A roll and an electrical issue for the championship-leading Rosberg X Racing crew was the big story from the first Extreme E qualifying session at the Arctic X-Prix in Greenland, but X44 set the pace.
After completing the first sector of the lap, Johan Kristoffersson’s Odyssey 21 car came to a stop. He had been trying to ridge the ridges of the ruts and the tight parts of the lap, but the sand was so soft it just dropped away and meant he was already losing a small amount of time before trouble struck.
While the car was resetted and restarted, Kristoffersson didn’t get far before the problem resurfaced again on the expansive riverbed section of the lap. After getting to the driver switch zone he simply said: “I’m not very impressed”.
Kristoffersson didn’t know what had caused the stoppages, and as he was storming back to the pitlane his RXR team-mate Molly Taylor was having even more drama. On the sandy bumps in sector one she rolled the car, but kept her right foot down to help bring it back onto its wheels and turned back in the right direction as soon as possible.
THIS IS BIG. MOLLY TAYLOR ROLLS.
The @rosbergxracing machine has done a full 360 and landed on its wheels!
The Aussie gets going again and completes her lap. 🔥
— Extreme E (@ExtremeELive) August 28, 2021
Remarkably, only 10 seconds was lost to the roll itself, another 10s in sector two and then she set a competitive pace through the rest of the lap despite much of the bodywork falling off and sand having poured into the cockpit.
The pace RXR had been trying to beat was set by Abt Cupra. Jutta Kleinschmidt and Mattias Ekström were the crew before RXR in the three-crew group two, and had been able to attack without damaging the car.
Kleinschmidt was incredibly smooth before handing over to Ekström, whose avoidance of the large rocks may have been helped by his Star Wars-style additional visor to increase the colour contrast of his vision.
Running after RXR in group two was Chip Ganassi Racing, where a very different driving style led to similar pace as Abt. Sara Price was first in the car and she was up on Kleinschmidt’s splits. She said there was a cautious approach in use on the ruts, a message which didn’t get to team-mate Kyle LeDuc who went full attack from the start.
The strategy almost backfired early but he saved himself from repeating Taylor’s roll, however the use of ridges and alternative lines meant he was fastest of anyone through the first two sectors. The car continued to bounce around for the rest of the lap but LeDuc was calm behind the wheel and set the fastest lap of 5m50.518s.
“I’m excited we took a lot of risk, but a lot of the lap was really easy,” he said, even describing some of it as “mellow”. However his style did cost him, as wiping out the final gate copped him a 10s penalty and meant Ganassi’s combined time ended up being slower than Abt’s.
X44 went out first in the third group with Cristina Gutiérrez at the wheel, and while she had a rougher time in the ruts because of a later starting time she actually had the opportunity to push in the ‘rock garden’ section as many of the large rocks had been displaced already.
She handed over to Sébastien Loeb, who, like LeDuc, made the most of going off-line to find grip – and picked a steeper but faster route on the second cliff descent that only LeDuc was brave enough to also use – to go fastest of anyone in the first two sectors. He was more cautious on the jumps, instead saving his car for the ‘rock garden’ where more time gains meant he bettered LeDuc’s lap and moved X44 ahead of Abt and the penalized Ganassi.
Andretti United followed X44, and its driver Timmy Hansen used a rallycross-style approach of driving sideways to get close to Abt’s pace and also snatch the fastest ‘super sector’ time from Ganassi with the use of the hyperdrive power boost. Following a myriad of issues in practice, the standard maximum power was reduced from 275kW to 225kW.
Hansen’s lap was undone though as he slowed at the marshal post ready to enter the driver switch zone, as the car turned off when he applied the brakes.
“I thought I had a good lap, then braking for the pit entry it just shut off,” he said, enraged, after eventually resetting the car and handing it over to Catie Munnings. “I had no warning. It’s a shame. We’ve seen a few guys today having the issue. It feels kind of like a lottery.”
Munnings had little to fight for after the issue, which the team said at the end of Q1 was linked to the pit speed limiter.
Acciona Sainz was last or run in group three, and while Carlos Sainz and Laia Sanz avoided technical trouble they were instead compounded by incredibly rare rainfall and a slow switchover where Sainz initially stopped in the wrong place.
The team ended up sixth fastest, behind group one crews Veloce Racing and Xite Energy Racing. Emma Gilmour earned Veloce a penalty for knocking a gate, but it didn’t cost Veloce fourth place.
Also in its group was JBXE, the only team not to complete a lap. Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky had electrical issues that stopped the car, then she broke the front-left steering arm in the ‘rock garden’ so dragged the car back to the switch zone where the team retired it.
Unlike in previous rounds, this won’t immediately put JBXE at the back as intermediate points are being scored in Q1 and Q2 to combine to set the grid, rather than combining the lap times.
1 Team X44 13:45.235s
2 Abt Cupra +3.712s
3 Chip Ganassi Racing +6.396s
4 Veloce Racing +34.201s
5 Xite Energy Racing +51.742s
6 Acciona Sanz +55.645s
7 Andretti United +1:29.950s
8 Rosberg X Racing +1:44.403s
DNF JBXE +1 lap