Kevin Hansen and Molly Taylor put in a consistent drive for the Desert X Prix Round 1 Grand Final, and while it looked like an outright win was within their grasp they ended the race in second behind Nico Rosberg’s outfit.
After crossing the finish line in first place, RXR received a penalty for speeding under a yellow flag, dropping the team from first to third and ensuring Veloce Racing took the top step on the podium for the first time.
ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team finished third on course, but jumped up to second after RXR received their time penalty.
Winners of the series’ first Redemption Race were the NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team having seen off championship debutants Carl Cox Motorport. Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour came out as best of the rest in a race of two halves, as the session was red flagged following racing incidents for Andretti ALTAWKILAT Extreme E and ABT CUPRA XE.
Kevin Hansen, Veloce Racing, said: “It feels great. To come back to Saudi Arabia and get my first Extreme E win with this new team, with Molly, and in the country that I had such a career changing accident, this is such a highlight.
“Both of us believe so much in what the engineers and mechanics are doing, so we feel so safe when we get in the car. We believe in what we are going to drive and I think that is also giving some results.”
Molly Taylor, Veloce Racing, said: “I think all of us in the team clicking right from the beginning and developing and improving. We were able to start at a really good level in Uruguay form there they’ve been really good at bringing the best out of every aspect that we look into.
“Our Team Principal Luc [Alphand] knows what it takes to win. Having that faith in someone like that, who’s got the scores on the board, who knows what you’re feeling, and knows how to translate that into results, I think that’s a real advantage for us.”
As the top five teams from Qualifying took on the first ever Grand Final in Extreme E, ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team’s Mattias Ekström seemed to have the better start of the group.
As the Swede swung round the outside, RXR’s Johan Kristoffersson stayed closest to the apex of the corner, and the inside line paid off as he charged to the front of the field.
Veloce Racing’s Hansen slotted into second place behind Kristofferson after an impressive move on the outside saw him pass Ekström and No.99 GMC HUMMER EV Chip Ganssi Racing’s RJ Anderson. The American then dropped to the back of the pack behind Fraser McConnell in the X44 Vida Carbon Racing ODYSSEY who took fourth.
The front four were nose-to-tail with no team gaining an advantage having all used their ENOWA Hyperdrive at the start. As the Swedish trio broke away, Hansen refused to let Kristoffersson go as Ekström also held them both in his sights.
McConnell began to reel in the cars in front as he pushed his ODYSSEY 21, with No.99 GMC HUMMER EV Chip Ganassi Racing out of contention having come to a stop on course. The race was soon over for X44 Vida Carbon Racing as well, as technical issues denied Lewis Hamilton’s outfit a shot at the podium.
Up ahead the drama continued, with Ekström beginning to drop off the pace as Kristoffersson continued to shut the door on Hansen in the Veloce Racing ODYSSEY 21 as the teams entered the Switch Zone.
Following the driver change, Veloce Racing’s Taylor took up the chase as she looked to take the lead away from RXR’s Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky. The Australian looked in with a chance, until she ran wide and dropped time.
Åhlin-Kottulinsky crossed the line in first, with Veloce Racing finishing second and Laia Sanz coming home in third for ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team. Celebrations were interrupted, however, when Nico Rosberg;’s outfit were penalised for speeding in a yellow flagged zone. The 136-second penalty saw the team drop to third, handing Veloce Racing their maiden victory in Extreme E.
Laia Sanz, ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team, said: “We have had a good start to the championship so I think in the end it was a great day!
“We showed good pace in Qualifying and we got the Traction Challenge points so we are happy as we showed that we can win some races. But the level is crazy and everyone fights so hard so it will be difficult.”
Mattias Ekström, ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team, said: “We are really happy to have finished second today! I’m happy for myself on getting the call from Carlos [Sainz Snr.] but even more happy for him as team boss being here to see us finish second.
“It was all going well until I came to RJ’s [Anderson] car which was a misunderstanding on my part with the slow zone but I will take that lesson with me.”
Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, Rosberg X Racing, said: “The team did an amazing job, there were tough fights out there in Qualifying 1 and 2 but the team put the car back together amazingly.
“We were happy to make it the Final. Johan made an amazing start but then I made a mistake in the slow zone. I thought it was 18 for the slow zone not 17, so that was unfortunate of course but in the end a good job from the team.”
Johan Kristoffersson, Rosberg X Racing, said: “It’s always nice to be on the podium but it’s never the nicest thing to cross the finish line first and not win!
“Given that the track is so rough, its impressive that no cars stopped because of the hard impacts from the bumps so that’s well done to Spark for making the cars so reliable and also well done to our team.”
The remaining five teams fought it out in the Redemption Race to determine sixth to tenth place in the Desert X Prix Round 1 standings.
A strong start from eventual race winners NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team saw Tanner Foust take the lead ahead of ABT CUPRA XE’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and JBXE’s Heikki Kovalainen, whose impressive Extreme E debut showed no signs of faltering.
An incident at the back of the pack saw the Andretti ALTAWKILAT Extreme E ODYSSEY 21 endure its second roll of the day. As Al-Attiyah shut the door on Carl Cox Motorsport’s Timo Scheider, the German veered into Timmy Hansen sending his ODYSSEY 21 into a spin and Andretti ALTAWKILAT Extreme E out of the race.
This was the first of three DNFs in the race, as Al-Attiyah also rolled his ABT CUPRA XE ODYSSEY 21 over the top of the NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team as the Qatari attempted to undercut Foust for the lead.
The remaining trio still on the move avoided the wreckage, with Kovalainen taking the lead in the chaos, and pulled into the Switch Zone as the leader as a Red Flag stopped the race.
As the action got back underway, Gilmour used her ENOWA Hyperdrive immediately to close the gap on Hedda Hösas, but the JBXE team soon dropped to the back before retiring from the race with technical issues, meaning the New Zealander crossed the finish line first ahead of Carl Cox Motorsport’s Christine GZ.
1. Veloce Racing 11:56.291
2. ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team +16.709
3. Rosberg X Racing +2:08.041 (PENALISED)
4. X44 Vida Carbon Racing DNF
5. No.99 GMC HUMMER EV Chip Ganassi Racing DNF
1. NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team 28:55.292
2. Carl Cox Motorsport +5.552
3. JBXE DNF
4. ABT CUPRA XE DNF
5. Andretti ALTAWKILAT Extreme E DNF
1. Veloce Racing: 26 points
2. ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team: 21 points
3. Rosberg X Racing: 15 points
4. X44 Vida Carbon Racing: 13 points
5. No.99 GMC HUMMER EV Chip Ganassi Racing: 11 points
6. NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team: 8 points
7. Carl Cox Motorsport: 6 points
8. JBXE: 4 points
9. ABT CUPRA XE: 2 points
10. Andretti ALTAWKILAT Extreme E: 1 point