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  • Writer's pictureVIVIEN STREBELOW

Sara Price takes maiden victory for Ganassi at mid-week's Island X Prix

Sara Price and Kyle LeDuc took their first win for Chip Ganassi at the Island X Prix after an eventful round that saw RXR being penalized after a crash with Acciona Sainz. There was plenty of action in Sardinia as well as some new drivers on the podium: Here's what happened in the first event of the week!

Photo by Sam Bloxham

Extreme E is back with their first ever double header ever – and there were plenty of changes after the first round of the season in Saudi-Arabia back in February, where Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky and Johan Kristoffersson won for Rosberg Xtreme Racing.

For the first time, a mid-week will precede a second round on the weekend. The drivers lineups themselves also had some shake-ups: XiTE Energy Racing has a whole new driver pairing, now featuring former championship drivers Tamara Molinaro and Timo Scheider. The new championship and reserve drivers are now Klara Andersson and Fraser McConnell – but Andersson will not be available for the weekend, so the series has temporarily no female reserve driver.

At the second edition of the Sardinia Island X Prix, both drivers that picked up injuries in Saudi-Arabia were able to return behind the wheel: Christine GZ and Kevin Hansen had some intensive rehab and are back in shape. Reigning champion Molly Taylor – who drove for JBXE in Saudi-Arabia – was not in Sardinia, but we will see Veloce reserve driver Hedda Hosås alongside Kevin Hansen in the Odyssey-21 for Jenson Button's team.

The track is close to Capo Teulada and is a 6,2 kilometres long course with some different lines and approaches. The first part is more technical which then becomes faster towards the end with a jump and some water sections. It's by far not an easy track, with many bumps and rough passages that will be challenging for the drivers and the SUVs during the long race week.

Quali 1 saw a strong performance for the RXR pairing with Johan Kristoffersson putting in a great time, followed by Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky. The Swede continued with her confident style and set a time that would not be beaten until the end of the quali session to put RXR on top of the rankings.

ABT Cupra with Nasser Al-Attiyah was also fast at the start – a bit faster than Kristoffersson – but they lost plenty of time during the driver switch and with a slower lap by Jutta Kleinschmidt.

Hedda Hosås had to adapt fast to the JBXE car, but Kevin Hansen, who was first in the car, showed a good speed, lost a bit of time due some jumps before Hosås brought it home safely with a careful approach on her first real event in the championship.

With some solid laps, Acciona Sainz's Laia Sanz and Carlos Sainz Sr. – as well as Andretti United with Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen – safely completed the course through the session.

XiTE's new duo had a bit more troubles with the car: Molinaro reported after her run that she had hit something at the beginning, but Timo Scheider was on fire for his first championship run and set an impressive lap time.

There was some bad luck for the last teams to take the start: X44's Sebastien Loeb was fast, but he lost bodywork during his lap which resulted in a puncture and he was forced to limp back to the switch zone. With the help of one mechanic, they changed the tire to send out Cristina Gutierrez for her lap.

Veloce Racing (Christine GZ/Lance Woolridge) and McLaren (Emma Gilmour/Tanner Foust) both ended up with a broken suspension during their laps, while Chip Ganassi Racing (Sara Price/Kyle LeDuc) also were once again hampered by technical gremlins and LeDuc couldn´t restart the car after the driver switch.

"P1! First time to top qualify!" - Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky

Quali 2 started later that day, with two heats to set out the grid. Heat 1 featured X44, RXR, XiTE Energy, Andretti and Chip Ganassi Racing.

Kristofferson had the best start ahead of Catie Munning in second, while Cristina Gutierrez dropped down the field after a short sprint with the Swede. Kyle LeDuc stopped on track again with technical issues. Meanwhile, Kristofferson pulled away with a nearly 10 second gap and arrived at the switch zone leading Timo Scheider and Catie Munnings.

The yellow Slow Zone for the stranded Ganassi car didn't stop Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky to come home first for Rosberg Xtreme Racing, ahead of X44 and XiTE. But it was not without drama for X44, as Sebastién Loeb passed Timmy Hansen during the Slow Zone as he went faster on the throttle and chose an alternate line. Race control decided for no further action.

Heat 2 featured McLaren, Acciona Sainz, ABT, JBXE and Veloce. Sainz had the best getaway to lead the field, in a rather uneventful first lap until drivers reached the Switch Zone. Sainz drifted into the slow zoned pit area and handed over to Laia Sanz, who now led the race ahead of Veloce's Lance Woolridge.

Unfortunately, the British team had completed a too short pitstop and exceeded the speed limit in the switch zone, passing another car. He would therefore receive a 10 second time penalty.

Winner of Heat 2 was Acciona, ahead of McLaren and JBXE.

"Positive qualifying day today! We were P2 in Q1 and P1 in Q2. In the end, we placed second in the combined classification! Tomorrow's the big day..." - Laia Sanz

Photo by Sam Bagnall

Semi-final 1 saw RXR, Andretti United and XiTE Energy in the first group, following rankings from the heats and quali 1 the day before.

Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky had a great start, leading the race ahead of Timmy Hansen with a tough battle while Tamara Molinaro had a harder time following them. Shortly before the switch zone, Timmy Hansen was able to pass Mikaela for the lead and handed over to Catie Munning in the lead.

But Kristoffersson would reclaim the lead into the first corner as the Andretti United SUV suffered from mechanical problems and dropped back. Timo Scheider had no trouble passing the British driver and scored a second place to make the entry into the final.

Semi-final 2 was between Acciona Sainz, X44 and JBXE. Sainz had the best start and moved ahead of Loeb; Kevin Hansen chose the wider line, but came back in second place and passed Sainz for the lead only to pull away.

Kevin Hansen handed his JBXE to Hedda Hosås with around a 20 second gap. Cristina Gutierrez and Laia Sanz came back on track together after problems for the X44 crew. Hedda managed the gap to cross the line first, ahead of Acciona Sainz and X44 – which promoted JBXE and Acciona to the finals.

Last but not least, the Crazy Race featured ABT, McLaren, Veloce and Chip Ganassi. And it was indeed a crazy race.

Al-Attiyah was fastest from the start, while a crash behind involved Emma Gilmour and Sara Price. Emma rolled over, but was luckily not injured after the accident. Sara Price could continue the race, but made a mistake and had to reverse her car on course – and was nearly collected by Lance Woolridge, the latter having to take down a banner to avoid the Chip Ganassi car.

ABT was now comfortably in the lead, but as they came into the switch zone, they touched one of the banners and made a further mistake during the switch which cost them two penalties.

Behind them, a tough battle between Christine GZ and Kyle LeDuc resulted in the American passing GZ to come home second – but was promoted to the final after ABT received a 32 second penalty.

"WE DID IT! We are in the FINAL!" - Sara Price

The Final between the five fastest teams – RXR, JBXE, Acciona, XiTE and Chip Ganassi –went underway on Thursday evening.

Carlos Sainz had a rocket start while Timo Scheider chose an alternate line, but a big accident happened at the knot point where all lines come together: Carlos Sainz and Johan Kristoffersson collided and the Acciona SUV rolled over and crashed into a rock. Sainz was released from the hospital with no serious injuries, despite some pain.

Kristoffersson was able to continue the race into the lead, ahead of LeDuc, Scheider and Hedda Hosås – who needed to turn around briefly keeping a wrong turn. The red flag was waved and all drivers came back to the switch zone where the drivers switched seats in the break.

When the race was green once again, Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky was first out on track for a rather lonely second lap: Mikaela was able to extend her gap in the lead to finish first ahead of Sara Price and Tamara Molinaro. But with a 30 second penalty handed to Rosberg Xtreme Racing, the reigning champion team dropped down to third. This promoted Chip Ganassi Racing with Sara Price and Kyle LeDuc to their maiden victory in the series!

"We did what we had to do to get through the Crazy Race today", said Sara. "We were consistent and pushed through the Final race to get our first win. It was such a team effort all around; I’m so proud of everyone. We made some serious progress this week and I’m ready to take on round three this weekend.” – she concluded.

Rosberg Xtreme Racing keeps the championship lead ahead of Chip Ganassi and Acciona. The action returns on Saturday and Sunday as the second part of the double header will still take place in Sardinia.

Photo by Sam Bloxham



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