There’s a lot of things that determine a favorite going into a new sporting season. Past performance, pre-season form, etcetera; but how do you decide who’s most-favored in a competition that’s never been run before?
It might not have got off to a good start – with the team suffering with an electrical fault during Sara Price’s shakedown in Saudi Arabia, while Kyle LeDuc smacled a rock and damaged the car during his run – but early online speculation has put Chip Ganassi Racing at the top of the prediction charts for the upcoming inaugural Extreme E campaign.
There’s good reason for that, too.
In LeDuc and Price it has a driver line-up well accustomed to big, short course-style off-road vehicles and it has a crew well-versed in that arena too; plus at the first proper group tests in Spain it was LeDuc and Price that proved to be the pace setters.
Speaking of the favorite tag that’s been thrust upon the team early on, Ganassi Extreme E team principal Dave Berkenfield admitted that it’s caused a little amusement among the squad, although they’re certainly not dwelling on it.
“We sort of chuckle about it and yeah we were fortunate to be at the top of some of the timing boards at the test in Spain but that was a test,” Berkenfield told DirtFish. “Racing’s different.
“There’s been a lot of time when all these drivers are learning from that test and doing some training on their own and figuring out their communication flow and making sure they’re prepared so I don’t think you can put one team in front of the other until you do a couple of races here.”
Naturally Ganassi is entering Extreme E to win, but amid a grid that boasts a plethora of high-profile talent, both in terms of drivers and teams, the biggest focus for the American team will be itself.
“Those are big shoes to fill,” he said. “I think that the level of competitors here and the level of team ownership and driver on both the male and female side is enormous.
We’re honored to have that target on our back but there’s a lot of racing to be done hereDave Berkenfield on being favorites
“I mean, you go down the list and drivers like Mattias Ekström and Laia Sanz and Jamie Chadwick, Catie Munnings and Sébastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz – all these drivers are champions, they’re hungry and so we know we have our work cut out for us and we also know that we have a target on our backs for a lot of different reasons.
“I think for us, we just really want to represent our team and represent Chip, GMC Hummer and SEGI.tv and represent these brands that we’re in-line with very very effectively. But we want to do it cleanly, we want to be a valued competitor and I think we’re going to do that by just really being prepared and trying to think five or 10 steps ahead.
“I think that’s what this organization does very very well – we put something in the front of the door and all the folks in the building and in the team put their fingerprints on it and when it comes out the back of the door we know we’ve done it to the best of our ability and we’re going to put a good product in our drivers’ hands and we’re going to be very clear about what we expect from them and we’re going to try and run up front, always.
“I think we’re honored to have that target on our back but there’s a lot of racing to be done here. We’ve only had a couple of tests, I don’t think we’re in that position.
“I’d rather be focused on us and not focused on everyone else.”
Price however was slightly more bullish. When asked by DirtFish if she thought her, LeDuc and Ganassi would be the winning combination she replied: “I think the chances are very high – I really hope so, it’s what I really want.
“I’m going to do the best I can, but I’m never the person who wants to be cocky and say: “Hey we’re going to win…” I want to do the best I possibly can and hope that puts me in first spot – and so does Kyle.
“Sébastien [Loeb] and Carlos [Sainz] and all these incredible drivers, they’re not just nobodies and they aren’t just nobodies because they know what they’re doing,” Price added.
“Even though this is something kind of new for them, it’s still related to rally and they can use a lot of what their expertise is. And there is going to be time when they do shine and we’re all on the same playing field.
“I wouldn’t count them out. I would say this is definitely something a little more in our room, but not completely.
“But, right now it’s all unknown. We haven’t even gone to our first race yet to get that vibe. We’ve done our test and we tried to vibe off that, but it didn’t totally count.”