When the inaugural Extreme E season kicks off in Saudi Arabia this weekend, there will be plenty of new team names to get used to. But there’ll also be two that have been doing battle side-by-side for more than 25 years.
Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing should be familiar names to any fan of motorsport. Both teams (including Andretti’s predecessors Team Green and Andretti Green) have been at the sharp end of IndyCar since the mid-1990s. They even had a fleeting rivalry in Global Rallycross when Ganassi had a brief foray in the now-defunct series when it was at its height.
But this new adventure is a little different. Not only is it electric racing – something that so far only Andretti has had a taste of – but it’s also the first true, out-and-out off-road stage series that either have done.
Fans will be giving a lot of attention to the Andretti-Ganassi rivalry, but what about within the teams themselves? Naturally, each wants to come out on top as the best American outfit in a grid populated mostly by European teams, but they’re also looking at the bigger picture too.
“Heck yeah! We want to definitely be the best American team,” Michael Andretti told DirtFish when asked if Ganassi was in his team’s crosshairs. “We want to be the best overall obviously but we always have a great friendly rivalry with the Ganassi guys.
“They do great teams everywhere they go and they’re a real benchmark over here so yeah, that’s definitely a goal, to finish ahead of him. But we also want to finish number one so… if you finish number one then it takes care of all of it, right?”
That unwavering level of respect was echoed by Ganassi’s XE team principal Dave Berkenfield, who added “it’s a great rivalry there and we have a lot of respect for those guys and they’re just sort of down the road and it’s also just a level of respect and, honestly, friendship too”.
“It’s definitely very cool to have them on the race ticket as well as all these other big teams and we think that Andretti has pulled some great drivers in Timmy [Hansen] and Catie [Munnings] and they have great management there and experience and we’re excited to line up next to them and may the best car win,” Berkenfield told DirtFish.
It’s certainly an intense history shared between the two, with nine of the 13 IndyCar titles and six Indianapolis 500s since American open wheel’s reunification going to one of the two teams. Nevertheless, there’s been no underhand tactics between the two to get an edge in XE. In fact, both sides have been friendly in the build-up to the start of the season.
“We’re competitors but at these events, especially with XE, there’s only a small number of teams and small numbers of spaces and while we are competing we’re also representing the XE brand and representing all the things that XE stands for,” Berkenfield said.
“So we spend time on the phone chatting and asking questions and balancing competitive advantage and just being open with each other too.”
They may be pals for now, but you can bet your house that when XE kicks off on April 3 the competition will be as intense as ever.