Laia Sanz secures maiden win in Extreme E
"This victory is for all the people on the team because they truly deserve it for all the work we have done to be in this position, especially for Carlos Sainz" - Laia Sanz claimed her team's maiden win in Extreme E at the second Desert X Prix in NEOM, perfectly managing the gap in the Grand Final on Sunday.
The long awaited first win for Spanish team Acciona Sainz finally arrived at the 2023 Saudi round in NEOM, at the second Desert X Prix of the weekend. The series features ,in fact, a new weekend format, with effectively double-headers at every race meeting. After victory on Saturday for Veloce Racing - also at their first win in Extreme E - Laia Sanz and Mattias Ekström, second yesterday, sealed their first win in the all-electric off road championship after a dominant run on Sunday. Sanz had previously claimed three podiums - a third place in the 2021 Arctic X Prix, and two second place finishes in 2022, in Saudi and Chile respectively. But that first win had always eluded the former Dakar motorbike legend, who recently switched to four wheels. “I am very happy, both for myself and the team", an ecstatic Sanz said. "We clinched our maiden win in Extreme E! I want to thank Mattias for giving me the car with such a good advantage over the rest of the field. I did a good stint and was able to keep the distance, so I am more than satisfied." Acciona Sainz, Veloce Racing, Rosberg X Racing, Hummer Chip Ganassi Racing and Cupra XE - who bounced back after rebuilding the car from a roll-over on Saturday - qualified in the top five on Sunday morning, thus gaining access to the Grand Final. Mattias Ekström took the early lead, preceding compatriots Kevin Hansen (Veloce Racing) and Johan Kristoffersson (RXR), who saved his Odyssey21 SUV from a sideways moment right after the start. Hansen, though, accidentally pressed the pit limiter and temporarily lost speed, dropping to third. Klara Andersson, the only female driver to take the start in the final in the first stint, slotted in fifth. Ahead, Ekström was able to pull away, taking advantage from the battle for second involving Kristoffersson and Hansen - who eventually managed to claim back second place before the driver change at the end of the second lap. Laia Sanz took over from Ekström - while Molly Taylor and Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky fought for position in a close battle exiting the switch zone. Sanz had a smooth run in the lead, never under pressure: she managed the gap from second placed Molly Taylor and took her maiden win. "This victory is for all the people on the team because they truly deserve it for all the work we have done to be in this position, especially for Carlos Sainz", Laia explained, thanking her former teammate and now full-time team owner. "It was an honor that he called me to ask if I wanted to race with him in Extreme E and I am trying to pay back his trust with all my motivation and my willingness to improve even further." "I learned so much with him as my teammate and it is fantastic that he is with us here, helping us and giving advice. Today we can feel proud, but we must keep up the good work.” Cupra XE's Nasser Al-Attiyah made up for Saturday's roll-over accident and fought his way up the order in his stint, almost recovering a 20 second gap. The Qatari driver passed series rookie Amanda Sorensen (Hummer Chip Ganassi Racing), protagonist of a really solid first weekend - and then hunted down Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky. The Swede, though, defended well and crossed the line in third place. 2022 champion Cristina Gutierrez took the win in the Redemption Race for X44 Vida Carbon Racing, after losing a spot in the Grand Final due to a slower Continental Traction Challenge time to Acciona Sainz in the second qualifying heat. The win in the Redemption Race, though, still earned X44 a valuable 10 championship points. The opening round in Saudi Arabia saw two teams securing their maiden wins - and the same three teams making the podium in both Desert X Prixs - suggesting that those might be the teams to beat. Molly Taylor and Kevin Hansen now lead the standings with 46 points, Extreme E will be back for the Hydro X-Prix, in Scotland, on May 13-14.