Andersson wins on her second Extreme E outing; Gutierrez is 2022 champion
A star is born: amidst the thrilling championship battle between RXR and X44, Klara Andersson was the protagonist of an outstanding Energy X Prix in Uruguay, as the Swede took her maiden Extreme E victory at her second start.
The 2022 Energy X Prix in Punta del Este, Uruguay, crowned the second ever Extreme E champions: in an endless series of plot twists and action-filled races - including dramatic roll overs and incredible recoveries - Cristina Gutierrez became the second female champion of the all-electric off road championship, succeeding Australian Molly Taylor.
But, amidst the championship battle, the star of the show was arguably ABT Cupra's Klara Andersson, who took victory at only her second participation in the series.
Here's a recap of the dramatic ending of the 2022 season.
The story of the race
The 2022 Extreme E season finale took place in Uruguay, with everything to play for in the championship battle, as the series looked to crown their second ever champions.
Rosberg Extreme Racing had in fact won the inaugural year with Molly Taylor and Johan Kristoffersson - and the Nico Rosberg-owned team was again the best placed for the win at the eve of the Energy X Prix, with Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky and Johan Kristoffersson on top of the standings. Three more teams, though, were still in contention to win: X44 (Christina Gutierrez/Sébastien Loeb), Acciona Sainz (Laia Sanz/Carlos Sainz) and Chip Ganassi Racing (Sara Price/RJ Anderson). The entry list again saw many changes before the weekend: Klara Andersson returned behind the wheel of the ABT Cupra SUV, having made her debut at the previous round in place of Jutta Kleinschmidt. Hedda Hosås and Fraser McConnell would take over driving duties in the JBXE Odyssey 21. Chip Ganassi Racing welcomed RJ Anderson, while Xite Energy added Ezequiel Companc to their team. Veloce, furthermore, started with a full new line-up, including 2021 champion Molly Taylor and Kevin Hansen. Day one was a rather chaotic one, as teams faced several roll-overs that destroyed cars and luckily did not injure drivers. Emma Gilmour (McLaren), in practice, and then Hedda Hosås (JBXE), Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky (RXR) and Cristina Gutierrez (X44) were the unlucky protagonists of the crashes, including two championship contenders. The rest of the field focused on setting a time in the safest possible run, as the teams tried to avoid more risky situations. Timmy Hansen (Andretti) set the pace initially, before Laia Sanz and Carlos Sainz could improve and end the first qualifying on top for Acciona Sainz. Qualifying 2 saw two heats, with Acciona Sainz, Chip Ganassi, Andretti, X44 and Xite Energy going against each other in the first group. Timmy Hansen was fastest at the start, as Companc (Xite) hit trouble and spun. After the massive Q1 crash for Gutierrez, X44 had to switch to the championship car chassis and Loeb just tried to get the points from the Continental Traction Challenge to get safe points against their title rivals RXR. Timmy Hansen handed over his Andretti SUV to Catie Munnings, who crossed the finish line first, ahead of Laia Sanz and Sara Price (Chip Ganassi). Heat 2 featured Veloce, RXR, ABT Cupra, McLaren and JBXE. Johan Kristoffersson (RXR) led off the line, but Nasser Al-Attiyah (ABT Cupra) fought back: the Qatari made contact with the RXR car, who dropped back with heavy damage. Meanwhile, Kevin Hansen had snatched the lead, but after the switch zone it would be Klara Andersson to put pressure on Molly Taylor and ultimately win Heat 2 with an impressive pace - also with a heavily damaged Odyssey21. The Swede, in only her second Extreme E, was then demoted to fourth after ABT Cupra received a 30 second penalty for Al-Attiyah's contact with Kristoffersson. JBXE's Hedda Hosås therefore took the heat win, ahead of Veloce and McLaren. RXR tried to repair its SUV at the switch zone, but was disqualified for employing too many team members in the pit area. The result meant that championship leaders Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky and Johan Kristoffersson were out of the final.
Semi-final one saw Chip Ganassi, Veloce and ABT competing for the first two places in the final. Klara Andersson led after the first jump, while Sara Price had a contact with Molly Taylor, spun and received a further ten second penalty after hitting a flag. But as Price pushed to recover, she hit another flag and was handed another 10 second penalty.
Kevin Hansen led after the switch zone - with RJ Anderson close behind. The newcomer lost his door following contact and Al-Attiyah slowed down. Veloce's Taylor/Hansen won the Semi Final, ahead of ABT Cupra - while Chip Ganassi dropped out of the final following their 20 second time penalty.
Semi-final 2 featured McLaren, Acciona Sainz and Andretti. Laia Sanz had the best start, but Catie Munnings made the most of a better line at Turn 1 and passed the Spaniard for the lead. Sanz and Emma Gilmour (McLaren) battled during the first lap, before Sanz rolled over but she landed on four wheels and was able to continue her run. After the switch zone, Timmy Hansen (Andretti) brought it home safely, ahead of Tanner Foust (McLaren) and Carlos Sainz.
After the two semi finals, all championship contenders were out of the final - meaning that the title could have been assigned in the Crazy Race. While Acciona Sainz dropped out of the title battle, X44 and RXR had to win the Crazy Race shootout to get back in the Final.
RXR and X44 lined up alongside JBXE and Xite Energy for the last chance: Cristina Gutierrez had the best start and led off the line. Mikaeala Åhlin-Kottulinsky, on the other hand, made an unfortunate contact with Hedda Hosås, which damaged the rear of the RXR SUV and slowed Mikaela down.
While RXR and Veloce were forced to retire, Tamara Molinaro (Xite) and Cristina Gutierrez were safely through to the switch zone. Loeb and Companc made slight contact in the Switch zone, but both kept a cool head and Loeb pulled away quickly to take the final spot in the final and kept their hopes alive: X44 in fact would need to finish at least third in the final to snatch the 2022 title.
Nasser Al-Attiyah had a rocket start in the final and led the field, while X44 dropped back to 4th. Nothing happened until the Switch zone, with Al-Attiyah managing the race from Foust, Timmy Hansen, Loeb and Kevin Hansen. Klara Andersson took over the ABT Cupra SUV and led the field once again, running perfectly and making her victory look easy - in just her second outing in the series, after she was announced and then dropped at the beginning of the season before even making her debut.
"Wow! There are just so many emotions in me right now to be honest" . she said after taking the historic win. "I’ve been waiting for this for so long."
“It’s only my second Extreme E race, and my first proper Extreme E race weekend, so to be on top of the podium is huge" - she continued. "I couldn’t have done it without Nasser and the whole team" - Klara Andersson continued.
The McLaren duo of Emma Gilmour/Tanner Foust were second, having claimed their first Extreme E podium. Catie Munning/Timmy Hansen were third - but the Andretti team received a 7 second penalty as Timmy Hansen failed to slow down enough in the switch zone. The penalty handed the title to X44, as Sebastién Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez, fourth at the finish line, had just enough points to become the second champions in the history of the series.
"I still can’t believe it! It was a very tough weekend for us, especially after my roll yesterday" - explained Cristina Gutierrez. "The team did a crazy job with the (spare) car and Qualifying 2 was the first time we had driven it."
"As for the Final, on the radio they told me someone was going to be penalised but still I didn’t know", the Spanish driver recalled. "I wanted to be sure that we won so I did not celebrate before it was official."
"It was a rollercoaster, but it is much better than that for us as we can now believe in what we have achieved." - Cristina Gutierrez concluded.
The third season of Extreme E will start on the 11th to 12th March 2023 in Saudi Arabia, the first of a five-event calendar that will crown the 2023 Extreme E champions.