Extreme E founder Alejandro Agag has described a late format change to this week’s Desert X-Prix as a ‘big risk’ and a ‘€40 million experiment’.
An Extreme E weekend is supposed to consist of four rounds with seven races in total. There’ll be two qualifying races (four races) on Saturday before two semifinals and the final on Sunday.
But wheel-to-wheel racing will not come for the all-electric series until Sunday after organizers were unable to run a practice race in Saudi Arabia due to COVID-enforced travel restrictions.
The teams and drivers expressed concerns about the potential for dust and visibility issues at the AlUla race and that along with Agag’s own team’s fears prompted the change.
The decision is to run single-car time trial-style events for qualifying on Saturday before a series of three-car races to decide the winner.
It’s a big risk. But you know, we have very good drivers.Alejandro Agag on the format change
Agag said: “We were supposed to do three race simulations. We had to cancel them all because of COVID. So we haven’t simulated a race. Let’s go have an experiment that costs already like €40 million to see how it works…
“That’s what we’re doing, so it’s a big risk. But, you know, we have very good drivers.
“When we came and we tested, in January, we sort of thought of this. There was no dust because of the humidity of the night. The sand was more humid. The cars were going, no dust was coming up.
“We arrived here last week: huge clouds of dust. So we tweaked the race format.”
All nine teams will make two two-lap qualifying runs (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) with a driver change in the middle.
The combined times will decide the qualifying order. The top three teams go directly to the semifinal, while the fourth, fifth and sixth fastest cars go to the crazy race. The bottom three enter a third race to decide the seventh-ninth-placed event classification.
The top two cars from the semifinal go to the final, where they’re joined by the winner of the crazy race.
All races are run over two laps with a driver change in the middle. The crews will have their first opportunity to look at the five-mile course on Thursday.
Having already seen the course, Agag added that it wasn’t hugely accommodating in its entirety.
“Did you notice [the course is] not wide enough in some places,” he said. “I think it’s going to be fine.
“I think actually, it’s going to look pretty cool. It’s going to look like Mad Max: all the cars going and the dust behind.”