Extreme E’s announcement that its electric SUVs will be piloted by male-female driver pairings has divided opinions. As ever, XE founder Alejandro Agag has an answer.
Agag spoke to DirtFish on Wednesday and opened up about the surprising inspiration behind this concept. Here’s a clue: it’s not from motorsport.
“I’m not really copying W Series, because then I would have done Extreme E only for women,” said Agag. “I’m copying Wimbledon, probably.”
The motorsport impresario is also a tennis fan and one of his favourite players is sport legend Martina Navratilova, who has indirectly inspired XE’s driver pairing decision.
“She went on after she stopped playing singles,” he says of Navratilova. “She continued in mixed doubles to prolong her career. I’ve always loved mixed doubles.”
It was the dynamic between the players that inspired him the most when considering how driver pairs in XE could work together.
“In mixed doubles, both players are decisive for the victory, which is going to be the case with XE. So, you need both the man and the woman to be at the top of their game, to win the race. And they’re both equally important.
“I think that’s what makes this truly equal. They’re a team. I like that and I like that about mixed doubles.
“In tennis, sometimes it’s the woman that makes the mistake, sometimes it’s the man that makes a mistake, right? But it’s very shared. Shared responsibility.”
There has been criticism of the plan, with claims that it is choosing drivers on attributes other than merit. Agag is more than prepared for this.
“I would be disappointed if there were not some critics,” he says.
“I mean, one of the things we’re more used to is backlash. Bear in mind with Formula E, we had so much of that. The let’s say, traditional fans, saying, ‘What is this?’ When we introduced the Fanboost, [they said] ‘this is not racing!’ When we introduced the Attack Mode, ‘it’s not racing!’
“That’s almost like a motivation.”
XE will require each driver in a car complete one lap each per event. There are no cameos from reserve drivers here. And anyway, Agag and his team are completely sure of their position.
“We are convinced it’s totally the right thing,” he insists.
“We think it’s a huge opportunity for motorsport. We think it’s going to give a great show and we think it’s the right thing to do.
“So, because we are convinced, we don’t care. We’ll get the backlash and the critics, we are expecting them.”