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Laia Sanz wins Extreme E round 2 in Saudi

2023 vice-champion Laia Sanz took her third Extreme E win of her career, preceding an impressive Catie Munnings across the line of the second Desert X Prix of the season.


Laia Sanz, Acciona Sainz, Extreme E 2024
Photo credits: Sam Bagnall / Extreme E

Season 3 runner-up Laia Sanz returned to the top step of the Extreme E podium with a victory in the second round of the season, one day after finishing fourth. Acciona Sainz are in fact back in contention and return to be Rosberg X Racing's main contenders after the team led by the German F1 champion had dominated in the first Desert X Prix.


Reigning champions Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky and Johan Kristoffersson topped the times after the two qualifying runs on Sunday as well - but an equally convincing performance for Acciona Sainz - and for the Andretti Altawkilat squad - resulted in a tightly contested second day, which saw Laia Sanz and her teammate Fraser McConnell emerging victorious in the desert of Saudi Arabia.


Q1

Action at the Jeddah course resumed early in the morning with the first round of qualifying runs: the first heat featured the top three from the previous day: NEOM McLaren, RXR, E.ON Veloce Racing plus new entry Legacy Motor Club.


Travis Patrana had a great launch off the line - but Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky recovered positions with a great line into turn 2. Ahead of Molly Taylor and Cristina Gutierrez, the Swedish ace followed Pastrana by 5 seconds after the first lap. The American slightly extended the gap, then took to the switch zone for the driver change. The Legacy Motor Club SUV was unfortunately released with Pastrana still in the switch area and Grey Leadbetter was placed under investigation. Nevertheless, the young American held off Kristoffersson for a full lap, before the RXR driver took the lead into the final lap.


Kevin Hansen also found a gap for second, but had not enough time left to challenge the reigning champions, who continued the perfect form from Saturday with another heat win. Legacy Motor Club was eventually handed a penalty for the switch infringement and demoted to fourth, with McLaren moving up to third.


Fraser McConnell (Acciona Sainz), Dania Akeel (JBXE), Timo Scheider (SUN Minimeal) and (Timmy Hansen) Andretti Altawkilat took the start of heat 2. McConnell dived inside turn 1 to take the early lead, while Scheider and Hansen banged wheels for second. The German made a great pass stick - but Hansen fought back under braking. Gaps remained similar after the driver switch; Laia Sanz led Catie Munnings and Klara Andersson, with JBXE's Andreas Bakkerud 20 seconds behind.


Munnings was faster and she closed in on the Acciona Sainz car; the British driver tried to work her way past, but Sanz took victory by one second. Not far behind, Klara Andersson was third, but not quite close enough to join the battle for the win.


Laia Sanz, Acciona Sainz, Extreme E 2024
Photo credits: Alastair Staley / Extreme E
Q2

The second round of qualifying runs opened with a great start from the outside for McLaren's Ekstrom, who successfully made the switch-line work, passing Kevin Hansen, Catie Munnings and Andreas Bakkerud as everyone deployed their hyperdrive. Hansen tried to make a move for the lead but had to back out. Munnings had a really fast first lap and always kept touch with the leading duo, opening a gap on JBXE's Bakkerud.


Coming into the switch zone, the top 3 were covered by 1.9 seconds: Molly Taylor had the best exit from the driver change and took over the lead, while Cristina Gutierrez was now under pressure from Timmy Hansen. Gutierrez defended but the Andretti car was through - and soon chased Molly Taylor. The Andretti car snatched the lead after another brilliant battle - and the skirmishes allowed Cristina Gutierrez to make a move stick on Taylor in the final corner to finish second. Andretti Altawkilat's duo Hansen and Munnings won heat one and secured their spot in the final.


Andersson and Leadbetter went for the inside line while the outside switchback worked better for Johan Kristoffersson and Laia Sanz at the start of the second qualifying heat. RXR stretched their lead over Acciona Sainz, Legacy Motor Club and SUN Minimeal, but all four cars were within a few seconds to each other at the driver switch: Åhlin-Kottulinsky drove away from Fraser McConnell, who was now under pressure from Travis Pastrana.


The American motocross legend attacked and, after a first attempt, he eventually found a gap to take second place. Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky was at that point 6 seconds up the road - but the Legacy Motor Club driver gained a few tenths but the Swedish champion remained calm and collected - and took a controlled victory in heat 2, ahead of Travis Pastrana, Fraser McConnell and Timo Scheider.


Rosberg X Racing therefore once again topped the qualifying and advanced to the main final, followed by Andretti Altawkilat, Acciona Sainz and E.ON Veloce Racing.


Catie Munnings, Andretti Altawkilat, Extreme E 2024
Photo credits: Sam Bagnall / Extreme E
REDEMPTION RACE

From second place in yesterday's X Prix, McLaren found themselves in the Redemption race on Sunday, alongside SUN Minimeal, JBXE and Legacy Motor Club. Timo Scheider and Cristina Gutierrez went for the faster outside line - but while cutting across the track, the McLaren SUV made contact with the JBXE car of Dania Akeel, who rolled over and brought out the red flag. Akeel was luckily unhurt after the multiple rolls.


At the restart, Travis Pastrana was faster through the inside line, barely ahead of Timo Scheider and Cristina Gutierrez. The McLaren driver applied pressure on Scheider and attempted different lines through the single lap before the driver change, when Grey Leadbetter, Klara Andersson and Matias Ekstrom took over.


It was a clean pit stop for all three teams - and Andersson defended hard from Ekstrom's attacks. The two electric SUVs traded positions a few times before the McLaren car was eventually through. The 19-year-old rookie Leadbetter saw her gap being reduced, but the young American held exceptionally under pressure and started the final lap in first. With a great final lap, Leadbetter led until the final corner, where Ekstrom eventually snatched victory by 0.69 of a second to gain 12 points in the Redemption Race.


Cristina Gutierrez, NEOM McLaren, Extreme E 2024
Photo credits: Alastair Staley / Extreme E

FINAL

Fraser McConell had a sterling start into the grand final and brought the Acciona Sainz vehicle ahead of everyone at turn 1; Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky was super late on the brakes at the following corner and moved up to third, but Molly Taylor responded back after a big jump on the first lap.


McConnell was chased by Andretti's Hansen but positions remained unchanged until the switch zone. Laia Sanz had a smooth restart, but Catie Munnings stayed close behind. Hansen and Kristoffersson, meanwhile, were battling hard for third place - and allowed Sanz and Munnings to extend their gap ahead. As they started the final lap, Munnings got within the one second margin - but Sanz held on brilliantly and brought the Acciona Sainz SUV across the line to take victory in the second Desert X Prix.


“I am super happy. This weekend was a tough fight because the pace is super high and everyone is improving, but I am super happy to take this first race victory with Fraser", Laia Sanz commented. "Winning this race is made even more special after what happened last year in the season finale, where we narrowly missed the title. The team has done a great job this weekend to improve the car in each session and we felt really quick in the Grand Final, with enough strength to go for the win."


Now the Spanish team follows RXR by only two points in the championship standings, and has a six point margin over third-placed Veloce Racing.


“We are feeling well as we leave Saudi Arabia", Sanz continued. "We know that the Championship will be very tight, but today we saw that we have the pace to go for the win. Today we proved it. We must keep working hard.”


Catie Munnings' great performances in both qualifying and in the grand final granted Andretti Altawkilat second place, ahead of Veloce Racing and RXR, fourth after winning both quali runs, but still banking important points for the championship.


“It’s fantastic to start the year with a podium, I always think the start of the season sets the tone for the rest of the year", Munnings said after securing the seventh podium of her Extreme E career. "We definitely had the pace and we were unlucky with our quali draw yesterday, which meant that we didn’t make it to the final, so it was really nice to redeem ourselves today. I think we had the pace to win but I think we’ll save that one for later in the year!”


Molly Taylor and teammate Kevin Hansen also scored a good haul of points and were the only duo to climb the podium in both days.

“It has been a great weekend for us", stated Season 1 champion Molly Taylor. "We had some fantastic battles and it was really challenging in the dust, but we had some amazing speed and the team have been on fire. It was really important at this point to take some solid points in the championship, and we’ve definitely started Season 4 on the right foot.”


A big gap in the calendar now awaits, as the fourth Extreme E season is set to hold its second double-header on 13-14 July, at a European location yet to be announced.


Catie Munnings, Kevin Hanen, Laia Sanz, Fraser McConnell, Molly Taylor, Timmy Hansen - Podium Desert X Prix, Extreme E 2024
Photo credits: Andrew Ferraro / Extreme E

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