Following last week’s news that the final two events of the 2021 Extreme E season have been canceled, with the COVID-19 situation in South America making Brazil’s Amazon X-Prix and the Glacier X-Prix in Argentina untenable, thoughts have already turned to where the series could race instead.
The all-electric off-road championship has vowed to race on, and is actively searching for replacement venues, with location already being discussed as a possible host.
Here at DirtFish, we asked around the office to get our team’s thoughts on where the series should go instead.
Now, if I was to be purely selfish, and a bit silly, I’d suggest my home county of Cheshire in the north west of England. We’d get a very pretty production, and I could commute to the track daily, but a race through lush green fields wouldn’t exactly be ‘Extreme’, would it?
No, my real suggestion would be the Alps. There really isn’t a much better option in my view.
Not only would we get a wintery landscape akin to what we should’ve had in Argentina, but the mountains would give us both a thrilling and beautiful landscape that would provide the ultimate challenge for drivers, and a stunning backdrop for the television broadcast.
Then there’s also the added benefit of it being a stone’s throw away from motorsport’s heartland.
Of course, Extreme E already has a pseudo-European round in Greenland – the autonomous Danish territory being geographically situated in North America – and while ticking the Europe box isn’t exactly important when it comes to Extreme E and its wider message, it would be nice to take the series right into the heart of the continent from which it hails.
The Outer Hebrides, Scotland
There’s a degree of bias in this selection but it’s not without foundation given Extreme E’s decision to include it in its shortlist of alternative venues. The location is the Outer Hebrides in Scotland’s Na-h-Eilean-Siar (or Western Isles) region. The series organizers’s rationale is simple: to coincide with the UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP26) due to be held in Glasgow, but what about the practicalities of racing in one of the United Kingdom’s most spectacular islands?
For a start, there are similarities to Lac Rose (minus the temperature, naturally) in terms of terrain, with some glorious beaches between the quite frankly gorgeous villages of Cregorry and Baile Gharbhaidh, the latter of which holds a particularly prevalent environmental meaning as it’s home to some of the rarest bird species in the country.
Quite how realistic an Extreme E race taking place on the island is unsure, with accommodation facilities are limited and the nearest port, in Stornoway, is some 102 miles further north and a good four-hour drive.
Rallying has the Mull Rally, so the prospect of Extreme E embarking on one of Scotland’s hidden gems is pretty mouth-watering.
Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho
Situated not far from the border in the south-west of landlocked Lesotho, Mohale’s Hoek is a camptown and district surrounded by mountainous terrain and also large flat areas where grass grows and can go from rock hard to a mudfest depending on how much rainfall there is when the high forces of moving vehicles are running over the ground.
There can be big swings in temperature too, and unsurprisingly soil erosion is the biggest ecological challenge for the nation which even at its lowest point is 1,400 metres (4,593 ft) above sea level. It’s like the wild west, but in the sky. The use of “climate-smart land rehabilitation and management” is one of the big jobs for the Ministry of Forestry and Ministry of Agriculture in the area right now.
Reducing Vulnerability from Climate Change is one of the organizations that’s already been in Mohale’s Hoek to help out, and Lesotho’s own agencies have set out to bring solar power and various other eco-friendly projects to the area but procurement scandals have overshadowed some of that progress. Land ownership disputes are also a dicey topic in the area and would make choosing a race location precarious, but ultimately rewarding were it possible.
Depending on what time of year XE would visit, they could hold either a snow or gravel X-Prix in the area.
Alaska, United States
Alaska is already experiencing the damaging effects of climate change with sea ice loss, costal and river flooding and major ecosystem changes affecting the lives of many of its citizens. Air temperature there is rising twice as fast as in other parts of the United States making it the perfect venue for XE to showcase to the world.
Such a large expanse of land with so few inhabitants means that COVID-19 risks are low and there is plenty of space to set up the track out of the way of anywhere.
Yes, the location’s environmental issues and backdrop are similar to neighbouring venue Greenland but there is a vital difference. While Greenland is officially part of Europe, a trip to Alaska would be XE’s first step onto the American continent which is especially important now that Argentina and Brazil have had to be scrapped. In a truly global series the Americas need to be represented.
If Alaska gets a late Fall slot on the calendar, which is likely given the now empty gaps in the schedule then this would be a proper winter event with all the excitement that brings. If you claim to be an off-road racer you have to be able to take on the snow and ice.
Walters Arena, Wales
Wales is seen as one of rallying’s spiritual homes – could it become the same for Extreme E?
Admittedly with XE’s laudable and wide-reaching aim to better the world as well as create a global motorsport spectacle, it isn’t just good roads that matter. But driving lanes don’t get much better than the Welsh forests, and Walters Arena would be the perfect fit for XE should the series decide to head there instead of its planned South American voyage.
It’s a venue a lot of the drivers will already know as it’s popular for testing, and it’s even an arena the series knows well with drivers like Jenson Button getting their first taste of the Odyssey 21 at Walters. Logistically, Walters Arena is ideal too as no set-up work would be required. All XE would have to do is turn up and race with several different loops of circuit to choose from for the track too.
Any potential visit would depend of course on local government advice, and the Welsh government has been more cautious than most when it comes to allowing large events and mingling of citizens. I’m also struggling to work out what they could call this one. There are several wind turbines on location, so maybe the Wind X-Prix? But that’s quite boring. Maybe Mud X-Prix would sum it up better…?
Baja California peninsula, Mexico
While the Baja California peninsula might not fit the Extreme E mould of racing for change with it being less impacted than other places on this list and the real-world calendar, it would give the series its ‘Monaco moment’.
Let me explain.
Monaco has been a mainstay on the Formula 1 calendar since, well, forever, but when upstart electric series Formula E got going in the middle of last decade, it muscled in on the open-wheel crown jewel and established its own, independent, but popular event in the principality.
Extreme E could do the same. The Baja 1000 is the Monaco Grand Prix of off-road racing. It’s the biggest, most prestigious event – the one everyone wants to win. So why not jump on that pomp and history to take an alternative off-road series to the region and drum up some good publicity among the old-school off-road crowd.
What’s more, nobody does off-road racing better than the Americas, right? Time to show the rest of the world what they’re missing.
COVID cases are on the decline in both the US and Mexico, making the event doable later in the year if that downward trend continues, while both countries’ high-ranking positions on the CO2 emissions league table could be highlighted with the climate-friendly electric racing league.
Any other year this would be a cool idea that wouldn’t exactly fit in, but in a time of constant change, risk taking, and trial-and-error, why not give Extreme E its Monaco moment?
Where would you like to see the championship race? Let us know in the comments box below.