Veloce Racing clinched its first Extreme E victory in the season-opening Desert X Prix in Saudi Arabia after a huge penalty for Rosberg X Racing.
RXR’s Johan Kristoffersson started the final on the furthest outside spot, a position deemed unfavorable with a hard right-hander starting the lap. But while right-side starters GMC Hummer EV Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz launched into an initial battle for the lead, Kristoffersson swept around the outside on the run to Turn 2 to snatch the lead.
Veloce’s Kevin Hansen similarly took advantage of the Ganassi-Sainz fight to catch both unaware and power past, before then mounting an assault on Kristoffersson. He had a look going into Waypoint 6 on the first lap, but the RXR car remained resolutely in front.
The remainder of the race was a similar story, with Molly Taylor again taking the Veloce car close once she took over driving duties, but Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky was the one who crossed the line first.
However, immediately after the conclusion of the race, RXR was hit with a 136-second time penalty for speeding in a slow zone. A yellow flag was in place at Waypoint 17 for the stricken Ganassi car of RJ Anderson which retired on lap two, but a miscommunication saw Ahlin-Kottulinsky on the limiter through 18 instead.
The penalty ended RXR’s run of winning the season opener, which it has done in the series’ first two seasons, and gave Veloce its first series victory.
“It feels great,” said Hansen. “Obviously we didn’t cross the line first but in motor racing you can win in many different ways, and to be on top of the podium with Veloce after their two difficult years and us coming in, and some changes in the team in general, to get this start to Season 3 has absolutely been the best way to do it.”
Veloce’s victory comes off the back of a raft of changes at the team, with Taylor, Hansen and new team principal Luc Alphand all coming on board at the end of last season.
“It’s been great since we started the partnership last year in Uruguay,” said Taylor. “We knew we had a good thing and there’s still a lot of work to make that happen. But just being around all of these guys and girls that are so motivated to make that happen, it’s a great environment to be around and I think it’s producing our best racing too.”
Acciona Sainz’s Mattias Ekstrom and Laia Sanz took second, with RXR ranked third after its penalty. X44 Vida Carbon Racing’s Fraser McConnell and Cristina Gutierrez were classified fourth after retiring halfway through the final with a power steering issue, while Ganassi’s Anderson and Amanda Sorensen took fifth after its own DNF, which came following a low-speed roll after Anderson diverted his line to get out of dust in the field ahead.
Desert X Prix I Final
1. Veloce Racing 11:56.291
2. Acciona Sainz +16.709
3. Rosberg X Racing +2m 08.041
4. X44 Vida Carbon Racing DNF
5. GMC Hummer EV Chip Ganassi Racing DNF
The final field was decided by a four heat races in the morning. The round one heats went to Ganassi and X44, while Veloce and Acciona Sainz won the round two heats. The five teams that didn’t qualify for the final based on the results in the qualifying heats ended up in the consolation “Redemption Race” which took place ahead of the final.
In what was a massively attritional contest, halted by a red flag midway through, the McLaren team of Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour won the Redemption Race ahead of Carl Cox Racing (Timo Schider and Christine Giampaoli Zonca), but those two teams were the only ones to make the finish.
The Andretti ALTAWKILAT team was the first casualty, with Timmy Hansen rolling out early on as he was caught out by camel grass as the field fought for space going into the first turn. His roll came after a similar crash for teammate Catie Munnings during qualifying, when she clipped another grass mound going into Waypoint 10, sending the car tumbling.
Abt Cupra’s Nasser Al-Attiyah was next to retire, crashing similarly to Munnings’ morning shunt. His roll came as he was battling Foust for the race lead, and he ended up tumbling over the hood of the McLaren, but only causing superficial damage to the papaya machine which continued without issue.
JBXE’s Hedda Hosas retired that team’s car with a technical issue not long after taking over control from Heikki Kovalainen, who had been battling for the lead during his stint.
Desert X Prix I Redemption Race
1. McLaren 28m55.292
2. Carl Cox Motorsport +5.552s
3. JBXE DNF
4. Abt Cupra DNF
5. Andretti Altawkilat DNF
With a format change for 2023, round two of the season will take place tomorrow, with four more qualifying heats, a redemption race, and a final.