Ocean X Prix: Extreme E comes to the coast of Senegal

ABT CUPRA XE during the Desert X-Prix in Alula, Saudi Arabia. (Photo Credit: Sam Bloxham / LAT Images)
ABT CUPRA XE in the Desert X Prix, Alula, Saudi Arabia. (Photo Credit: Sam Bloxham/LAT Images)

This weekend, Extreme E will be competing on the Atlantic coast of Senegal, as it continues its campaign to bring all-electric off-road racing to some of the most remote corners of the planet in order to highlight the climate change challenges faced by different geographies and ecosystems.

The upcoming event site at the famous Lac Rose is located about 30km east of the Senegalese capital Dakar. Beach, sandbanks, salt beds, gravel and forest sections between the lake and the Atlantic Ocean form the terrain for the second of a total of five rounds this season. More races in Greenland, Brazil and Patagonia are planned before the end of the year.

The race format for each X Prix Race Weekend includes two days of all-action, short, sharp wheel-to-wheel racing, featuring world-class drivers and teams. The championship cars are a one-design fleet — a fully electric SUV, named ODYSSEY 21.

In order to withstand the harsh conditions it will face, the car’s peak 400kw (550bhp) output is capable of firing the 1780kg, 2.3m-wide e-SUV from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds, at gradients of up to 130%.

For one team in particular, ABT CUPRA XE, the adventure in West Africa can hardly come soon enough, after what turned out to be a chaotic season opener for them in the Saudi Arabian desert at the end of March.

In Saudi Arabia, their car first rolled over in qualifying due to a technical defect and had to be completely rebuilt overnight in record time, complete with the help of drivers Mattias Ekström and Claudia Hürtgen. Then on race day, Hürtgen had to retire from the event after a competitor made contact with her, through no fault of her own.

It was certainly a memorable way for the team to open their campaign, admits ABT CEO Thomas Biermaier:

“The first event was a very special experience for our team, but it turned out differently to what we had hoped for.”

Nevertheless, positive insights were gathered and all the team are excited to go again in Senegal, he adds:

“We saw strong performances from Claudia and Mattias on the track and a fantastic team spirit from the crew in the paddock. Bringing home a trophy from Senegal would be a great reward for everyone after a tough start to our Extreme E adventure together.”

After two accidents at the end of March, Claudia Hürtgen is fit again and ready for the next challenge:

Mattias Ekstrom (SWE) and Claudia Hurtgen (GER), ABT CUPRA XE. (Photo Credit: LAT Images)
Mattias Ekstrom (SWE), Claudia Hürtgen (GER), ABT CUPRA XE. (Photo Credit: LAT Images)

“Our wild weekend in Saudi Arabia is behind us and now we are just beginning the season again in Senegal. From the series’ point of view, though, I thought the season opener was very successful: Extreme E really manages to combine the themes of racing and raising awareness for the environment in a great way. I received a lot of positive feedback.”

Mattias Ekström also looks back on the season opener in Saudi Arabia with a smile;

“Off of the track, it was probably the craziest thing I’ve done in my career so far.”

The Swede had spent hours working with the mechanics and teammate Hürtgen to rebuild the e-CUPRA ABT XE1 in time for the first race, but is now heading to Lac Rose full of confidence:

“At the opener, we had fun and performed well, the only thing missing was a trophy. We are travelling to Africa to win.”

Racing for a Reason: The Challenges of the Lac Rose Region

Extreme E is not only about motorsport, but also about racing against climate change. Each event is used by the series and teams to draw attention to special challenges in the region.

Lac Rose, on the west coast of Africa, is the venue for the Ocean X Prix and draws attention to the threats faced by the oceans: half of the coral reefs and a third of the mangroves and seagrasses have already been lost, leaving coastal ecosystems exposed to erosion, storm damage and food shortages. Important fish stocks are disappearing; plus plastics, oil spills and chemicals are destroying the marine environment and contaminating food chains.

Overall, climate change is causing temperatures to increase in our oceans, making them more acidic and bleaching coral reefs, melting ice at the poles and endangering the life they harbour. Global warming is also causing sea levels to rise, putting some islands and coastlines at risk of disappearing altogether.

GridPlay: How fans can watch the race and support their favourites

Extreme E is building on the success of its older street-racing sibling sport, FIA Formula E, which is now in its seventh year of competition. The ABB FIA Formula E World Championship returns next to Puebla, Mexico, in June.

Capturing both audience and channel support, Extreme E has succeeded in attracting renowned television partners from all over the world, including the BBC, Eurosport, FOX and Sky, who will broadcast the final races on Sunday. The semi-finals on Saturday and the ‘Crazy Race’ on Sunday will also be shown live on ran.de, as well as on the Extreme E channels.

The best start position in the final can play a deciding factor and that is in the hands of the fans. From 26 May until 60 minutes after the start of the ‘Crazy Race’, fans can vote twice a day via the Extreme E website or on Twitter using hashtags — for example, #GridPlay #ClaudiaHürtgen or #GridPlay #MattiasEkström.

The team with the most accumulated votes from the fans gets to choose its position on the start line. The teams that do not reach the final also play an important role by passing on their votes to a team of their choice.

Further Reading:

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