Ahead of Sunday’s showpiece Ocean X-Prix final, a lot of the talk was about Extreme E’s impending first four-car final. Once we saw the semifinalss and the Shoot Out, that talk only ramped up.
But what could have been the most intense race of the weekend – and season so far̠ – reached its crescendo a little too soon with two of the four cars dropping out just two turns into the race.
For JBXE duo Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky and new signing Kevin Hansen, despite not making the finish, or indeed the second lap, there was still a reason to smile as Åhlin-Kottulinsky did just enough before retiring to lock in the team’s first podium finish.
“This is the shortest distance I’ve ever made to make it to P3 somewhere,” she told DirtFish. “It’s kind of weird, but I mean also sometimes that’s the way it is.
“It’s tough racing here, it’s extreme racing, and it’s not always going to be about finishing first. Sometimes it’s going to be about finishing, or going the furthest, like we did.”
The Scandinavian Touring Car Championship star made a strong start to the race, and looked set to challenge Rosberg X Racing’s Molly Taylor and Team X44’s Cristina Gutierrez for the race lead going into the technical section of the track (which began at the fourth gate).
However, slight contact with Veloce Racing’s Stephane Sarrazin set off a quickly unfolding chain reaction of events that ultimately led to the team’s demise.
“The thing was I did a good start, and I felt really strong, and then I pushed hyperdrive but then I touched with Steph Sarrazin,” Åhlin-Kottulinsky recalled.
“There was contact, and after that I believe the driveshaft broke and later on during the straight another part of the car broke so the wheel just went off.
Åhlin-Kottulinsky wrestled the car for a few hundred meters more, but the damage was terminal. The stricken JBXE machine eventually ended up being the cause of the red flag that halted the final, with extra time needed to remove it from the sandy course.
“I just tried to take the car as far as possible,” she said. “It was a shame. It was a good start, it could have been better but sometimes you have contact and it’s in a bad place, which it obviously was.”
Despite not actually making the finish, Åhlin-Kottulinsky was still pleased with the weekend, taking the positive of the team’s first podium from what was otherwise a disappointing final race.
“It would have been great to finish the race of course, to drive it,” she said. “But I think Kevin and I have really with the team proved ourself this weekend.
“We have improved each session-by-session and we are super happy to end up with a P3 anyway.”