What happened at Extreme E’s eagerly anticipated inaugural rookie test in Sardinia this week? Well, six of the teams didn’t turn up.
That’s the short version. The longer version includes a list of excuses – ‘our truck is on its way back to the US for an auto show’, ‘we are still in with a fight for the championship title so felt the risk was too much’, ‘we didn’t take part’ – and then a test with very little actually going on.
Acciona Sainz was the most active team at first, with Carlos Sainz occupying his usual seat to work on car upgrades before 21-year-old Klara Anderrson – a Swedish rallycross class champion who recently came fourth on her RX2e debut – got behind the wheel to take the all-electric Odyssey 21 out onto the multiple-route course for her first experience of electric motorsport.
“Today has been challenging,” she said after driving the car on the Tuesday.
“The car is an absolute beast and the course is really challenging but I’m really enjoying it. This is a new era of motorsport and I’m really happy to be a part of and get some miles in the car and learn some things.”
Sainz’s Dakar Rally team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel was also driving as a ‘rookie’, alternating in the weekend’s winning Rosberg X Racing-run car with Tamara Molinaro.
While Peterhansel had nothing to discuss publicly about the test, it was clearly important to the team that it got somebody with his experience – 14 Dakar wins to be precise – in the car to give feedback.
And while his age may go against the spirit of a rookie test, XE has such limited mileage that every second in the car counts for engineering it to be as fast and as strong as possible. If anyone is to know what you can do with the springs on terrain such as Sardinia’s, then it’s Peterhansel.
But the randomness of XE, with the racing clashes, unreliability and destructive courses, actually made that extra mileage unattractive to several teams because of the risk attached to driving the car at competitive speeds.
Veloce Racing wanted to take part with its male reserve driver Lance Woolridge and 20-year-old Norwegian rallycross star Hedda Hosås, but its car was too damaged from a massive crash during the Island X-Prix for it to get on four wheels again before December’s season finale.
There was a spare chassis on site, the series’ test car, but XE told DirtFish that Veloce “couldn’t use the XE series test car because that car was already being used for [tire supplier] Continental testing which took place on the same day, so there was no other option for them”.
The driver at the wheel of that chassis for the third day of the test was Abt Cupra’s Jutta Kleinschmidt.
“Today we had a kind of maintenance test for the tires, because Continental was using completely new material that’s very environmentally friendly, done out of plastic waste,” she revealed.
“And this is very special and new for me, and I’m very happy they work super well and we had no issues with it. They did five laps, and they still look like new!”
Kleinschmidt, another Dakar winner, is approaching her seventh decade of life and so she didn’t really capture the youthful aspect of the rookie test either.
Therefore it was X44 that really shone the beacon for XE’s ambitions to capture a young audience, which has so far included streaming races on TikTok and doing plentiful social media challenges with the drivers.
Red Bull junior Seth Quinetro, who at 19 became the youngest ever Dakar stage winner in the T3 category earlier this year and is Californian born and bred, properly enjoyed his time in X44 car after scoping out a test berth given his off-road team-mate Cristina Gutiérrez races for the team in XE.
“I’ve never driven an electric car before, so hopping in this and not really having an experience was honestly quite the treat,” Quintero said.
“I hadn’t done anything else and to come off the start and having full torque all the time is pretty fun and being able to hear your team manager on the radio is nice too – it’s nice and quiet in there.
“I think XE is a rad concept. Obviously they are traveling around the world and really trying to shed light on what is going on, whether it is global warming or something else, it is cool to see. There are not a lot of motorsports trying to do that.
“Obviously motorsports are going to hurt the planet a little bit, and it is nice to see that we are trying to change that. I’m not the oldest so I’m hoping I can be in racing for a long time, and I think with Extreme E we will be able to do that.
“The car that I’m driving has got quite the two names behind it honestly with Cristina and Séb [Loeb]. Just being in Séb’s seat is pretty cool.
“I’ve been looking up to him since I can remember, he has been in the game a long time and I’m just starting to get into the game. So I’m excited to hopefully be driving a little bit more. This rookie test has been a good time and I’m really thankful for this opportunity.”
So perhaps the main thing that happened during the rookie test, held under XE’s usual veil of secrecy, is that there’s one driver already warming up to claim a seat at a top team for 2022.