It’s no longer a man’s world…
…And Extreme E, a brand new racing series, is part of that change. By ensuring each team is composed of one man and one woman the series will both showcase talent and break down the traditional barriers that have traditionally existed in racing throughout history.
With its all-electric SUVs, its gender diversity, and its intention to highlight the impacts of climate change across the globe, Extreme E is poised to be the racing series that even non-race fans love. And we’ll take you through everything you need to know before the first race takes place this weekend in Saudi Arabia.
Driving Female Participation
Extreme E may be hosting a very short season this year, but it’s already making big waves. Its first goal? To showcase female driving talent in ways that most racing series don’t by requiring that women compete in the series.
This year, ten teams are competing in Extreme E, and each team must be composed of two drivers: one female, one male. These drivers share a single car but split racing time equally, which means there will be ten women on track at various different times.
Extreme E is formatted like a rally event, which means that, instead of competing on a shorter race course, drivers take on long distances over all kinds of terrain. The series will include a ‘loop’ back to the beginning as a way for both drivers to share driving time equally. So, on the way to the destination at the end of the first lap, one driver will pilot the car while the other will provide directions. At the destination, they’ll swap spots, meaning the driver of the first lap will be providing directions for the second. This means that both drivers will be taking on the same obstacles, albeit with one driver taking them on in the opposite direction.
E Series Racing Forges the Future by Forcing Rules on Race Teams
The whole purpose of Extreme E, and before it, Formula E, is to drive innovation and create a real-life research and development lab for electric vehicles. Extreme E takes that a step further by forging gender equality between drivers. This is the first racing series in history to mandate a level playing field. In most cases, a racing grid is dominated by men, with just a few women competing. In rare cases, women are segregated into their own series. This is the first time an equal number of men and women will be competing against one another.
“Hearing the format was like waking up on Christmas morning,” said Katherine Legge, one of the most successful female drivers of our era. “It is a giant step in the right direction for motorsport as a whole. I have been looking forward to something like this my entire racing career! Formula E and now Extreme E, are at forefront of breaking boundaries in technology, sustainability, and climate change, and now Extreme E will challenge perceptions with gender equality too.”
Adrian Newey, one of the most legendary race car designers in motorsport history, agreed: “I have watched women make a mark throughout the world of motorsport over the years and there are some great individual stories out there. I hope we can create some more positive opportunities with this exciting young series and provide a strong platform for female competitors to shine.”
Meet The Drivers
We would be remiss to fail to mention Extreme E’s groundbreaking push for gender equality without giving you a quick breakdown of the drivers competing in the series. Team by team, here are the drivers and their notable accomplishments:
ABT Cupra XE
- Claudia Hürtgen: One of Germany’s most well-known female drivers, took third place in her class in 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans
- Mattias Ekström: FIA World Rallycross Champion in 2016, two-time DTM champion, Swedish Touring Car Champion
Acciona | Sainz XE Team
- Laia Sanz: 13-time Women’s Trial World Champion and 10-time Women’s Trial European Champion (motorcycle racing)
- Carlos Sainz: Two-time World Rally Champion, four-time Dakar Rally winner
Andretti United Extreme E
- Catie Munnings: European Rally Championship Ladies Trophy winner
- Timmy Hansen: 2019 World Rallycross Champion
Hispano Suiza Xite Energy Team
- Christine Giampaoli Zonca: Champion of the Canaries, member of the first all-female World Rally Championship team
- Oliver Bennett: World Rallycross Championship driver
- Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky: Race-winning driver in TCR Scandinavia Touring Car Championship
- Jenson Button: Formula One World Champion
Rosberg X Racing
- Molly Taylor: Australian Rally Champion
- Johan Kristoffersson: Three-time World Rallycross Champion
Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing
- Sara Price: 17-time national motocross champion
- Kyle Leduc: 7-time Pro4 off-road champion, P-lite champion
- Jamie Chadwick: Inaugural W Series Champion
- Stéphane Sarrazin: Le Man series champion, 24 Hours of Le Mans podium finisher
- Cristina Gutiérrez: Multi-time Spanish Women’s Off-Road Champion
- Sébastien Loeb: Nine-time World Rally Champion
Note: there’s currently one team missing from the list of competing teams. Team TECHEETAH, the same company responsible for the last two electric Formula E Championships, intends to compete, but it was not prepared to do so by the first race.
Related: What Drives Her: How Charlie Martin Is Racing Toward a More Inclusive Future for Motorsport
This Rally Pushes Electric SUV Technology to Its Potential
Right now, there are no traditional manufacturers in Extreme E, which means that car companies like Land Rover or Nissan have not yet joined the fore to fund a team. In these initial stages, Extreme E is a spec series which means that every team races the exact same car, the Spark Odyssey 21. This puts all vehicles and teams on a level playing field; there aren’t many opportunities for massive differences between one team’s car and the other.
“The electric car takes quite a lot of getting used to, like how you can change the power that goes to each of the wheels,” Jamie Chadwick said in a brief interview with A Girls Guide to Cars; it’ll be her first time taking on a heavy SUV as opposed to a lightweight formula-style single seater. “I’m excited for the whole concept. I’m eager to see what the series comes in store.”
The Spark Odyssey 21 is a standard-looking SUV designed exclusively for racing. It boasts a 400 kW battery and goes from 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds. It only has two seats for the two drivers, but still, it’s a fairly heavy machine.
Using a spec car offers a lot of benefits. It’s cheaper for the race teams since they don’t have to spend millions of dollars developing a race-specific car. And having a performance baseline and an addressing the technology throughout the series means that those teams are going to be putting EV technology to the test in extreme conditions (see where the series got its name?).
With races in the heat of the desert, the humidity of the rainforest, and the chill of a glacier, the Spark Odyssey 21 is going to go through a lot—and if you’re familiar with EVs, you know that batteries tend to degenerate in extreme conditions. Your Tesla isn’t going to go as far on a 105-degree day as it would on a 75-degree day, for example.
And that’s where Extreme E comes in. Throughout history, racing has been the home of rapid automotive development because the intense competition means everyone is looking for a new, creative edge over their rivals. Race engineers have the added pressure of the championship to develop ideas, which can often mean that they brainstorm ideas that an engineer in a manufacturers offices may never imagine. It’s only a matter of time before you end up seeing Extreme E-developed technology in your car.
Related: What Drives Her: For NASCAR Marketing Chief Jill Gregory, Remaking Racing and Finding New Fans
Drawing Attention to Climate Change Around the Globe
One of the most fascinating elements of Extreme E is what’s going on off the race course: exposure and education. Yes, Extreme E chose to race in extreme climates because it will provide real-world benefits to EV technology, but the overarching goal is to educate local and global audiences about the dangers of climate change, which can often be seen manifesting most drastically in these already-extreme areas.
Yes—that makes Extreme E the first sport designed predominantly as a vehicle for global change, not simply as a form of competition.
Extreme E doesn’t allow spectators to its events, since these races often take place in dangerous climes—and it also cuts down on the carbon footprint of the series, since it reduces the number of people and resources that collect in an area. The series is encouraging fans to instead watch the broadcasts of the events and to work at reducing their own carbon footprints in their daily lives. It’s in a close partnership with the scientific community, which means Extreme E is helping expand climate research and EV technology while also using that education to make tangible changes in the local, vulnerable communities.
The sport also partnered with National Geographic to create a series of documentaries educating viewers on the creation of electric cars and the tangible benefits the series will provide as it competes.
Related: This Girl Has Drive: Inspiring Woman Aurora Straus, Teen SportsCar Racer with Harvard On Her Radar
Race Weekend Format
There may be a lot going on behind the scenes, but there’s still going to be some on-track action during the weekend. We’ll run you through what to expect during these events.
Race weekends are composed of two days. The first day of the weekend sees qualifying. The four fastest teams during qualifying will move on to Semi-Final 1 while the rest go on to take part in the Semi-Final 2, which is called the ‘Crazy Race.’
The next day comes the Crazy Race, which is an all-out battle that determines the two fastest teams. Those teams progress into the Final. The three fastest teams from Semi-Final 1 also progress into the Final—which means only five of the ten teams take part.
Whoever wins that final race goes on to be named X Prix winner, with X Prix being the unique name of Extreme E races (it’s a play on the traditional Grand Prix, which has historically denoted important races).
How You Can Get Involved
Getting excited about checking out an incredible racing series? Us, too. And so is Veloce driver Jamie Chadwick, who said people are going to love the series for countless reasons, in part because “We’re going to some incredible locations. Some of the layouts they’ve proposed for us are like no other in motorsport, and we the cars themselves are pretty epic. It’s going to be an awesome spectacle and awesome racing that will also raise awareness for climate change and gender equality.”
“I’m a big advocate for using sport and the platform that sport has to raise awareness for these issues, and I think Extreme E is the perfect platform for that,” Chadwick added. “What we’re pioneering and showcasing with Extreme E really does stand for great things.”
If you’re in the United States, you’ll be able to watch Extreme E on Fox Sports. The five-race season runs as follows:
- April 3-4: Desert X Prix: Wadi Rum, Alula, Saudi Arabia
- May 29-30: Ocean X Prix: Lac Rose, Dakar, Senegal
- August 28-29: Arctic X Prix: Kangerlussauq, Greenland
- October 23-25: Amazon X Prix: Santarem, Para, Brazil
- December 11-12: Glacier X Prix: Tierra del Fuego, Argentina