Extreme E: Cristina Gutierrez leads after combined quali Sessions, Taylor Rolls and carries on
The qualifying day of the Extreme E Artic X Prix was action-filled and marked by technical issues. Team X44's Cristina Gutierrez leads the combined results - as Molly Taylor made headlines as she rolled over, landed on her tyres and finished her lap. Here's what happened.
The Extreme E weekend started with the two qualifying sessions to kick off the Artic X Prix in Greenland: 9 teams are aiming for the fastest time and the most possible points, as they aim for the best Semi-Final group on Sunday.
And there was indeed some action happening throughout the day: the first session started with Veloce reserve driver Emma Gilmour behind the wheel of the #5 Odyssey21 SUV, opening the first round of the timed laps around the Kangerlussuaq course.
New Zealander rally specialist Gilmour, at her first outing for Veloce, was a bit too ambitious as she hit a track gate and received a 10 second penalty. Her teammate Stéphane Sarrazin completed a fast run and put the Veloce team in P4 at the end of the first qualifying session.
JBX team was the next team and provided the first drama: Kevin Hansen's SUV ended with a broken suspension in the section called "Rock Garden" - which dropped Jenson Button's team to the tail end of the classify. Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky could not even set a timed lap. "Tough start of the day with electrical issues." - said Mikaela. "Managed to get a great start but ended up with a broken suspension and the car stopped, sadly we couldn’t cross the finish line in Q1", she added.
Christine GZ was next and the Xite Ebergy Racing driver set a good lap before her teammate Oliver Bennett brought the car home maintaining the same gap to the leaders.
The next drama came from the Andretti United duo: Timmy Hansen's suspension also broke in the "Rock Garden" section. Catie Munning summed up: "Both Timmy and myself are really happy with our pace out here in Q1! Unfortunately the car stopped on track with a system issue, but we’re back and set for Q2."
Jutta Kleinschmidt, for the first time an official team driver for ABT Cupra, showed once again her impressive pace and led with 12 seconds after her lap before handing over to Mattias Ekström, who would further extend the gap.
The championship leaders - Rosberg X Racing - were up next. Johan Kristoffersson had a 10 second advantage when the car came to a halt three times on the course. Kristoffersson could reset and restart, but lost a significant amount of time. It was then Molly Taylor's turn and the winner of the previous 2 rounds hit a rock, rolled over, landed on her four wheels and kept going, finishing her lap. This heroic drive, though, just granted them two points at the end of Q1.
Sara Price was 4 seconds faster than Jutta Kleinschmidt, but as Kyle LeDuc got behind the wheel of the SEGI TV Chip Ganassi SUV, he made contact with part of the track delimitation signs and got a 10 seconds penalty.
Cristina Gutierrez lost a few seconds during her lap, but Sébastien Loeb was in great shape and managed to climb in the lead with a three second margin from the ABT Cupra squad.
The last team to hit the track in the first session was the Sainz XE outfit: Carlos Sainz was first behind the wheel, but the rally legend wasn't able to challenge the leading teams and missed the switch zone - which put them another 5 seconds further down. Laia Sanz had some troubles with the deteriorating weather and couldn't reduce the gap.
The afternoon session started again with the Veloce Racing's laps. The British team - which is completing a 'Super weekend' combining commitments in Extreme E and W Series - lined up Sarrazin first, but a mechanical problem made the car difficult to drive for both the drivers.
JBX had problems in the first session and nothing to lose. Kevin Hansen was first behind the wheel and the Swede had a fast lap - but then the car turned off, similarly to what other teams had also experienced. He was able to restart the car quickly, despite losing appriximately 20 seconds. Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky completed the run without further issues and brought the car home. "Super driving in Q2! Unfortunately, we got technical problems again and we lost some time. We still managed to get a steady P4 in Q2 with a 15-sec gap to P1", said an optimistic Kottulinsky.
Ekström hit trouble when, after a first impressive session, he damaged both rear tyres and the team decided to retire the car after trying for several minutes to fix the issue in the switch zone. There was no timed lap for Jutta Kleinschmidt.
But the first day of the Artic X Prix kept delivering drama: LeDuc went out on track, but his run was stopped by a suspension failure as he hit something and got stranded on track. The red flag was out and the team was forced to retire for the session.
Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez both had a safe lap and came home in second place at the end of Q2.
Catie Munnings had some problems to find a clear line, but was also across the line safely to hand over to Timmy Hansen, who drove a strong lap to put the Andretti car into third position.
While Sainz and Sanz had set a solid lap, Molly Taylor and Johan Kristoffersson wanted to aim for the fastest perfomance of the day and top the timing sheets after a disappointed first session. "Q2 was all about the comeback and we managed to take the win", said Taylor.
"That puts us back up to P3 overall with everything still to play for! Huge respect to our amazing crew for putting everything back together perfectly between Q1 & Q2", added the Aussie.
"Qualy’s today over for us. We had a plan to keep improving every lap, but unfortunately we could only do 1." - explained GZ. "Car didn’t want to drive on Qualy 2 so, let’s see what we can do tomorrow". After a positive first run, it was unfortunately clear that Giampaoli Zonca and Bennett wouldn't have the chance to drive a lap in Q2, with the technical problem still affecting the Xite Energy Racing SUV.
In the combined result, it was the X44 team with Loeb and Gutierrez to lead, ahead of Jutta Kleinschmidt/Mattias Ekström and Molly Taylor/Johan Kristoffersson.
The Semi-Final 1 will feature X44, RXR and ABT Cupra - which means that Cristina Gutierrez, Molly Taylor and Jutta Kleinschmidt will fight for the two places available in the final race.
The Semi-Final 2 will be contest by Andretti United with Catie Munnings, Veloce Racing with Emma Gilmour and Acciona with Laia Sanz - for the other two final places.
The Crazy Race will be the chance for the last spot in the big final: the shoot-out race will feature Chip Ganassi Racing with Sara Price, JBX with Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky and Xite Energy Racing with Christine GZ.
Tomorrow will be an exciting day for all the teams in Greenland: changing conditions and an unforgiveable rocky-course are set to be the biggest stories of the Semi Finals, that are scheduled for 12:00 CET - followed by the big final at 16:00 CET, as we will discover the winner of the 2021 Artic X Prix.