Cristina Gutierrez and X44 win dramatic Copper XPrix in Chile
After drama for championship leader Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Rosberg X Racing - and a many penalties in the final - the Copper XPrix was claimed by Cristina Guiterez and X44.
The latest Extreme E round had many stories to tell, here's what happened in Chile.
The fourth and penultimate round of the 2022 season of Extreme E saw its premier race in South Africa: the Copper XPrix in Antofagasta, Chile. The two-month summer break was over and the series returned with a new-found initiative - the Racing for All campaign, which aims to bring more people into motorsport: each team is composed of five mechanics and engineers, but they will now be able to bring a sixth person with less than one year experience in the sport.
As the premier race in South Africa was delayed to this year due to the Covid pandemic, the race took place near Antofagasta and the city Calama, where mining is carried out. The Copper XPrix is in fact addressing the issues related to the three biggest copper mines in the world.
Ahead of the event, all teams except for Veloce and ABT Cupra could still battle for the championship title - but only Rosberg Xtreme Racing was in the position to potentially seal the deal last weekend. The battle for the runner up spot is closer, with three teams separated by a handful of points.
Xite Energy announced Tamara Molinaro and Timo Scheider for the rest of the season, while Hedda Hosås contested another race weekend alongside Kevin Hansen for JBXE. Championship and reserve drivers were Klara Andersson and Fraser McConell.
For the first time, both drivers of each team drove two laps instead of one, as the course was shorter - measuring around 3 kilometres. In free practice, the track confirmed itself to be extremely tricky, as Jutta Kleinschmidt crashed her ABT Cupra SUV heavily and had to spend the night in hospital. Therefore, Klara Andersson would have to jump in the car for Saturday and Sunday's action.
Quali 1 started with McLaren (Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust)on top, as long as Rosberg X Racing set their lap time in - with a great start by Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky and an even better lap from Johan Kristofferson, who remained the benchmark until the end of qualifying.
There was more drama for Andretti United, as Catie Munnings suffered a technical failure and lost plenty of time. In the switch zone, their Odyssey21 was attempted to be reset, but it didn't work and they also ended up with a time penalty for speeding in the switch zone - which dropped Timmy Hansen down the order.
But it wasn't the only Hansen brother to hit trouble: Kevin Hansen (JBXE) was close to RXR's time before suffering a drive shaft failure. Kevin was forced to miss the jumps - and received a 5-second time penalty for missing a flag - while Hedda Hosås just brought the car back.
Klara Andersson had a tough job with no real experience in the car, but the ABT Cupra duo remained close to the frontrunners.
X44's Cristina Gutierrez lost valuable time as she saved a spin, but Sebastién Loeb did some magic and drove the fastest lap of the session.
Acciona Sainz had a seat belt problem during the driver switch; Carlos Sainz managed to get underwa, although a mechanic was still in the switch zone and the team received a time penalty of 17 seconds.
At the end of a drama-filled session, Rosberg X Racing led X44 Vida Carbon Racing and the #99 GMC Hummer EV of Chip Ganassi Racing, with Sara Price and Kyle LeDuc behind the wheel.
In the second session, the field was separated into two groups of five cars: the first group included RXR, Chip Ganassi, Xite Energy, Veloce and Andretti.
Scheider had the best start, but missed goal 8 - as well as Woolridge and Kristoffersson - which meant that all of them received a five second penalty. But there was more chaos when Woolridge and LeDuc made contact and the Veloce car had to retire. The Chip Ganassi SUV was also wounded.
Timmy Hansen was first in the switch zone, followed by Kristoffersson. After the driver change, the Chip Ganassi Odyssey stopped on track several times with Sara Price onboard, as a result of the heavy damage from the contact with Wooldrigde. However, Price managed to bring the car to the finish line in P3, behind RXR and Andretti. Tamara Molinaro had to retire after a front suspension failure.
The second heat featured X44, McLaren, ABT Cupra, Acciona Sainz and JBXE. With a close battle between Carlos Sainz, Loeb and Al-Attiyah, Loeb was first into the switch zone, but was hit with a 10 second penalty for touching a flag.
Cristina Gutierrez won on track, but was classified in second as the penalty was applied. That handed the victory to Acciona Sainz. The ABT Cupra duo of Klara Andersson and Nasser Al Attiyah was third.
The first semi final featured Andretti, Acciona Sanz and RXR. Catie Munnings had the best start in the Andretti SUV, but hit trouble as she lost control over a higher turn. Laia Sanz was first in the switch zone, but Johan Kristofferson rejoined in the lead, furiously chased by Carlos Sainz.
The Spaniard, though, wasn't able to pass the Swede and was second at the finish line. Timmy Hansen tried everything to keep up the pace but wasn't able to catch up with the leading duo and would not progress to the final, together with Catie Munnings.
The second semi final saw a more settled session, with Chip Ganassi Racing, X44 and ABT Cupra. Sara Price had the best start but to lead the way at the first corner was Cristina Gutierrez.
From third, Klara Andersson recovered and challenged Sara Price for second place; she was able to pass the American driver shortly before the switch zone. The order was unchanged during the second lap: Sebastién Loeb won ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah and Kyle LeDuc.
The Crazy race decided the final spot in the final between JBXE, McLaren, Xite and Veloce Racing. Kevin Hansen was the first into the switch zone, ahead of Emma Gilmour in the McLaren Odyssey21. After the driver switch, Hedda Hosås was hunted down by Tanner Foust and they unfortunately collided during the battle.
Both lost plenty of time and received time penalties after the heat for missing waypoints. Xite got a penalty as well, as Tamara Molinaro missed one of the flags too. The last final spot was therefore claimed by McLaren.
"Awesome team effort in the crazy race and we’re through to the final" - said Emma Gilmour.
The Copper XPrix final had its first turn of events before it even started: Rosberg X Racing was out of the race, with its Odyssey21 electric not ready due to a technical failure that postponed its chase for championship glory. Beneficiary of this was Chip Ganassi, who earned the final spot on the final.
"Frustrating to have a technical issue with the car not starting in the final… Not in our hands, we did the best we could this weekend and showed great pace again - bring on Uruguay!" - saide Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky.
Best off the line was Nasser Al-Attiyah with his ABT Cupra - but the Qatari was soon passed by Loeb and Foust. Then Al-Attiyah made contact with Kyle LeDuc, went wide and touched a way point - but wasn't penalized as it was a consequence of the contact with the ABT car.
X44 and McLaren were close behind each other as they came into the switch zone: Cristina Gutierrez rejoined in first place, ahead of Emma Gilmour. Gutierrez touched a flag in lap 3, got a penalty - which was withdrawn shortly after they crossed the finish line because the flag was not damaged. Sara Price also was handed a penalty for missing one of the way points in a hectic and penalty-filled race.
The McLaren team was first at the finish line, but received a 10 second penalty for touching another flag - summing up to 20 seconds. They therefore dropped down to last. The official winner of the Copper XPrix was X44 Team, with Cristina Gutierrez/Sebastién Loeb preceding Acciona Sainz (Laia Sanz/Carlos Sainz) and ABT Cupa (Klara Andersson/Timo Scheider).
"What a final Copper X Prix, the truth is that, in short, it has been a weekend that I would describe as teamwork." - said Cristina Gutierrez, at her first win of the year. "Without each of the pieces that are part of my life this would not be the same."
"Having the teacher Sebastién Loeb is a luxury that I will never be able to value with words!" - she continued. "Our faces describe the sensations we have experienced."
The championship battle is still on for the last event of the season, which will take place from 26th to 27th November in Uruguay.