On Thursday morning, Extreme E announced that it will be running a rookie invitational on October 25, the day after its fourth round in Sardinia: the Island X-Prix.
All nine teams will be allowed to invite a male and a female driver to the test and those drivers will be with their team for the duration of the race weekend, learning more about how the series works.
Applications are open for practically anyone to signal their interest, and that got us thinking. While some candidates may be more realistic than others, who would we like to see take part in the test and potentially forge a career in XE?
Here’s what our team of writers had to say:
Yes, I can hear the groans – another Swede in a series already packed to the rafters with them. But it’s hard to think of any female driver anywhere more deserving of a ticket to an Extreme E rookie test as of today.
Andersson is the newly crowned Swedish Rallycross champion in the 2150 class. Not a ladies’ class champion, or junior class champion – the overall division champion. She capped off her season with a perfect score at the Arvika season finale last weekend; topping qualifying, winning her semifinal and then the final.
She’s also a professional Esports racer, competing for SET Esports (the same firm that runs Marcus Grönholm’s World Rallycross outfit), and a member of the national federation’s Swedish National Team, and comes from a family of racing drivers – her older sister Magda has raced in the European Rallycross Championship previously.
On paper, she is exactly the type of driver a rookie invitational should be targeting. If Andersson isn’t given a slot in the test, Extreme E will have missed the point of having it in the first place.
– Alasdair Lindsay
If he loses his Mercedes Formula 1 seat to George Russell for next year, then there’s every possibility that Valtteri Bottas could be interested in taking part in the Extreme E test.
It might not be realistic to think he would seriously consider taking part in a full season of Extreme E at this stage of his career, but there is no doubt that the series would have some appeal due to his rallying interest and experience.
The test would be a great way for Bottas to blow off some steam, have some fun and experience something different from the norm. And for Extreme E, the publicity generated from his participation would be massive for the championship.
As it stands, even if Russell takes Bottas’ seat for 2021, the test will clash with the United States Grand Prix, but with the F1 calendar constantly adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, the reality of it happening cannot be ruled out entirely.
It might be a huge outside bet and slightly fanciful, but it’s a fun prospect that would do wonders for the credibility of Extreme E, even if his involvement were to be restricted to a one-off cameo appearance in Sardinia.
– Rob Hansford
Fredrik Åhlin has never quite had the breaks his talent deserved in motorsport. A graduate of the Pirelli Star Driver scheme in 2011, Åhlin’s rallying career often went backwards more than it did forwards but not for the want of trying.
A close rival of Elfyn Evans in the WRC support series as well as the British Rally Championship, a European Rally Championship campaign in 2018 looked like another springboard for Åhlin but as had been a problem throughout his career, budget just didn’t allow him to take the next step to stardom.
That’s why he announced a soft retirement last year – respectfully not making a thing of it during the depths of the pandemic – but crucially he told me “this doesn’t mean I am stopped forever.”
If rallying won’t give him a shot, why can’t Extreme E? Åhlin recently just turned 30, so he has more than enough time on his side to make a professional career in motorsport and more than enough talent to be a threat in XE. He’s a stricken star in need of a reboot, so in my eyes he fits the bill of XE’s superb initiative perfectly.
It could even lead to another rallying chance; you need only look at Molly Taylor’s XE success and subsequent three-round WRC campaign in a Ford Fiesta Rally3 as proof that can happen.
But for Åhlin to be a really mega shout for this test, he should be placed at JBXE. Why? Does the name Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky ring any bells? We’ve seen a few sibling rivalries in motorsport over the years, but how epic would it be to have a brother and sister competing together in the same team?
I’ll answer that one for you: very.
– Luke Barry
So far in Extreme E we’ve seen drivers from circuit racing and drivers from the world of off-road. There’s also been those that have sampled both, and fitting that mold is Robert Kubica.
Regarded as one of the greatest F1 drivers of his generation, the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix winner’s rise to the top was scuppered by a horrific rallying crash in 2011. That didn’t stop him too much though – upon his return to competitive motorsport two years later he won the WRC2 title at his first attempt.
While the premier class of WRC and his eventual return to F1 proved somewhat disappointing, his extensive CV in recent years, which also includes spells in sports car and touring car racing, has proven he can still wheel pretty much anything.
Now there’s a new series which combines elements of all manners of motorsport, it’s the perfect place for Kubica to not only make his own but once again show why he was once on his way to being an all-time great.
– Dominik Wilde
While many Europeans will remember Scott Speed for his season and-a-bit in Formula 1, his greatest successes have come Stateside in rallycross where he won four titles on the bounce – and it likely would’ve been five had it not been for missing the second half of 2019 through injury.
Since leaving Toro Rosso and F1 in 2007, Speed has built himself quite the versatile résumé, with NASCAR, Formula E and sports car outings joining open-wheel and rallycross on the list too.
But with his four US rallycross titles, Speed has proven himself to be one of the best off-road racers of his generation, and his instant success during an FE cameo in 2015 shows that adapting to electric won’t be an issue either.
Those of us in rallycross circles have seen him live up to his name, now’s the time to take those skills back to the world stage. Plus with Tanner Foust recently joining McLaren, who wouldn’t want to see this titanic rallycross battle of the past few years resume on dunes, glaciers, and whatever other magnificent locations Extreme E throws up?
This one probably falls into a more ‘fanciful’ category, but it’s not totally unrealistic. While Amy Williams may be best known as an Olympic gold medallist in skeleton, she’s not immune to a bit of off-road motorsport.
Once she’d retired from skeleton, she was approached by motorsport pundit Tony Jardine and the pair did a number of stage rallies together in preparation for Rally GB at the end of the year. It went well as the pair topped their class, so well in fact that Williams co-drove Jardine again three years later in 2016. Her motorsport career has been dormant ever since, and she’s yet to drive in competition either.
That could all change with an invite to Extreme E’s test. And Williams would be an ideal candidate.
One of the biggest appeals of XE so far has been its inclusivity – both in terms of promoting equality between genders and bringing together people from all walks of life. On the 2021 grid are rally champions, rallycross champions, touring car champions and even, on round one at least, a Formula 1 world champion.
Why not take that one step further and welcome an Olympic champion? And don’t tell me you aren’t as interested as I am to see if her skills down a twisting, ice course will translate into success in off-road motorsport? I’d be very surprised if that didn’t give her an impressive base level to work from.
With XE and Alejandro Agag, thinking inside the box is actively discouraged. Prince William has even had a go in an Odyssey 21. I’d love to see what Williams could do behind the wheel and what impact she could have in introducing motorsport to a new audience.
Luke’s idea of Amy Williams is brilliant, no question. A winter sports mega star who’s sampled rallying (albeit from the navigator’s chair) and has a keen interest in technology. But what if we took that idea, and built on it?
Chris Hoy is not only one of the most decorated Olympians of his generation, but he’s a pretty serious driver too. After hanging up one helmet, he grabbed a different kind and embarked on a second career as a professional racing driver.
Instantly quick in club level racing in the UK, Nissan soon snapped Hoy up and took him all the way to Le Mans. On his way he podiumed in British GT and won the inaugural European LMP3 title. We’ve also seen him race in World RX and sample one of Colin McRae’s Subaru’s for a television feature and as a showpiece at a WRC event.
Hoy can drive, and drive well, and I think Extreme E could be the perfect next challenge for this burgeoning wheelman.
Speaking of multi-talented Olympians, Jason Kenny recently usurped Hoy as Britain’s most decorated. He’s raced too, and is also more than a bit handy behind the wheel… just saying.
Kyle LeDuc has shown that a Trophy Truck background is as good a pathway as any to Extreme E. The Ganassi driver has already established himself as a cult figure in the series, catapulting his Odyssey 21 over bumps and jumps where others err on the side of caution.
You know who else has plenty of experience in trucks, competing in races like the Baja 1000? Jimmie Johnson, the most successful NASCAR driver of all time. And who does JJ race for in IndyCar, his first jaunt into a post-NASCAR career? Ganassi.
Now there’s an interesting link-up.
Johnson is a marketing department’s dream, and he’s no stranger to car swaps, having tested a McLaren MP4-28 Formula 1 car at Bahrain a few years ago. And, marketing clout aside, he might actually be quite good at it given his background.
Though hopefully not too good – we don’t want him taking the male Ganassi seat next season. We can’t have LeDuc not in action in 2022.