Extreme E heads to the Americas for the first time this weekend with a trip to Chile for the Copper X Prix, the penultimate round of the season.
The event comes after two previous aborted attempts to reach South America last season – rounds in Ushuia, Argentina, and Santarem, Brazil were planned but ultimately canned as a result of COVID complications.
“Taking Extreme E to Chile will be an exciting moment for all of us,” said Extreme E founder and CEO Alejandro Agag ahead of the event.
“As a global championship, it is important to be going to all continents to highlight the scale and variety of climate issues that people around the world are facing, so I’m delighted we are finally getting to visit South America this season.”
This weekend’s race takes place on the Minera Centinela, a mine in the Antofagasta region of northern Chile, with the whole event centering around the issues of the loss of biodiversity and water scarcity, as well as mining, with event partner Antofagasta Minerals using the event site to develop more sustainable mining processes.
The track itself looks set to be a combination of the two locations visited so far this season, with the desert elements and dramatic elevation changes of Saudi Arabia combining with the bruising rocky nature of Sardinia’s challenging course for Chile’s as-yet unseen track.
On the sporting side, Rosberg X Racing is once again runaway championship leaders, with the pairing of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky notching up 60 points in the drivers’ and 75 in the teams’ championship so far after claiming two wins from three starts. A third (in the second round of the season) was taken away as a result of a post-event penalty for contact.
Behind them is a much more intriguing battle, with three teams covered by just two points.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle LeDuc and Sara Price, who claimed a long-awaited maiden victory in round two in Sardinia, currently occupy second, 17 points off the lead and one ahead of Acciona Sainz’s Carlos Sainz and Laia Sanz, while Team X44’s Cristina Guiterrez and Sebastien Loeb are third, another point back and the only other pairing, aside from RXR, to claim two podium finishes so far this season.
Despite the gap to the leaders though, Ganassi’s Sara Price isn’t ruling out a late charge for the title now that the team has seemingly banished its bad luck with that maiden victory.
“It’s a sense of relief to get the monkey off our back and focus on what we all know we can do,” she said. “We love racing, we love off-road, and we eat, breathe, and live it, so this momentum just reaffirms we’re doing the right things.
“RXR has a pretty good points lead currently, and we sit in second with two other teams close, so it will be a battle until the very end. We just have to do what we do best and that’s to let our instincts as seasoned off-road racers take over.”
Just outside the fight for second is XITE Energy Racing, which heads the midfield battle.
Tamara Molinaro occupies fifth in the drivers’ points after starring in her two appearances for the team so far – a last-minute call-up for Saudi Arabia in place of the COVID-stricken Klara Andersson – while Timo Scheider’s joining of the team for Sardina immediately helped the team score a podium on its first final appearance – a result that led to both drivers getting matching tattoos to mark the occasion.
“Timo and I have already proven we can show great pace and work well together so I am hopeful that we can get more positive results this season,” Molinaro said.
Scheider added: “For Tamara and I to bag a podium in our first race together was amazing and I look forward to us and the team building on that momentum in South America.”
The team sits fifth, tied on points with Andretti United, being scored ahead of the Algo-American team by virtue of its second place being better than Andretti United’s best of third.
It’s been a trying season so far for Andretti United, which was a regular contender for victories last season – winning in Greenland – but missed the first two finals of the 2022 season and got into the round three main via the last chance qualifier ‘Crazy Race’.
“Racing is funny – you have good years and bad years, and it is horrible when you get yourselves into a rhythm of bad luck,” said Andretti United driver Catie Munnings. “We had some disappointment in Saudi Arabia, and we didn’t make the first Final in Sardinia either. It is frustrating when you can qualify so strongly and then not get the result from that.
“Timmy and I will be aiming for even more in the final two races of the year, but it’s great that our luck has changed a bit and I hope it can put us on a better path. I am really excited by Chile and Uruguay. I have never been to South America so it is a completely new challenge.”
There’s also a clutch of big names at the foot of the table hoping to kick-start their campaigns after a tricky season so far, including Veloce and McLaren, who’ve had to contend with car-destroying crashes early in the campaign.
Abt Cupra’s Jutta Kleinschmidt and Nasser Al-Attiyah currently prop up the standings though following a disqualification last time out for a seatbelt infringement which came as the team were leading the Final.
“Good luck and bad luck are difficult things in motorsport,” four-time Dakar rally winner Al-Attiyah of his team’s performance so far this season. “Our performance is good for trophies and even a victory, but to achieve this you have to bring it all together when it counts.
“Even the smallest mistakes throw you out of the competition, and that’s what happened to us too many times.”
Al-Attiyah added that “Two races and two trophies,” were the “clear goal” for the remainder of the season.
Fans in the U.S. will be able to watch delayed coverage of the Copper X Prix on Fox Sports, the final being shown in full at 6PM on Sunday September 25 on FS1, further highlights following at 9:30PM on FS2.