By Fahad Redha
From the World Rally Championship (WRC) to the Paris-Dakar, off road racing is among the most exciting of all. And now Extreme E brings a green twist to the sport. The race will see a range of all-electric cars racing across five remote locations, helping to raise awareness of climate issues. What’s more, each race will have an equal mix of both male and female drivers; a first in motorsport. The first race is set for Senegal on the 23-24 January 2021.
The series consulted with ecological experts to minimise its impact on the deserts, glaciers, and rainforests that it will race through, while scientists will travel with the teams to investigate the effects of climate change. There are even plans for the series to “leave a lasting legacy” on those locations which include planting trees, clean-up operations, and solar-power initiatives.
Motorsport has always been a driver of innovation. It has helped improve car design and engineering including aerodynamics and engine technology. But this has scarcely been the case when it comes to efficiency. While some innovations have aided in making cars greener, it has never been the goal until now. Extreme E’s creators, the same people behind Formula E, say that environmental considerations are central to the series.
To that end scientists are invited to join the teams and conduct research during voyages between race locations. Their work will focus on gaining a better understanding of climate change as well as suggesting opportunities to help lessen its impacts.
But what about the car? Extreme E’s revolutionary racer is the ODYSSEY 21 which was revealed at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed. The 550hp SUV is purpose-built from the ground up. The torquey electric motors can propel it from zero to 62mph in just 4.5 seconds at a gradient of up to 130 percent, something that few cars can match. The body is wrapped around a steel alloy tubular frame with crash structures and roll bars. The teams will have tyres built for the extreme cold and heat by Continental.
Together with the tyre maker, the car was recently out going through its paces in the south of France at the Château de Lastours proving ground. This location is regularly used by both Dakar and the WRC to push machines to their limits.
At the beginning of 2020 the car was taken to the final stage of the Dakar Rally with Ken Block at the helm, racing alongside hundreds of competitors in both hybrid and combustion engine vehicles.
“The thing just wants to leap forward,” Block said. “I’m having to tone down my style a little as the car reacts so quickly and the power delivery is so fast.”
Below is the schedule for the 2021 season.
Extreme E Calendar
Sharaan Al-‘Ula, Saudi Arabia
Extreme E will head to Saudi Arabia, home of the world’s largest continuous sand desert, and its Al-‘Ula region in Season 1. The terrain is stunning and unforgiving, while the heat and conditions will be intense. There is no question that the winning combination of driver and machine will be a deserving one. A combination of the temperature and the desert sand will take its toll on the drivers and the cars.
Lac Rose, Dakar, Senegal
The Senegalese capital is home to one of the most gruelling races of all time, the Paris-Dakar. That race sees everything from motorcycles to racing lorries battle it out for supremacy along the 7,000 km race. It’s no wonder that it was added to the Extreme E Calendar.
This location was chosen to raise awareness of the impact that climate change will have on polar ice. Few, if any, motorsports have taken place in Greenland. Arctic conditions put a huge strain on both people and machines and electric vehicles are especially vulnerable as their batteries are not as effective at those temperatures.
Santarém Pará, Brazil
A damaged region in the Brazilian state of Pará will host the Amazon rainforest X-Prix when Season 1 gets underway in 2021. It’s no secret that the world’s rainforests, particularly the Amazon, are being destroyed. So it’s no wonder that this was chosen as one of the races on the calendar. This area on the banks of the mighty Amazon river represents ground zero for the Amazon’s two biggest issues: deforestation and wildfires.
Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina
The final race of Season 1 will take Extreme E to South America’s Tierra Del Fuego. Some of the most important consequences of global climate change have been observed in the glaciers and permafrost areas of South America. Tierra del Fuego is in the most southern part of Patagonia. The area is known as one of the world’s final frontiers and this breath-taking spot in Patagonia is home to the town of Ushuaia, often referred to as ‘the end of the world’ due to its location at the very tip of South America, with Antarctica to the South. There will be no live spectators for this race. Instead it will be live broadcast to the world via drones, much greener than the helicopters typically used in motorsport. Look out for it on BBC.