Loeb won’t defend his Extreme E title

DirtFish driver Fraser McConnell replaces him at Lewis Hamilton's X44 team

Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Team X44

Sébastien Loeb won’t return to Lewis Hamilton’s X44 outfit to defend its 2022 Extreme E title, with DirtFish driver Fraser McConnell stepping in to replace the nine-time World Rally champion.

McConnell spent time as the all-electric off-road series’ ‘championship driver’ before getting his race seat break with JBXE last season at the final round.

The 2019 Americas Rallycross champion (in ARX2) and Nitro Rallycross event winner will race alongside this year’s other co-champion Cristina Gutiérrez, who remains with the team for a third season.

“I am delighted to join X44 Vida Carbon Racing, and to be part of a championship-winning team,” said McConnell.

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

“I am so impressed with Cristina’s performances in the first two seasons of Extreme E and I can’t wait to drive alongside her; I am sure that we will work well together and I hope to learn a lot from her prior experience. It’s never a bad thing to race alongside a world champion!”

Loeb, who is concentrating on his activities in the World Rally-Raid Championship this year with the Prodrive-run Bahrain Raid Xtreme team, dovetailed a hectic 2022 campaign where he contested a full W2RC season and four WRC events as well as Extreme E.

X44 Carbon Vida Racing is also under new management, having previously been run by Prodrive. It is now operated by Rodin Carlin, which traces its roots back to open wheel racing in the United Kingdom.

Prior to this year’s Dakar Rally, Loeb hinted at a reduced program for 2023.

“Honestly, I’m not really sure what I will do,” said Loeb. “There are a lot of different options, but nothing is really confirmed.

“In WRC, it doesn’t seem like I will do a lot of that and in Extreme E, we also need to see what will happen.”

Loeb and Gutiérrez finished second in the inaugural season of Extreme E, before defeating Season 1 champions Rosberg X Racing in a dramatic final-round shootout in Uruguay.

Loeb’s departure is the latest in a series of driver moves before the start of Season 3, which begins in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

Timo Scheider and Christine Giampaoli Zonca will team up with series debutant Carl Cox Motorsport, while Chip Ganassi Racing will field a completely new full-season lineup of Amanda Sorensen and RJ Anderson.