Extreme E: Rosberg X Racing wins Island X Prix
Updated: Oct 25, 2021
Molly Taylor and Johann Kristofferson took victory at the Island X Prix, recovering from a roll in Q1. Jutta Kleinschmidt scored her first podium in the series, while Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky snatched the podium at a dramatic X Prix, filled with stories and accidents.
The Island XPrix was the first event of the new electric series to be held in Europe, following rounds in Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Greenland. Originally, the second half of the season was set to take place in South America, but due to the ongoing Covid pandemic the two final rounds were shifted to Europe, in Italy and England respectively. The race in Sardinia focused on the ever-growing weather extremes and forest fires in the region.
Among the nine teams' line ups, Emma Gilmour stepped in at Veloce Racing as Jamie Chadwick was defending her W Series title at COTA at the same time. Theoretically, Rosberg X Racing could have sealed the championship title in Sardinia by outscoring X44 by over 28 points.
The practice session on Friday was the first timed session after the reveal of the track layout, again designed by Timo Scheider and Tamara Molinaro. Cristina Gutierrez and Sébastien Loeb (X44) were fastest, ahead of Sara Price and Kyle LeDuc (Chip Ganassi) - but both teams received penalties: Price missed the pit entry and Gutierrez missed the finish line.
Rosberg X Racing and Chip Ganassi were excluded from the Shakedown, as Molly Taylor, Johan Kristofferson and the crew of RXR used motorbikes for the track walk and Kyle LeDuc from Chip Ganassi Racing returned to the paddock to keep his own bike and was penalised as well.
Q1 began with Rosberg X Racing, having missed the Shakedown on Friday. Kristofferson started the session with a solid run, but Molly Taylor had more trouble as she lost control over her car, rolled over, but was able to land on all four wheels and still finished her lap.
There was more drama for Chip Ganassi Racing, as Sara Price lost control as well, collided with a rock and broke the left rear suspension, having to retire from her lap.
And she wasn't the only one, as Christine GZs' Xite Energy Racing SUV also suffered a right front suspension failure after a bump.
Cristina Gutierrez (X44) had a good lap, but lost plenty of time due to a spin. Her teammate Sébastien Loeb set the fastest combined time for the first qualifying session, ahead of Laia Sanz/Carlos Sainz (Acciona Sainz) and Emma Gilmour/Stephane Sarrazin.
Q2 started with Xite Energy Racing: Christine GZ handed over to Kyle LeDuc, who missed two gates during his lap and received a 10 second penalty. The fastest time went again to X44 (Cristina Gutierrez/Sébastien Loeb) following two great laps, ahead of Chip Ganassi (Sara Price/Kyle LeDuc) and Rosberg X Racing (Molly Taylor/Johan Kristoffersson) - the latter duo slowed down by a puncture. But again there were some technical issues which halted several teams on their laps: Laia Sanz spun when the power steering failed; Carlos Sainz restarted the car at the driver change and lost more than 2 minutes in their Acconia Sainz SUV. Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky also had a troubled run: the JBXE's Odyssey21 front engine failed and she lost power two times, also resulting into a spin. The SUV of Veloce Racing with Stephane Sarrazin behind the wheel was fast, but a suspension failure stopped him on his fast lap before the driver switch. The combined qualifying sessions thus saw X44 (Cristina Gutierrez/Sébastien Loeb) topping the timesheets, ahead of Rosberg X Racing (Molly Taylor/Johan Kristoffersson) and ABT Cupra (Jutta Kleinschmidt/Mattias Ekström). "Happy with today's Q1 and Q2 at Extreme E! Today we really enjoyed qualifying, we felt very comfortable on the stage." - said a happy Cristina Gutierrez after qualifying. "Another gorgeous performance from Sébastien Loeb where we’ve managed to take X44 with the best times in Q1 (11;05.105) and Q2 (10;45.401)". There was drama also in semi final 1, with X44 (Cristina Gutierrez/Sébastien Loeb), Andretti United (Catie Munning/Timmy Hansen) and Chip Ganassi Racing (Sara Price/Kyle LeDuc) going head to head. Gutierrez led after the start, but Hansen came from behind and attacked the X44 driver. Ahead of the first braking point, both cars collided, Gutierrez lost control and crashed head-on into a massive rock. Hansen had problems as well after the contact and was forced to retire the car. As the only driving car on track, Sara Price came to the switch zone and Kyle LeDuc brought the car home in P1. Andretti United was penalised for causing the collision and dropped to last, while X44 continued into the evening final. A lengthy repair for the purple team started right after the session, with the help of the Andretti United crew and some parts from Chip Ganassi's car to bring the Odyssey21 back on track in time.
The Semi final 2 starting grid featured Rosberg X Racing (Molly Taylor/Johan Kristoffersson), Acciona Sainz (Laia Sanz/Carlos Sainz) and ABT Cupra (Jutta Kleinschmidt/Mattias Ekström).
Johan Kristofferson had the best start, followed by Mattias Ekström. Carlos Sainz some time before reporting damage to the steering of his electric SUV. After an uneventful race, Molly Taylor finished first for RBX, ahead of Jutta Kleinschmidt. Laia Sanz came in third, over 7 minutes adrift.
The Crazy Race wrote again a dramatic story: JBXE (Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky/Kevin Hansen), XITE Energy Racing (Christine GZ/Oliver Bennett) and Veloce Racing (Emma Gilmour/Stephan Sarrazin) battled for the final spot on the Final.
Sarrazin's car was launched over a bump and the Frenchman rolled several times - but thanks to the Niobium-strengthened chassis, the driver was ok after the violent crash. But it was the end of the race for the team and their hopes for the day.
Again, it was just one car to make it across the finish line, with JBXE taking victory in the Crazy Race. XITE Energy Racing driver Christine GZ was forced to stop the car due to a broken steering. So it was the Swedish duo of Jenson Button's team to gain the fifth and last place in the final race of the weekend.
"WE ARE IN FINAL! We are so happy that Stephane Sarrazin is okay after the crash! We will choose our starting position last of the drivers, so it will be a tricky start. Time to put on the robocop helmet and give it all we got!", said a satisfied Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky after the session.
The final was contested by Rosberg X Racing (Molly Taylor/Johan Kristoffersson), ABT Cupra (Jutta Kleinschmidt/Mattias Ekström), Chip Ganassi (Sara Price/Kyle LeDuc), JBXE (Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky/Kevin Hansen) and X44 (Cristina Gutierrez/Sébastien Loeb). Kyle LeDuc had the best start, followed by Sébastien Loeb and Molly Taylor. Jutta Kleinschmidt was slower off the line and lost a few seconds, but she was able to pass Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky when the Swedish driver spun. Kleinschmidt shortened the gap to RBX until the driver switch. But there would be no Extreme E final without drama: Sébastien Loeb suffered a tyre failure, but attempted to continue before ultimately having to stop the car midway through the lap with a suspension failure. But it wasn't over: the leading car of Sara Price also pulled off with a broken suspension, wiping away the American driver's almost certain chances of victory. Johan Kristoffersson inherited the leading position and took their third victory for Nico Rosberg's team. “It was pretty slippery out there, so it was a bit difficult to judge at first." - stated Taylor. "From that point it was just trying to manage the risk and I think that is what we did really well. Johan brought it home and again it was just an amazing effort by all of the team." "We had a very challenging weekend from our side, but we never gave up and are very happy to be the winners here", Molly concluded. Behind Kristoffersson, Mattias Ekström took the chequered flag in second place despite losing the passenger door after the driver switch. It was the first podium for ABT, rewarding Jutta Kleinschmidt and Mattias Ekström's efforts. “I was so concentrated on the start to make it well and light and then I pushed the car and nothing happened." - commented Jutta. "I said ‘oh shoot what is going on!’ Then I pushed it, but everybody was gone so I had to try to come back which worked very well. We nearly made it ahead of RXR, but unfortunately then Mattias lost the door so he had to slow down to not let the water come in because then maybe you have mud inside and then you don't see anything anymore." "Finally, though, we are on the podium so we are happy", said 59-year-old Dakar legend Kleinschmidt. Kevin Hansen was forced to stop his JBXE SUV on track with a broken suspension. Having driven further ahead than the retired cars of Chip Ganassi and X44, the JBXE crew finished on the podium again after surviving the Crazy Race. “In the end we started this week with no practice lap which meant coming into Q1 with no lap, so I think we fought back well. It is a shame what happened in the Final, though, as we got a good start. However, like Kevin said, we delivered P3 for the team so it feels good", Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky concluded. Molly Taylor has claimed three wins out of the four rounds, but X44's Cristina Gutierrez - first in every combined qualifying so far - still has a chance to seal the driver's championship battle despite a 21 point gap, with 37 points still on the table. The fifth and final event of the season will take place in Great Britain, from 18th to 19th December, for the Jurassic X Prix.