Fraser McConnell will replace Sebastien Loeb at Lewis Hamilton’s Team X44 in Extreme E this season, with the nine-time World Rally Champion departing the series.
Loeb, who alongside Cristina Gutierrez at X44, has six podiums from 10 starts in Extreme E – including overall event victories in the UK (Season 1) and Chile (Season 2) – and won the Extreme E title last year after overhauling the Rosberg X Racing duo of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky at the final round of the season in Uruguay.
McConnell made his Extreme E debut in the same event as a stand-in for JBXE, and now steps up for his first full season in the series.
“I am delighted to join X44 Vida Carbon Racing, and to be part of a Championship-winning team,” said the Nitro Rallycross race winner. “I am so impressed with Cristina’s performances in the first two seasons of Extreme E and I can’t wait to drive alongside her; I am sure that we will work well together and I hope to learn a lot from her prior experience. It’s never a bad thing to race alongside a World Champion!
“I’m also looking forward to being part of a team that uses its platform to make the world a better place. I have always admired Lewis’s dedication to making our sport more inclusive and opening up opportunities for young talent, and I’m honoured to be part of that journey with him.”
Gutierrez will remain with the outfit for a third successive season, having firmly established herself as one of the top drivers in the series.
“Following last season’s win, I am so excited to get back on track and give it my all again for the team,” she said. “Fraser is an exciting young talent and I am looking forward to racing with him this year.
“I’m also looking forward to meeting the new team, and I feel privileged to be part of the journey towards a fairer, more inclusive industry. I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together.”
In another major change, the team will now be supported by top international single seater outfit Rodin Carlin after being run by Prodrive for the first two seasons. Deputy team principal Stephanie Travers and race engineer George Imafidon, a member of the Hamilton commission, will remain in their respective roles for the third campaign.
Loeb – who was part of the team through his connections to Prodrive’s rally raid program – departs X44 in the wake of fellow WRC champion Carlos Sainz stepped aside from his own team after sustaining back injuries on the Dakar rally earlier this year, while confirmation of X44’s lineup completes the field for the third season of the all-electric off-road series ahead of the first round in Saudi Arabia this weekend.
Andreas Bakkerud and Tamara Molinaro will serve as the series’ ‘Championship Drivers’, and will aid in track design as well as being on-hand as reserves for all teams at every event should any of their drivers be unable to race.
Molinaro took the role midway through the 2021 season but spent all of last season racing for XITE Energy Racing after being called up on the eve of the season. Bakkerud, who has tested the Odyssey 21 electric SUV race car previously but is a new name to the Extreme E paddock, takes McConnell’s place on the reserves’ bench.