Rosberg X Racing duo Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor topped the first ever Extreme E qualifying session in AlUla, Saudi Arabia in what was a drama-filled morning of running at the Desert X-Prix.
Due to concerns over dust, the planned four and five-car races were done away with in favor of time trials for the nine runners consisting of two laps – one for each driver.
X44’s Sébastien Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez were the first runners on the desert course, and set a benchmark combined two-lap time of 10 minutes and 48.067 seconds, a time that would remain the one to beat for much of the session.
They were eventually usurped by RXR, the sixth of nine runners, who went 4.502s faster.
Kristoffersson was already up on time at the point of the driver change halfway through the run, going just 0.211s quicker than Loeb did around the lap, but Taylor continued to extend the gap and with a dramatic moment halfway through her lap gaining her three seconds in one sweep.
Third place went the way of Acciona Sainz, who were more than half a minute behind RXR after a spectacular run. It wasn’t as spectacular as fourth place Andretti United’s stint, with Catie Munnings having to contend with a right-rear puncture during the final stages of her lap after team-mate Timmy Hansen was quickest of all on lap one.
Jenson Button’s JBXE team rounded out the top five, despite a 30s stoppage for Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky after a heavy bounce on the dunes.
Andretti and JBXE were far from the only teams to face trouble during qualifying. Sixth placed Hispano Suiza, the only team that elect to run its female driver first, was slapped with a massive 75s penalty for speeding in the change zone – five seconds for each kilometer they were over the 30kph limit.
Chip Ganassi Racing pulled an all-nighter to be ready for qualifying after Kyle LeDuc’s shunt during Friday shakedown, but both LeDuc and Sara Price’s laps were beset with power steering issues. They attempted to rectify the issue with system resets during the driver change but the problem persisted. The end result was a combined time that was 2m50.109s off the fastest time.
They did however manage to make the end of the session. Abt Cupra was classified eighth after Claudia Hürtgen crashed spectacularly towards the end of her lap, rolling four-and-a-half times. Her team-mate Mattias Ekström did complete a first lap for the team though, which was just three seconds off the session best at the time.
Ekström’s completed lap put the pair ahead of the Veloce duo of Stéphane Sarrazin and Jamie Chadwick, with Sarrazin also rolling, this time on the road crossing section of the track. The early end to his run meant that Chadwick was the only driver to miss out on a stint behind the wheel in Q1.
1 Johan Kristoffersson/Molly Taylor (Rosberg X Racing) 10m43.565s
2 Sébastien Loeb/Cristina Gutiérrez (X44) +4.502s
3 Carlos Sainz/Laia Sanz (Acciona Sainz) +32.666s
4 Timmy Hansen/Catie Munnings (Andretti United) +48.038s
5 Jenson Button/Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky (JBXE) +1m38.861s
6 Oliver Bennett/Christine Giampaoli Zonca (Hispano Suiza) +2m25.473s
7 Kyle LeDuc/Sara Price (Chip Ganassi Racing) +2m50.109s
Ret Mattias Ekström/Claudia Hürtgen (Abt Cupra) +1 lap
Ret Stéphane Sarrazin/Jamie Chadwick (Veloce Racing) +2 laps