X44 tops Jurassic X-Prix qualifying at muddy UK finale

The season finale started well for the title contenders, but Chip Ganassi Racing hit trouble again

Cristina Gutierrez (ESP)/Sebastien Loeb (FRA), X44

Just like every Extreme E event before, X44 dominated Saturday’s qualifying for the Jurassic X-Prix in Dorset.

There were initial concerns for the title-challenging team – consisting of Sébastien Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez – as they had an inverter issue before the start of the first qualifying session, but they were able to get it resolved in time. This did however mean they were put to the back of the running order on a more rutted track, but the team went fastest by 1.9 seconds ahead of main title rival Rosberg X Racing.

X44’s strong form continued into the second qualifying session, as Loeb managed to go fastest in sectors two and four of the lap, setting a best effort of 2m26.083s to end up fastest again.

Track conditions had changed considerably overnight, with the track now bumpier compared to Friday. To ensure they weren’t caught out by the conditions, the points-leading RXR team utilized strategy tactics to ensure it secured a competitive position.

Taylor Kristoffersson

And that strategy was deployed to good effect in Q2 to end up second overall and only have their lead trimmed by a single point.

Molly Taylor took a conservative approach in her two laps and pulled in for the driver switch 10 seconds off the pace, but Johan Kristofferson launched the Odyssey 21 off the lap’s biggest jump in a bid to go fastest in the traction challenge section of the track, and managed to gain enough time to achieve it.

Acciona Sainz had a strong Saturday collecting the same number of intermediate points as RXR over the two sessions, but they might have had a better second session had Laia Sanz not lost time on her run.

Sanz got sideways coming into the Twins, where the track splits into two paths, and it was a moment that cost her just over three seconds after a very strong start. She came into the driver switch five seconds down on the fastest time of the session and Carlos Sainz was unable to find any additional time, meaning the team ended the session third fastest.

Laia Sanz/Carlos Sainz (ESP), Acciona | Sainz XE Team

Abt Cupra ended up fourth overall, but they were hampered in the second qualifying for missing a waypoint, earning a five-second penalty.

JBXE meanwhile had a difficult first qualifying session, having crashed into a barrier, but came back with a force second time round.

Although declaring that the car needs some set-up changes, Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky had a great two laps in the second session for JBXE, with Kevin Hansen having an even stronger performance, putting the team at the top of the timesheet for the majority of the session.

That run was enough to put them second for the day and fifth overall in qualifying, pipping Veloce Racing – who had accumulated the same number of points – with the second place result.

Andretti United had the most dramatic moment of qualifying two, when Timmy Hansen went off the track.

Catie Munnings (GBR)/Timmy Hansen (SWE), Andretti United Extreme E

Hansen had gone fastest through sector two but then understeered at waypoint 14. That then put him over to the other side of the track and he went off, crashing into a tree.

Despite the crash, Hansen was able to reverse back out and continued to finish his lap, but the incident lost him nearly 20s and any chance of going fastest.

Once again, Chip Ganassi Racing suffered more bad luck. Sara Price had a reasonable run, but Kyle LeDuc, who was completing only his second lap of the weekend after the car was damaged in practice preventing him from running, had a steering issue from the very first corner.

LeDuc went into the first left hander and immediately got pulled hard-left. Like Hansen, Deluc managed to keep going, but he had to wrestle the car the entire time, losing valuable time and the team ended up last overall.

Words:Rob Hansford