Nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb will contest the inaugural Extreme E season next year alongside Cristina Gutierrez at X44, the team founded by Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Loeb, who announced his departure from Hyundai’s WRC operation in September after eight rallies across two seasons, will add to his off-road agenda for 2021, which will also include his fifth appearance on the Dakar Rally with the new Prodrive-run Bahrain Raid Xtreme team.
He will also compete in the Andros Trophy ice racing championship, which begins in earnest next weekend.
“Joining team X44 is an opportunity for me to continue to do what I love, which is race,” said Loeb.
“I’m looking forward to competing in an electric vehicle – I had the chance to drive the car recently and it is incredible. Cristina is a fantastic driver, and I can’t wait to partner with her and see what we can achieve together.
“I am really impressed by what Lewis is doing in Formula 1 too, so to be able to work with him on this is an honor.”
A fellow experienced Dakar competitor, Gutierrez became the first Spanish female driver to finish the prestigious rally raid in the car category in 2017, when she was 46th overall and fifth among the event rookies in a Mitsubishi Proto ARC. She has since gone on to finish the Dakar four times.
Gutierrez said: “I am really excited to join X44. Not only will we get the opportunity to raise awareness of the climate crisis, which is very important to me, but I get to work with two heroes of mine. Sébastien Loeb is the most incredible rally driver of all time so I’m really happy that I get to partner with him, and I hope to learn a lot.
“I’m a huge Formula 1 fan and have been watching Lewis race for years, so being asked to join his team is a dream come true.”
In addition to her impressive first Dakar appearance, Gutierrez recorded her best finish so far on the event’s final edition in South America, finishing 26th overall. She has also raced a Mini All4 Racing in this year’s Dakar warm-up event in Andalucia.
Loeb and Gutierrez each got their first taste of the single-design ODYSSEY 21 car during a recent test at Donington Park in the United Kingdom, using the circuit’s off-road stage.
For team founder Hamilton, the combination of Loeb and Gutierrez is something the recently crowned seven-time F1 world champion is looking forward to seeing in action.
“I’m delighted to welcome Sébastien and Cristina to X44,” Hamilton added.
“They are both incredible drivers and I’m looking forward to seeing what they’re going to do out there at each race. Cristina is an upcoming talent with a great future ahead of her, and Sébastien is a driver I have admired for so many years so I’m so proud and excited to have them on board.”