Sara Price doesn’t want to come across as cocky but there’s no hiding her confidence ahead of the first-ever Extreme E event that will run in Saudi Arabia this weekend. Price and her Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Kyle LeDuc are as close to favorites as you’re going to get for the step into the unknown that the series for electric-powered off-roaders represents.
“I think the chance of a win is very high — at least I hope so because that’s what I really want,” says the 28-year-old from Riverside, Calif. “I will never be that person who is cocky and says, ‘Hey, we’re going to win.’ But I hope doing the best I can do will put me in the number one spot. But Sebastien Loeb, Carlos Sainz and all these incredible drivers we are racing against, they’re not just nobodies.”
That’s an understatement. The talent that has been drawn to Extreme E is astonishing. Along with the aforementioned kings of the World Rally Championship, Price and LeDuc will face 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button, rallycross stars Mattias Ekstrom and Timmy Hansen, and veteran all-rounder Stephane Sarrazin. And that’s just the men. The series that is built on the twin pillars of gender equality and a mission to address climate change pits nine cars from renowned international racing teams into a short-form racing format, with each shared by one male driver and one female. The diversity of racing talent stretches beyond gender, but there’s little doubt Chip Ganassi boasts a pairing with the ideal experience to shine — and they were fastest “by a few seconds,” according to Price, in the limited pre-season testing that has taken place in the 550hp dual electric motor-powered Odyssey 21 racers.
Price knows what an opportunity Extreme E represents for her — at least, she does now. “I actually didn’t know about it until I got the call,” she admits. “I did all my research into what it’s about and thought this was interesting and way different. If you asked me five years ago what my absolute dream was this would be it. Traveling the world racing is my ultimate dream. I’m a gypsy at heart, I love to experience new cultures, and I love racing no matter what it is.”
The former motocross and X Games star was born into an off-road racing family in which her gender was never a factor and she wasted no time following her father and brother into racing. “My parents always said my brother’s a nice guy, he was an easy baby and kid — and I wasn’t,” she says with a smile. “I had so much energy and was a daredevil at such a young age. I was looking at the craziest stuff to do because it intrigued me. I love racing; I love the competition and in motocross especially you get hurt. It either does something to you and you can’t ride the same again because you are worried about dying or something, or you ride straight past it and keep going.”
But still, she accepts not every aspiring female racer has gained such acceptance. “The gender equality thing is awesome — it’s giving females a chance they haven’t had before,” says Price. “When you line up 10 males and one female, you’re probably going to choose the males, right? So it’s giving those girls a chance. Other than that, you put a helmet on, we’re the same. The opportunity just hasn’t been there as easily as it has been for males.”
Racing something powered by electric motors is a world away from the high-octane V8 scene Price is a part of, but she’s hungry for new experiences. But what about racing in a kingdom that until very recently banned women from even driving on the road?
“Even at home, I had someone in Chicago giving me a lecture one time, saying I shouldn’t be on a motorcycle,” she argues. “Honestly, I love being put into cultures I’m not familiar with. It’s amazing to show that, hey, we’re respecting you, but come and see what we’re doing. We’re opening new eyes.”
In LeDuc, who has more than 100 wins on dirt behind him and seven Pro-4 titles in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, she has the perfect teammate. But wasn’t her boyfriend Ricky Brabec, who last year became the first American to win the two-wheeled division at the Dakar Rally, keen to join her in Extreme E?
“Oh man. He said, ‘Why don’t you ask me?’” she laughs. “I said, ‘Because you don’t drive cars!’ Actually we have raced side by side since we got together and he’s thrown me in the other seat, to navigate. We flipped one time… I took a selfie when we were upside down, posted it and it went viral. This is what happens when Ricky’s driving!”
Price knows her world could turn upside down again — in the best possible way — if she and LeDuc can emerge from the Saudi desert dunes with a historic victory this weekend, on the biggest global stage she’s raced on, against some of motorsport’s most famous names and in a series that has already attracted team investment from Hummer, GMC, the European Cupra brand and Lotus. She says three teams approached her to race in Extreme E and in Ganassi, she couldn’t have picked one with a higher profile or reputation. This is her time.