The fledgling Extreme E all-electric off-road racing series has completed its most intensive test to date, with a number of drivers putting the ODESSEY 21 E-SUV through its paces during a six-day program at Chateau de Lastours in southern France.
As well as giving drivers their first chance to get acquainted with the electric off-roader, the test was intended to provide development feedback for chassis manufacturer Spark, as well for as technical partners including tire supplier Continental and battery manufacturer Williams Advanced Engineering.
“We’ve seen a world of progress since we were here a year ago testing the car for the first time,” said Theophile Gouzin, Technical Director at Spark Racing Technology. “Of course, there are still learnings and adaptions to be made and that’s what the testing is all about, so this week has been especially useful as we near the end of our development.
“The feedback from the drivers has been really useful. A great detail about this car is that it is adaptable and we’ve been able to make little tweaks here and there to suit different driver styles, which proves teams can tune this vehicle and see immediate results – a great sign for the competitive ability in this one-design championship.”
Among those to take the wheel were former JRWC champion and multiple GRC race-winner Patrik Sandell, Andretti United pairing Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen, World RX rivals Andreas Bakkerud and Oliver Bennett, two-time Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne, FE racer Jerome d’Ambrosio, FIA World Rallycross driver Oliver Bennett, and rising single-seater stars Sophia Floersch and Billy Monger. According to the series, a number of other high-profile drivers “tested privately and therefore can’t be named”, although one of them – Valtteri Bottas – blew his cover by posting about it on his social media accounts.
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) October 2, 2020
“I had an amazing initial feeling driving my first electric car,” said Sandell. “It took me a few laps to adjust my driving, especially with the instant power from the electric engines. That was a little bit of a shock in the beginning as I had to be a bit careful hitting the gas pedal, but after that it was just pure joy.
“I didn’t really know what to expect but the balance of the chassis and how everything works so good together, I was blown away. The suspension and the tires are so massive, it was so, so much fun to drive.
“Extreme E is a perfect balance between all different types of sport already existing on dirt. It is a mix of rally, rallycross and off-road racing but it’s being done in a new modern way as the whole world moves towards electric cars. I think Extreme E combines everything the whole industry would like to achieve and think it has a very bright future.”
Vergne shared Sandell’s enthusiasm, although he said his own participation in the series remains to be decided.
“I loved it!” he said. “A very, very good experience. I was really pleased with the power, it’s totally impressive.
“It is a totally different world to what I’m used to. I’ve never driven sideways before and here you have to slide, so it’s something I’m discovering, and I’m really enjoying it. For the first few laps, I had to almost re-learn the way I drive the car as it’s so different to the experience in a single-seater. Rather humbling for me at first, but I evaluated, took advice and saw progress really quickly, which felt good. When I got up on the hill track it felt incredible, and I didn’t want it to end.
“This series is going to be huge amounts of fun and I can’t wait to drive it again and see even more improvement. Whether or not I drive in the series myself is not decided. I want Veloce Racing to win of course, so will pick the driver best suited to the job. What I do know, though, is we are building a serious team entry and we can’t wait for Season 1 to get started.”
With the test complete, Spark Racing Technology now turns its focus towards finalizing the build of the eight race vehicles, which are scheduled for delivery to their respective teams later this month ahead of the first race simulation in December. The inaugural season is set to begin early in 2021.