positions being based upon the results of Q1 Heats. As with last season, the winners of each of the four Qualifying Heats will receive one championship point.

Grid positions for the Grand Final will continue to be determined through the fan voting process called GridPlay. The teams that do not make it to the Grand Final must ‘gift’ their votes to their preferred team on the Grand Final grid. Grid positions for the Redemption Race will be defined by the Intermediate Classification results from Qualifying, with the team that finished 5th choosing grid position first, followed by the team that finished 6th, and so on.

The Continental Traction Challenge will be returning in 2024 and will be crucial to the overall points total once again. The team that sets the fastest time, a combination of both the male and female drivers’ fastest times, through the allocated sector will win the Continental Traction Challenge and earn one championship point. This will run for each of the individual race days on Saturday and Sunday. If any teams are tied in the Qualifying standings, their positioning will be determined by their time in the Continental Traction Challenge – the team with the quicker run through the allocated sector during Qualifying will receive the higher overall position.

Distances for each X Prix course and the number of laps will vary depending on the characteristics of the location, such as the terrain and the environmental conditions. What remains consistent, though, is a driver changeover in the ‘Switch Zone’, taking place at the halfway point.

An ‘ENOWA Hyperdrive’ boost will also be available to each driver once in a race. Activated when the driver presses a button on their steering wheel, they will enjoy an increase in power for a fixed amount of time. The timing for this will be crucial when either attacking and defending out on track.

Claudio Toldi, Head of Marketing Communications, Replacement Tires EMEA, at Continental, said: “Continental is proud to be a partner in the fourth season of Extreme E and to support the series with our latest tyre innovation, the CrossContact Extreme E. We continue our commitment to sustainability and technological excellence with the start of the Desert X Prix in Saudi Arabia.

“The CrossContact Extreme E is the result of our continuous research and development, and is made from around 43 per cent recycled and renewable materials. This underlines our endeavour to reduce the environmental impact and increase the performance of our products.

“We look forward to equipping Extreme E and its teams with our high-performance tyres, and together setting an example for sustainability and innovation in motorsport.”

The form guide in Saudi Arabia

Two-time champions RXR have been the most successful team in Saudi Arabia, taking two victories and two additional podiums from the fourth races held so far. As Season 3 champions, Nico Rosberg’s outfit will be the team to beat.

Nevertheless, last year’s Desert X Prix showed that they can be beaten despite their formidable form, with E.ON Veloce Racing and ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team both taking their debut wins in the series.

With eight teams in the running for victory when the lights go out, the Season 4 opener in the Saudi Arabian desert is set for another spectacular.

To learn more about Extreme E, visit – www.Extreme-E.com

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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