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Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky takes Extreme E title after wild finale in Antofagasta

In one of the series' most hectic finals ever, Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky became Extreme E champion for the first time - in RXR's second title in three years - after crossing the finish line with a broken suspension. With a victory in the second Copper X Prix, Molly Taylor becomes the series' most victorious female driver and secures third in the championship.


Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, RXR, Extreme E 2023, Copper X Prix Antofagasta, Chile
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / LAT

Following one of the most hectic X Prixs in Extreme E's history, the third series' title went down to the wire in a Grand Final that saw both championship contenders hitting trouble.

After endless twists and turns, Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky and Johan Kristoffersson took the title for RXR, securing the second championship for the team.


It is Åhlin-Kottulinsky's first Extreme E title, after missing out in last year's finale to X44's Cristina Gutierrez and Sebastien Loeb - while Kristoffersson returns to the top step after claiming the inaugural crown, when he teamed up with Molly Taylor at RXR.


The Swedish duo had grabbed back the championship lead on Saturday, after taking the win in the first of the two back-to-back Copper X Prixs, overtaking by six points the Acciona Sainz crew of Laia Sanz and Mattias Ekstrom, whose greatly consistent season resulted in six podiums and two victories across the year. With their third win, RXR were back on top - but they would have to finish ahead of Acciona Sainz on Sunday, when the contenders were reduced from five to two.


Despite a third place, in fact, Cristina Gutierrez and Fraser McConnell were mathematically out of contention - just like Veloce's Molly Taylor and Kevin Hansen, who showed great speed throughout the Antofagasta weekend in Chile and were ready to end the year on a high to cement their third place in the championship standings.


Molly Taylor, Veloce Racing, Extreme E 2023, Copper X Prix Antofagasta, Chile
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / LAT
Q1

RXR lined up in the first heat, alongside McLaren, JBXE, X44 and Ganassi; out of a four-car wide at turn 1, Tanner Foust emerged in the lead after one of the closest starts of the weekend. Initially down to fourth and last, Kristoffersson overtook JBXE's Andreas Bakkerud before he closed in and attacked Fraser McConnell for third a few corners later. The Swede managed to also pass Ganassi's RJ Anderson just before the switch zone midway through the first qualifying heat of the day, where Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky took over and had Hedda Hosås in her target. Amanda Sorensen, though, looked strong in third and initially put pressure on Åhlin-Kottulinsky, before the championship contender started to quickly catch up with the leading McLaren SUV. Hosås had a spectacular run and held on throughout her two laps, keeping it cool and taking the win in the first heat in one of her best performances in Extreme E. Åhlin-Kottulinsky - who set the fastest time of all female drivers - was second eight tenths behind, while Amanda Sorensen completed an equally impressive run in third place. X44 were fourth, while an issue for JBXE meant that Molinaro and Bakkerud rounded out the first qualifying run. The four remaining cars were up against each other in the second heat, as Andretti withdrew from the event following Catie Munnings' accident on Saturday which required extensive repairs to the Odyssey21. Ekstrom fired into the lead from the third row and kept the top spot from the battling Scheider and Hansen. Back on track after Klara Andersson's monster rollover, the ABT Cupra machine was also in the mix in the hands of Adrien Tambay. Kevin Hansen snatched second with a clean pass and, once Scheider attempted to fight back, the two made contact. The Carl Cox Motorsport SUV picked up bodywork damage but continued, although three seconds behind the Veloce Racing car at the switch zone. Laia Sanz took over from the lead after a clean driver change, preceding Molly Taylor, Lia Block and Klara Andersson. Taylor closed in on the Acciona Sainz machine, but the Australian struggled to get within the one second gap. She was then under pressure from Block, who had a stellar run but had to settle for third. The young American, though, set the fastest second sector of anyone, proving once again her talent.


Hedda Hosås, NEOM McLaren, Extreme E 2023, Copper X Prix Antofagasta, Chile
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / LAT
Q2

Everyone used the hyperdrive at the start of the first heat of Q2 and Molly Taylor took the early lead in the Veloce machine ahead of Amanda Sorensen, Hedda Hosås, Klara Andersson and Tamara Molinaro - as female drivers took centre stage at the start of the final qualifying runs of the season.


Hosås continued to show her great form in Chile and hunted down Ganassi's Sorensen, both running different lines through the corners. Sorensen had a strong second lap and reduced the gap to Taylor just as they entered the pit lane for the driver change. Hansen took over the Veloce SUV from the lead, but the gap to RJ Anderson had come down to a little over a second after the switch, while McLaren's Foust had lost a couple of seconds.


Positions. though, had settled down and Veloce Racing took the win in heat 2, ahead of Ganassi and McLaren. ABT Cupra and JBXE, both teams slowed down by issues throughout the weekend, closed the session.


Both the championship contenders were up against each other in the second heat, which ultimately decided who advanced to the grand final. Sanz had the best start while Åhlin-Kottulinsky got stuck behind Cristina Gutierrez at turn 1, where she tried to avoid early contacts; Gutierrez was fast and tried to put pressure on Sanz, but had to defend again from Åhlin-Kottulinsky - with all four cars running separated by tenths of a second. Lia Block ran into the back of Åhlin-Kottulinsky at the switch zone entry, but luckily the RXR team only picked up bodywork damage.


Acciona Sainz and X44 were door to door out of the pitlane, but it would be McConnell to take the lead by using his hyperdrive, followed by Ekstrom, Kristoffersson and Scheider in a clearly very tense session. McConnell held off immense pressure to win the second heat, ahead of Mattias Ekstrom and Johan Kristoffersson - which meant that both the title contenders were through to the grand final, despite X44 taking the extra points for the traction challenge fastest time.


With their win in the qualifying points, Sanz and Ekstrom closed their gap to RXR to five championship points ahead of the Grand Final.


Laia Sanz, Acciona Sainz, Extreme E 2023, Copper X Prix Antofagasta, Chile
Photo by: Andrew Ferraro
REDEMPTION RACE

The final redemption race of the 2023 season was a four-way battle between Carl Cox Motorsport, ABT Cupra, Ganassi and JBXE, all looking to wrap up their year on a high despite missing the final. From the central lane, Anderson put the Ganassi SUV ahead, but then had to fight off Timo Scheider's decisive return after the first corner, with Bakkerud and Tambay slotting behind.


The Hummer Ganassi machine, though, held on and Scheider was under pressure from Bakkerud - before a broken front suspension for the Carl Cox car put them out of contention and promoted JBXE to second place on lap 2. RJ Anderson handed over to Amanda Sorensen from the lead, while Tamara Molinaro and Klara Andersson would have to close the gap in the final 2 laps.


The American stretched her gap, while Andersson was gaining ground on Molinaro. After a huge crash on Saturday, Andersson was straight back in the car and made the pass for second - although Amanda Sorensen was at that point 13 seconds up the road and the American outfit took victory in the Redemption Race.


Sorensen showed great adaptability and was immediately competitive at her first season in Extreme E - which her win in the final Redemption race proved once again.


Amanda Sorensen, GMC Hummer EV Chip Ganassi Racing, Extreme E 2023, Copper X Prix Antofagasta, Chile
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / LAT
FINAL

After 10 rounds, it all came down to the final race: two teams in a winner-takes-it-all situation. Male drivers took the start of the competition: everyone deployed their hyperdrive at the start, but it would be Mattias Ekstrom for Acciona Sainz to take the lead. In an incredible moment, RXR's Kristoffersson went deep and saved the car from a crash that would have been disastrous; Kristoffersson, though, picked up an issue and slowed down in a heartbreaking moment for Nico Rosberg's team. Ekstrom, meanwhile, was under pressure from Veloce Racing's Hansen and X44's McConnell. Mclaren also hit trouble with a puncture after hitting the back of X44, while the leading trio reached the switch zone. Laia Sanz took over - but the Acciona Sainz SUV was overtaken by Molly Taylor's Veloce machine at the pit exit. Sanz was not over yet and battled hard with Taylor, as Åhlin-Kottulinsky took over over a minute down the road. While trying to reclaim the top spot, Sanz spun and then rolled while trying to rejoin. The championship was on the line, and Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky now had to complete a heroic drive with a broken steering in order to secure enough points. Molly Taylor took the win for Veloce Racing, but all the eyes were on Mikaela Ahlin Kottulinsky, who just had to cross the finish line in the most challenging conditions to be crowned champion. One lap down, Mikaela got past the stricken Acciona Sainz Odyssey21 and crossed the finish line in second place, four minutes behind, after retirements from X44, McLaren and Acciona Sainz.


"Winning the 2023 Extreme E Championship is a dream come true", said Mikaela. "It was neck to neck all season with ASXE, but I'm just so happy and speechless right now. We fought so hard last year and narrowly missed the win, so it was stressful when I saw that we had a puncture. But as always, we never give up. Despite the challenges, our team's spirit never waned. This championship is a powerful reminder that with passion and perseverance, anything is achievable." While Åhlin-Kottulinsky celebrated her first championship title, Molly Taylor took her third win of the season and sixth win of her Extreme E career, equalling her championship-winning 2021 season and setting a new record for the female driver with most race wins in the series. The Australian was once again on top of her game and maximised her team's potential, eventually securing third in the championship standings with Veloce teammate Kevin Hansen. Despite the heartbreak, Laia Sanz fought for the title until the very end, having shown the biggest improvements since her switch from motorbike racing to cars only two years ago. The Spaniard and Mattias Ekstrom were second in the standings, 15 points behind RXR. Cristina Gutierrez stepped for the fourth time of the year on the podium with a third place and, while she couldn't defend the 2022 title, she added two wins to her name and was fourth in the points, ahead of a very impressive Amanda Sorensen and RJ Anderson. Klara Andersson, Catie Munnings - who had to sit out the final two races - and Hedda Hosås all had promising campaigns and finished sixth, seventh and ninth respectively. Lia Block - who was announced as the next Williams driver in F1 Academy - joined mid-way through the season, but certainly left a positive mark in Extreme E. While the 2024 Extreme E calendar has not been announced yet, the new season is expected to kick off in Saudi Arabia, with the fourth Desert X-Prix.


Molly Taylor, Veloce Racing, Extreme E 2023, Copper X Prix Antofagasta, Chile
Photo by: Andrew Ferraro

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