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  • Writer's pictureVIVIEN STREBELOW

Extreme E: Åhlin-Kottulinsky wins first spectacular XPrix of 2022

Rosberg X Racing wins the first XPrix of the 2022 season, with a spectacular performance by Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky and Johan Kristoffersson in the Saudi desert. It was Mikaela's first win after 4 podiums last year. Here's what happened at NEOM!

Photo by Alastair Staley / Extreme E

Sunday, race day. The first of the 2022 season, just a couple of months since the 2021 championship decider.

The final day of the Desert X-Prix started with the two Semi Finals, followed by the Crazy Race and then the highly anticipated Final. After her accident on Saturday, Christine GZ was ruled out of the weekend with an ankle fracture. 20-year old Norwegian up-and.coming talent Hedda Hosås thus jumped into the Veloce Racing SUV, partnering Lance Woolridge in her Extreme E debut.

“It has been such an incredible experience to be here with Extreme E and Veloce Racing, and a huge honour to make my debut in the series", Hedda said.

Semi Final 1 (X44, Rosberg X Racing, Xite Energy)

Kristoffersson (RXR) had the best start, but Cristina Gutiérrez (X44) and Tamara Molinaro (XITE Energy) - subbing in for Klara Andersson - were right behind him and surely put some pressure on the Swede. Nevertheless, he managed to get into the switch zone as the race leader, ready to hand over to new teammate Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky.

Molinaro had a great run and, after passing Gutiérrez, she hunted down the 2021 champion. The Italian seemed able to close the gap and dived in an overtaking attempt; the RXR and XITE Energy vehicles made contact and Molinaro lost momentum. She would lose second to Gutiérrez, but all the Odyssey21 electric SUVs remained at a close distance once in the switch area.

Oliver Bennett and Sébastien Loeb were in a tough battle after the stop, as Åhlin-Kottulinsky pulled away. Bennett missed a gate and received a 10 second time penalty after the race.

But the race wasn't over yet, as Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky had troubles and lost out to both Loeb and Bennett, but was crucially able to prevent a roll-over and finished third, a tenth of a second behind XITE Energy. Due the time penalty, though, RXR was through, while the XITE duo dropped out of the final despite an amazing run by both its drivers all weekend.

Semi final 2 (Chip Ganassi Racing, Acciona Sainz, Andretti United)

In the second Semi Final of the day, Kyle LeDuc (Ganassi) had the best start from the right-hand side and pulled away as Catie Munnings (Andretti United) and Sainz (Acciona Sainz) battled each other on track. The American was first into the switch zone and handed over to Sara Price, who started her lap with a good margin.

Timmy Hansen took over from Munnings and immediately tried to catch up. Unfortunately, he lost the car on a bump and rolled over. He was quickly out of the car and unhurt, but his race had come to an end.

Sara Price finished first, ahead of Laia Sanz - both progressing into the Final without much pressure once the Andretti vehicle had stopped.

Photo by Charly Lopez / Extreme E

Crazy Race (JBXE, McLaren, ABT, Veloce) The Crazy Race format allows a last chance to earn a spot for the Final race to the teams previously ending in the bottom positions in qualifying. JBXE's Kevin Hansen had a great getaway and went for the early lead; Emma Gilmour (McLaren) followed, after a stunning double pass at Turn 1 having taken the outside line. But the start wasn't drama free, as Lance Woolridge (Veloce), who seemed able to challenge the JBXE car, nearly lost control of his electric SUV over a bump and incredibly avoided another massive crash. The incident, though, damaged the car's power steering, and Woolridge's race was compromised even if the South African continued. JBXE driver Molly Taylor was the first out of the switch zone having taken over from Hansen. Tanner Foust, though, was on a mission and hunted down the 2021 champion, closing a 12 second gap in a short time. The McLaren driver passed Taylor and secured the last spot on the Final race. ABT's Jutta Kleinschmidt and Nasser Al Attiyah earned the second place after a time penalty for the JBXE duo, as they were too fast in the switch zone. Hedda Hosås inherited the wheel of the Veloce Odyssey21 with an over 40 second gap to the leaders; the team tried to reset the car but the power-steering issue persisted. The young Norwegian still went out and finished her lap, gaining some important experience. Final (X44, RXR, Chip Ganassi, Acciona, McLaren) The second ever edition of the Desert X-Prix went underway in the early afternoon, with rally legend Sebastién Loeb getting away first at the start. Fellow WRC champion and Dakar legend Carlos Sainz Sr found a way around Loeb just before the first gate, while behind them there was early drama: due to the difficult visibility in the dust, Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky was hit hard by Tanner Foust, who couldn't see anything. The accident was violent enough to send the orange McLaren SUV on its roof, also severely damaging the rear end of the RXR vehicle. Foust was unharmed, but his race had brutally ended. On the other hand, Åhlin-Kottulinsky continued her run and then reached the switch zone - where the race was red flagged. The restart took place with just four cars as the McLaren was recovered with significant damage. Laia Sanz went out first once the course was cleared, maintaining the previous time gaps. Cristina Gutierrez, Johann Kristoffersson and Kyle LeDuc finally got the green light and started to hunt down the Acciona Sainz driver. Kristoffersson had an over 20 second deficit - but with a great use of the hyperdrive, the Swede was able to pass Cristina Gutierrez and, right at the end, he overtook Sanz despite the heavily damaged RXR machine, claiming the first victory of the season for the reigning champion team ahead of Acciona and X44. "I know that Johan is an amazing racer and the tactics this weekend were that if I wasn’t first out of turn one it was just to make sure that the gap didn’t get any bigger", , Mikaela said after the race. "I knew that the ten seconds he had to make up in the Final he could make them up and it was exciting to watch. I was holding my breath at waypoint 22, but I was fully confident overall!" It's the first win for Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, who had scored four podiums in 2021 for JBXE. She joined the new team a few weeks ahead of the 2022 season, but immediately proved to be a worthy championship contender. "This is my first win so of course it feels really great and even better to do it having just entered the team." "There have been quite a few incidents out there and we managed to avoid that and keep the car in one piece, so it was a good weekend", she concluded. The next event will take place from 7th to 8th May in Sardinia/Italy for the Island X-Prix. There should be enough time to see Christine GZ back on track - with also XITE Energy's Klara Andersson finally making her debut in the series.

Photo by Carl Bingham / Extreme E



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