That’s that then. Two and a half years on from Alejandro Agag reading a story about an airport being built on one of the world’s most remote islands, the opening Extreme E round is done and very much dusted.
For those not familiar with the story of how what could well turn out to be the world’s most relevant, prescient motorsport championships was created, it was all about St Helena: the ship that had once carried supplies to 50 square miles of British overseas territory in the South Atlantic was redundant. An airport had been built on St Helena and the ship by the same name was no longer needed.
That, Agag thought, could work. A ship which is part-container ship, part-passenger carrying cruiser was just what he’d been looking for to take a bunch of electric SUVs to some of the world’s most environmentally ravaged parts of the world.
He bought it for tens of millions (he doesn’t do numbers on the record) and set about rearranging the future of global motorsport.
Saudi Arabia this weekend has been the culmination of that.
And it’s been something very special. Earlier in the week, DirtFish helped clean a beach to save some turtles and keep plastics out of the Red Sea. At the same time, we heard how the Arabian desert is getting bigger and how climate change and the constant burning of fossil fuels is accelerating that process.
Then we went to the Arabian desert, plugged nine Odyssey 21 SUVs into a hydrogen fuel cell which makes electric out of hydrogen and oxygen and went racing.
And boy – or girl, obviously, XE being the most gender equal of championships – did we go racing.
The sport has been outstanding. The spectacle even better. Granted, the racing hasn’t exactly been door-to-door, but there’s been some of the season’s finest action. And we’re only in April.
I have absolutely loved it. It was the first time in Saudi for me and I came with a number of questions about what on earth we were doing in the Kingdom (those questions are answered brilliantly and DirtFish will share them with you in the coming days).
What I found was a stunning part of the world where the people are warm and the nights are cold. Aspects of the trip have been challenging, but that’s kind of the point of Extreme E. The name of the thing offers a fairly decent hint that this is something very different from the city-dwelling, Hilton hotel-staying Formula E race series.
Pretty much everything about Extreme E is a bit bonkers. A fortnight ago, the desert to the north of AlUla was just that. And next week that’s what it’ll be again. But for the time in between, it’s been a temporary theatre of realized dreams.
Having been a World Rally Championship regular for a couple of decades, it’s been unbelievably refreshing to see a different future. A different way of working. And passing a bunch of folk using a camel for the daily commute each day has been an enlightening experience.
Much as I’ve loved the locals and their landscape, it was the sport I came here for. It didn’t disappoint.
And, it has to be said, the chance of a clearer picture on how we’re currently tearing our own world a new one. That did disappoint. But it also brought context and genuine vision.
Goodbye to the dunes, the desert, the turtles and the Extreme E leaders Molly Taylor and Johan Kristoffersson.
All aboard the good ship St Helena and here’s hoping that traffic jam’s cleared at the Suez Canal.