Extreme E Season 1 runners-up X44 announced it has retained its driver line-up for the forthcoming campaign, with Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez back behind the wheel for the team founded by seven-time Formula 1 world champion Sir Lewis Hamilton.
Loeb and Gutierrez were narrowly denied championship honors in the inaugural season of Extreme E, when victory at the Jurassic X Prix in December saw them finish level on points with overall winners Rosberg X Racing, but lost out on count back of victories (three to one).
Their speed behind the ODYSSEY 21 has never been in doubt, though, with X44 finishing as the fastest qualifier at all five X Prix in 2021, and the duo will be determined to maintain that form in Season 2, which gets underway next month in Neom, Saudi Arabia.
Loeb is one of the greatest rally drivers of all time with a record nine World Rally Championships and 80 race wins to his name. His 26-year career in motorsport has seen him achieve podiums in races as varied as the Dakar Rally, World Rallycross, and 24 Hours of Le Mans. He has also achieved three Race of Champions wins in which he competed against the world’s best racing and rally drivers. The Frenchman has already had a busy start to 2022, finishing second overall in the Dakar Rally before taking his 80th WRC win last weekend with victory in the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally.
“I’m very happy to be driving for X44 again in Season 2 of Extreme E,” said Loeb. “Last year was very challenging for us — we had a lot of struggles with the car and some bad luck too, but we came top of qualifying at every race and finished the year with a win and level on championship points, so we are feeling optimistic! I think the other teams are very strong, but Cristina and I have shown that we know how to win races in some of the toughest terrains in the world.”
In addition to finishing the notoriously difficult Dakar Rally six times, Gutierrez is the first woman to win the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, the second to win a stage in the Dakar Rally (2021) and the third to stand on a podium in the Dakar Rally (2022).
“I’m so excited to be returning to race for X44,” said Gutierrez. “We came very close to winning the championship last year and now we’re even more motivated and excited to drive well and push to take first place in 2022. Since I first joined the team, I have learned so much and feel stronger and faster with every race, so I’m excited to get back in the car and show what I can do. I’m also looking forward to exploring the planet and learning more about the places we are racing. By highlighting the climate change challenges faced by the remote environments where we race, I hope to further educate myself on what we can do to help.”
Extreme E features electric SUVs competing in extreme environments around the world which have already been damaged or affected by climate and environmental issues. The five-race global voyage highlights the impact of climate change and human interference in some of the world’s most remote locations and promotes the adoption of electric vehicles in the quest for a lower carbon future for the planet.
To minimize local impact, Extreme E races are not be open to spectators, with fans instead invited to follow the action through live TV broadcast, and on social media.
The St. Helena, a former passenger cargo ship, has undergone a multi-million Euro refit to minimize emissions and transform her into Extreme E’s operations hub. The ship will be used to transport the championship’s freight and infrastructure, including vehicles, to the nearest port, minimizing Extreme E’s footprint, as well as being used to facilitate scientific research through its on-board laboratory.
Extreme E is also pioneering hydrogen fuel cell technology which will enable its race fleet to be charged using zero emission energy. This innovative solution from AFC Energy uses water and sun to generate hydrogen power. Not only will this process emit no greenhouse emissions, its only by-product will be water, which will be utilized elsewhere on-site.
The series’ second season opens in Saudi Arabia on February 19-20.