We see? Extreme E!

Of course, you can always just move in circles. Or think into the future and take a radically different approach, like the Extreme E off-road racing series. We saw for ourselves with the official timekeeper Zenith on site - and are electrified after the race in Sardinia.
Text Jana Doe & Alfred Rzyski
Photo Marko Knab · ramp.pictures

»A new way of thinking is essential if humanity is to survive and move to a higher level.« Albert Einstein's sentence dates back to 1946. Rarely has it seemed more urgent than it does today. And probably because of this, people become particularly alert when something new actually happens and nature and technology intertwine. This is the case with the Extreme E. It has now entered its second season, and its hydrogen sister series, the Extreme H, is also about to be launched. But the three basic ideas formulated by series founders Alejandro Agag and Gil de Ferran are still the same: Electrification, sustainability and equality. And they continue to be driven forward by the two founders and their series partners Zenith Watches, Niobium and Continental.

As far as electrification is concerned, the SUV is called the »Odyssey 21.« The first two seasons of the Extreme E will still be run with this one-size-fits-all car, but later in-house developments will also be possible. »Odyssey 21« has a battery-electric drive with 550 hp, combined with a torque of 920 Newton meters, the SUV accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds. Doesn't sound special next to ordinary road-going sports cars, but watching it on site - and on loose surfaces - has what it takes to shift your own perception of »fast.« Top speed is 200 km/h, and the car can climb inclines of up to 130 percent. Suspension travel? More than enough. Technically, the teams are not allowed to change anything on »Odyssey 21«, only the design and bodywork can be customized. ABT CUPRA XE and Hummer EV Chip Ganassi Racing have already made use of this.

In order to also be climate neutral overall, a ship, the St. Helena, will be used as a means of transport for the race cars and as a paddock for the journey to the five races. The former British mail ship has been extensively modernized for the mission, with the engine completely overhauled to reduce emissions. In addition, a team of four scientists is on board in an advisory capacity to help restore damaged ecosystems at all race venues through local environmental initiatives. The central theme here in Sardinia: CO2 sequestration by planting seagrass plantations underwater - and the aftermath of the forest fires that raged this summer and last. We learn directly in the lagoon and dive along among the sea grasses - before we get to the course.

Ten »Odyssey 21« and 20 top-class pilots are waiting here. Equally and evenly distributed among all teams. To name just a few: For ABT CUPRA XE, Dakar winner Jutta Kleinschmidt will start together with Nasser Al-Attiyah, also an off-road legend. For X44, nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb is at the wheel, which he shares with Cristina Gutierrez - the Rosberg X Racing car, in turn, is driven by Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky together with Johan Kristoffersson. Enduro world champion Laia Sanz, meanwhile, shares the cockpit with rally legend Carlos Sainz, the father of Ferrari Formula 1 driver Carlos Sainz Junior. And the team bosses are also partly influenced by Formula 1: with JBXE, Rosberg X Racing and X44 there are no less than three racing teams under the leadership of former circuit world champions. Namely Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

The races themselves are short - but exciting. As if from a bow under tension, the bolides shoot off and over the former military training area here in the south of the island. Quickly, very quickly, there is still a cloud of dust to be seen. The battles are fierce, and on the race weekend there are two rollovers for a reason. But not in the final, where ABT CUPRA XE is also fighting for victory. Door to door the team fights with Rosberg X Racing, in the end it is the second place. At least until the race stewards penalize a rule violation during the driver change to Jutta Kleinschmidt. The consequence: Disqualification.

And yet: CUPRA has taken on an absolute pioneering role in the new racing format and is the only European automobile manufacturer to have entered the racing series. Whereby that is perhaps not quite neatly worded. It is the only one for the time being. But someone always has to be first. Next time then also on the track.

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