The very first Extreme E X-Prix is now just a matter of days away, and it will mark a seismic moment in motorsport as the third major electric racing series gets underway.
The crop of drivers for the maiden 2021 season is impressive and each has headed to Saudi Arabia with a valid claim of believing they’re a worthy champion.
But who are they, and what have they achieved? DirtFish is on hand to guide you through the nine teams and 18 drivers that will be competing in the first-ever season of XE.
Mattias Ekström, Sweden
Career highlights: World RX Champion, DTM Champion, STCC Champion, Renault 5 Junior Sweden Champion
Ekström is a motorsport legend. A winner of two DTM titles in 2004 and ’07, he is equally adept on the loose stuff as his 2016 World Rallycross Championship title would suggest.
XE should suit Ekström – who also has enviable World Rally Championship experience – down to the ground. While electric racing is new for him, the same can be said for practically the entire field and his motorsport CV proves he is one of the quickest adapters around.
Claudia Hürtgen, Germany
Career highlights: Dubai 24H winner, 24H Series Champion, NLS Endurance Champion, Deutscher Tourenwagen Cup champion
Hürtgen is one of Germany’s most prominent racing drivers who’s also succeeded on the world stage.
Her career is one of motorsport’s many ‘what might have beens’ as she suffered a hand injury in an F3 race around Monaco back in 1993 that cruelly ended her single-seater career. Other accolades include two Deutsche Tourenwagen Challenge (DTC) titles in 2003 and ’04.
Carlos Sainz, Spain
Career highlights: Dakar Rally winner, WRC Champion, Central Europe Rally winner, XC World Cup winner, APRC Champion, Spanish Rally Champion
While his 26-year-old son Carlos Sainz Jr continues to go from strength to strength in Formula 1, the master is still at it with regular Dakar appearances and a full-time drive in XE.
Sainz won the WRC in 1990 and ’92 and came close to adding more titles on several other occasions, retiring from full-time rallying in 2004 as a 26-time WRC round winner. He has since won the Dakar Rally three times for three different teams in 2008, 2018 and 2020.
Laia Sanz, Spain
Career highlights: Women’s Motorcycle Trial World Champion, Women’s Motorcycle Trial European Champion
Sanz’s motorsport experience has predominantly been on two wheels where she has enjoyed huge success as a 13-time Women’s Trials World Champion and a 10-time European Champion.
She also has Dakar experience as a rider but can boast some four-wheeled competition experience too behind the wheel of a Seat León touring car. But XE will be Sanz’s first foray into off-road motorsport with four-driven wheels – indeed with four wheels at all.
Timmy Hansen, Sweden
Career highlights: World RX Champion, Nitro RX gold medallist
XE will be Hansen’s first major contest that isn’t rallycross in a decade. The 2019 World RX Champion has competed in World Rallycross since its inception while also contesting Titans RX and the standalone Nitro World Games in 2018 which he won.
The son of rallycross royalty Kenneth, Hansen actually began his career in single-seaters and won races in Formula BMW and Formula Renault.
Catie Munnings, Great Britain
Career highlights: ERC Ladies Champion
Munnings is an accomplished rally driver and even a television presenter – hosting Catie’s Amazing Machines on the BBC’s children’s channel CBeebies in the past – but like several others, is an off-road racing novice.
Most of her rallying has been done in the European Rally Championship and she won the Ladies Trophy in 2016. She made her world championship debut on last year’s Rally Sweden in the Junior WRC.
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Kyle LeDuc, USA
Career highlights: LOORRS Pro-4 Champion, LOORRS Pro Lite Champion, LOORRS Challenge Cup winner
When it comes to off-road experience, few can rival LeDuc who has claimed over 100 wins on the dirt and seven Pro-4 titles in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.
Off-road racing runs in the family, with LeDuc’s father Curt a former Dakar veteran and his brother Todd a multiple class champion who tours the world with Monster Jam.
Sara Price, USA
Career highlights: Lake Elsinore GP UTV winner, Terracross Champion, SCORE TT Spec Champion
Price is one of the most versatile drivers on the starting grid with experience in motocross, stadium super trucks, X Games, rallying and soon XE.
Saudi Arabia will be an all-new challenge, but Price’s previous record speaks for itself. There’s a reason she was the first driver of all to be confirmed for a drive in the maiden season of XE.
Oliver Bennett, Great Britain
Career highlights: 3rd in British RX, 19th in World RX
A regular in World RX with his Mini Cooper SX1, Bennett will be stepping into the unknown in XE as he moves away from a short but successful rallycross career.
A shrewd businessman, content creator and competent driver, Bennett is heavily invested in everything XE stands for and will be a force to be reckoned with on the courses too.
Christine Giampaoli Zonca, Italy
Career highlights: Spanish Gravel Rally Women’s Champion, 3rd in Andalucía Road to Dakar Rally T2 class
A circuit racer, rally driver and off-road expert, Christine GZ’s CV perfectly matches the requirement to be a successful XE driver.
An Italian-Spaniard who was born in India has also lived on the Canary Islands, her personal life has been one of adaptability so she should have no struggle adjusting to the unique challenges of XE.
Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, Sweden
Career highlights: 6th in STCC, 8th in VW Scirocco R Cup
Like her team-mate, Åhlin-Kottulinsky hails from an off-roading family as her grandfather Freddy Kottulinksy won the 1980 Dakar, her parents both rallied and her brother Fredrik Åhlin was a regular in the WRC and ERC a few seasons ago in the R5 class.
All of Åhlin-Kottulinsky’s competition experience has been on the circuits however with experience in touring cars and sportscars. But with such strong off-road racing genes, don’t be surprised to see her on the pace immediately.
Jenson Button, Great Britain
Career highlights: F1 Champion, Super GT Champion, FFord Festival winner
Perhaps the highest-profile driver on the grid, the 2009 F1 Champion is one of two team owners to also be driving this season.
Button’s off-road experience is limited relative to the competition but he has recently been to DirtFish’s world-class rally school to sharpen his skills and his father John was a prolific rallycross racer in the UK. He also made his off-road racing debut in the famous Baja 1000 in late 2019 – although the event was an eventful disaster when his differential broke and he became stranded in the desert for 17 hours.
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Johan Kristoffersson, Sweden
Career highlights: World RX Champion, Superstars Champion, STCC Champion, Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia Champion, 5th in WTCR
Kristoffersson is a red hot favorite for immediate success in XE given his ability to win in just about anything he drives. A multiple champion in touring cars in his native Sweden, Kristoffersson is a class podium finisher in the WRC but most famously is the most successful driver in World RX history.
The 2017, ’18 and ’20 World RX Champion has won 39% of the rallycross races he has started at world level and is known for his rigorous preparation that is sure to put him in immediate contention in XE.
Molly Taylor, Australia
Career highlights: Australian Rally Champion, ERC Ladies Champion
Taylor is one of the best rally drivers from the Southern Hemisphere, as a former Pirelli Star Driver and the only woman to win the Australian Rally Championship in 2016.
It’s fair to say that along with Kristofferson’s expertise, this pairing looks to be one of the strongest in the entire XE field.
Jamie Chadwick, Great Britain
Career highlights: W Series Champion, MRF Challenge Champion, British GT4 Champion
Chadwick is busy trying to become the first female to race in F1 since Giovanna Amati in 1992 and became a Williams development driver after winning the 2018-19 MRF Challenge title. She then became the inaugural W Series champion in 2019 but struggled when she stayed in Regional F3 in 2020. For 2021 she will return to W Series, her sixth F3 campaign.
Already being committed to another season in junior single-seaters hasn’t stopped Chadwick from taking something of a left-field step into the world of off-road racing and XE. While the all-electric series might not be Chadwick’s chief career focus, don’t for one second assume she won’t be giving it her absolute all to add more strings to her motorsport bow.
Stéphane Sarrazin, France
Career highlights: Le Mans Series Champion, French Tarmac Rally Champion, French FRenault Champion, 2nd in Le Mans 24H
Sarrazin is in a unique position as a driver to have previous experience of competitive electric motorsport as a former Formula E driver.
Besides that, he has competed in endurance racing (boasting six Le Mans podiums), umpteen national rallies – and even driving WRC events for the works Subaru team in the mid-2000s – as well as one F1 grand prix for Minardi. XE is just the latest in a long line of exciting motorsport exploits for Sarrazin.
Cristina Gutiérrez, Spain
Career highlights: Spanish Women’s Off-Road Champion, Rallysprint de Tierra Alfoz de Quintanadueñas winner
Gutiérrez, a dentist by trade, is a relative newcomer to motorsport having started her adventure in 2017 but in that time has already broken records.
In ’17 she became the first Spanish female car driver to finish the famous Dakar Rally and this year became only the second woman – after Jutta Kleinschmidt – to win a stage of the classic endurance test. Who’s to say she’s not about to make more history alongside Loeb in a record breaker’s team?
Career highlights: WRC Champion, 2nd in Dakar Rally, 2nd in Le Mans 24H, 3rd in WTCC
Loeb is a man that needs no introduction as a winner of 79 world rallies and nine top-class WRC titles. But it’s not just rallying that Loeb has mastered over the years.
While it remains the only discipline he has won titles in, Loeb is a winner in World RX and the World Touring Car Championship (like Kristoffersson) in the last decade and has challenged for Dakar success multiple times too. He’s a favorite to succeed in XE.