Extreme E racer Oliver Bennett thought he’d seen everything when he pointed a silent, 1650kg SUV across a Saudi Arabian desert and hit 60mph in four seconds.
He’d seen nothing. Nothing at all.
Swapping the Neom sand for a Baltic Sea frozen solid by northern Swedish temperatures chilly enough to make a polar bear wince, the Xite Energy Racing driver steps aboard the automotive equivalent of the Northrop Gruman B-2. That, by the way, is a plane known more commonly as the Stealth Bomber.
You get the picture.
Bennett will be back in Nitro Rallycross this season and he’ll be back in one of these things: an all-electric FC1-X.
The product of the combined vivid and radical imaginations of Olsbergs MSE and QEV Technologies, this is a car that looks to set the standard for electric racing into the future.
‘Group E’ was a term bandied about with increased frequency in Pite Havsbad last weekend, with the Group B resemblance going way beyond the idiom.
Over to you Oli. Talk us through 300 laps in an FC1-X.
“As soon as you get close to this car, you can see the build quality. It has the look and feel of a manufacturer-built factory car. It’s that good. The attention to detail is second to none.
“Getting in, it’s part-race car and part-entertainment center. I guess if Apple built a factory RX car, it would look like this inside. It’s just fantastic. Seat, wheel, pedal, handbrake and paddle are all what you’d expect – you can’t reinvent that sort of thing. And yes, I did say paddle. Unlike Extreme E’s Odyssey, the FC1-X is a two-speed EV.
“Enough of the talking, let’s get on with it.
“Within a couple of corners, one thing is very clear – this is a very easy car to drive. I’m not talking about the direct-drive side of things, I’m talking about the fact that it feeds confidence and brings pretty much every apex within reach. You can really push on in this car.
“Compared to the Extreme E car, it’s kind of what you’d expect. It’s lighter and more powerful than the Odyssey. The FC1-X feels like a rallycross car rather than a buggy.
The pair of us just started laughing and said: 'Bloody hell! This thing is so fast!'Oliver Bennett on his passenger ride with Andreas Bakkerud
“Increasing the speed after an installation lap, it feels more and more like my Mini Supercar. Into lap three and we’re starting to leave the Mini behind a bit. In fact, everything has gone a bit mad. When you get to a straight and give it 100% throttle, it’s just outrageous.
“The paddle is really easy to use. It connects to a tailormade Sadev transmission and delivers really usable low-end torque if you want to short shift out of a slow corner. Having this option on the torque really made the car feel even more driveable.
“Part of that driveability comes from the way Olsbergs and QEV have mastered the torque vectoring between the motor on every corner. This and the magic they’ve come up with in what must be a very, very trick battery to deal with more than 1000bhp and discharging 1MWh so quickly, demonstrates the exceptional R&D that’s gone into this car. And the level of investment…
“And, yeah, you did hear that right. I said one megawatt hour. I know! It’s nuts and more than my Porsche Taycan Cross Turbo S road car!
“Suspension-wise, it felt quite stiff, which helped make it so precise and crisp on turn-in. The [suspension] travel is huge though, something that will really help on the big jumps or more rutted corners in NRX.
“And here’s the really cool thing, there’s so, so much adjustability. There’s literally a sensor on everything. The screen in front of you gathers, logs and delivers so much data. Naturally, you won’t have a moment to check it out in a race, but it should make fine-tuning the car to individual circuits much more straightforward.
“Off the line, it’s really quite hard to explain how it felt. We had the power turned down and we were on a really small stud, more of all-round off-road tire really. I went in the car for a run with [Andreas] Bakkerud and when he came onto the straight, the pair of us just started laughing and said: ‘Bloody hell! This thing is so fast!’
“I’m going to back-to-back the FC1-X with my Mini [Supercar] in a drag race on Tarmac and I reckon this thing will be twice as fast. Honestly, it’s that serious; can you imagine that? Twice as fast as a Supercar. I’m convinced this is the future of racing, the future of rallycross.
“The only downside is that you’ll have to get your eyes re-wired to drive it, everything happens so quickly. Can you imagine what it’s going to be like having five or six of these things going from standing still to 60mph in just over a second when we get to Nitro?
“Beyond the raw speed and the quality of this car, the overwhelming sense is one of feeling confident quickly. When I’d done just a couple of laps, it felt like I’d put 300 [laps] down. I’ve never really had that from a car before.
“When we’d finished the test in Pite Havsbad we headed south and things started to make more sense – we went to Olsbergs’ factory on the outskirts of Stockholm. I’d been there before, but it must have doubled in size. It was gone nine at night when we got there and when we walked in there must have been 30-plus people in there working a nightshift. They’re at it 24/7 at different work stations getting the 16 cars – all sold – ready for NRX.
It was one very cool place. And the FC1-X is one very cool car.”
So, in an epoch-defining sense, Group E by name, Group B by nature.