Loeb and Sainz fear another dust-wrecked Extreme E race

Sardinia course earns WRC legends' praise, but they worry about the racing

Cristina Gutierrez (ESP)/Sebastien Loeb (FRA), X44

Carlos Sainz and Sébastien Loeb have warned that Extreme E’s Island X-Prix in Sardinia this weekend could be a repeat of its dust-marred season-opener.

The series’ inaugural race in Saudi Arabia seven months ago was plagued with a lack of overtaking and wheel-to-wheel racing as a result of the dust of the desert creating major visibility problems.

While those issues were largely absent in the subsequent Ocean X-Prix and Arctic X-Prix, Sardinia’s dry, sandy terrain could prove to be problematic – with drivers relying on a change of weather to solve the problem before the races.

“It’s not an easy issue to solve,” Sainz said of the dust conundrum facing Extreme E this weekend.

“Maybe we are lucky and some rain comes and then we will face another problem but definitely not the dust. That will be the best if we have some kind of rain.

“So let’s hope that the rain will come, because if it is not like that on Sunday it is basically impossible to race altogether because as soon as the first car has gone through it’s impossible to follow, you have to wait maybe 15-20 seconds at least to see where you can go.”

Laia Sanz/Carlos Sainz (ESP), Acciona | Sainz XE Team

Loeb reiterated Sainz’s feelings, saying: “For sure it’s impossible to drive in the dust, to follow a car that is going fast in the dust is impossible and even dangerous because if you try you will hit a rock or something.

“So if it’s completely dry like today, we cannot race together or the race will be finished after the first corner because the guy in front will go away.”

With Friday’s practice sessions consisting of single-car runs, the dust was largely inconsequential, as will be the case during qualifying on Saturday too. But Sunday’s multi-car races could pose an issue.

However, rain is also forecast for Sunday, with a 70% chance of precipitation which could go some way to allaying the drivers’ fears.

Besides the dust concerns, both World Rally Championship veterans praised the Sardinia track, with Sainz describing it as a “complete” course that offered every element a driver could want.

“In terms of driving I really like it,” he said. “It’s very complete. You have some slow, a little bit medium speed, fast parts, some compression so I think it’s really demanding, it’s really challenging, it’s, I would say, quite a complete track.”

Carlos Sainz (ESP), Acciona | Sainz XE Team, and Sebastien Loeb (FRA), X44

Sainz suggested it was probably his favorite course of the season so far.

“I like this one because it’s demanding and it’s got a little bit more like a special stage [feel],” he said.

“I’m more used to that, it’s closer to rallying than the other ones. This one I found more rally type than the others and this one I like.”

Loeb – a four-time winner of Rally Italy during his championship-winning WRC days – agreed, adding: “It’s the same for me. I hope I will tell you the same at the end of the weekend but it’s a bit more like a rally driving style, like more tracks and tight corners, braking, some things to manage more than big sand and ruts after a few passes.”

Comparing it to the stages he enjoyed so much success on, Loeb said: “It’s not really the same kind of roads but a bit the same kind of ground with sandy and slippery, hard surfaces, so I like to drive on this surface.

“It’s a bit different from what we had in the other events with a lot of sand, with big ruts. Here it’s hard so I think it will be more stable during the weekend and hopefully it will be fine for us.”