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Race report
Extreme E Desert X-Prix

Desert X Prix: Veloce inherits opening Extreme E win after Rosberg penalty

Veloce Racing claimed victory in the 2023 Extreme E season opener following a post-race penalty for Rosberg X Racing at the Desert X Prix double header in Saudi Arabia.

Molly Taylor, Kevin Hansen, Veloce Racing

RXR’s five-time World Rallycross champion Johan Kristoffersson and Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky took the chequered flag in the first Grand Final of the championship’s new-look race format, but a penalty for speeding in a slow zone dropped the duo to third.

Veloce Racing’s Kevin Hansen and Molly Taylor therefore inherited the race win, while the Sainz XE team of DTM and rallycross star Mattias Ekstrom and Laia Sanz claimed second ahead of RXR.

The all-electric off-road championship debuted its new format at Neom’s 3.4km sandy course. The fastest five teams from the two, four-lap, five-car qualifying heats progressed to the Grand Final, while the slowest five male/female driver crews made up the grid for the Redemption Race.

The new-look X44 team, owned by seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, emerged as the top qualifier thanks to a victory and second place for new signing Fraser McConnell, replacing rally legend Sebastien Loeb, and his team-mate Cristina Gutierrez.

They were joined in the final by Veloce Racing, Sainz XE, Chip Ganassi Racing and RXR.

Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, Johan Kristoffersson, Rosberg X Racing

Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, Johan Kristoffersson, Rosberg X Racing

Photo by: Sam Bagnall / Motorsport Images

It was RXR that made the best start to the final as Kristoffersson, who was fifth at Turn 1, managed to blitz the run to Turn 2 to emerge in the lead from Veloce’s Hansen, with Ekstrom slotting into third.

The top three quickly began to break away from the X44 machine driven by McConnell and Ganassi’s RJ Anderson, who became the first retirement of the final.

Anderson misjudged the track at Waypoint 17 on the opening lap and rolled his machine, which caused a slow zone for the remainder of the race.

McConnell was next to hit trouble as the Jamaican rallycross star suffered a technical fault, leaving three cars to battle it out.

Taylor took over the RXR entry after the driver switch and quickly set her sights on chasing down the 3.1-second gap to the newly installed Ahlin-Kottulinsky.

The 2016 Australian Rally champion managed to close to within 1.5s on the penultimate lap before misjudging a slow zone, which cost her valuable time, and therefore settled for second at the flag.

However, that was upgraded to a victory and the full 25 championship points moments after the finish, when Ahlin-Kottulinsky was found to have breached the speed restrictions at the yellow flag zone. The Swede was handed a 136s penalty, that dropped the on-the-road winners to third.

“It was a bit of a miscommunication - I thought it [the slow zone] was Waypoint 18 and not 17 so, when I got there, it was flashing yellow and it was too late,” said Ahlin-Kottulinsky.

“It is a bit disappointing. Johan got an amazing start but sorry about the penalty but we will take a P3.”

Emma Gilmour, Tanner Foust, NEOM McLaren Extreme E

Emma Gilmour, Tanner Foust, NEOM McLaren Extreme E

Photo by: Colin McMaster / Motorsport Images

The Redemption Race also proved to be a dramatic affair as McLaren, Carl Cox Motorsport, JBXE, Abt Cupra and the Andretti squads battled for a maximum of eight championship points for the winner.

McLaren’s Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour clinched the victory in a race that was red flagged after rolls for Andretti and Abt Cupra on the opening lap.

Contact on the run to Turn 2 between Abt’s 2023 Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah and Timo Scheider’s Carl Cox entry resulted in the former running into Timmy Hansen (Andretti), who had nowhere to go and rolled. It was the second roll of the day for the Andretti entry after Catie Munnings ended upside down when attempting a pass in the opening qualifying heat.

After escaping the incident investigated by the stewards, Al-Attiyah applied pressure on leader Foust but, in trying to dive down the inside of the McLaren, the Qatari hit a patch of camel grass and rolled in front of the leader.

The incident allowed JBXE’s new signing Heikki Kovalainen into the lead ahead of the recovering Foust before the red flags were thrown as the cars reached the driver switch zone.

Racing resumed after a brief delay with Hedda Hosas leading for JBXE, although Gilmour and Christine Giampaoli Zonca (Carl Cox Motorsport) quickly passed Hosas, who eventually ground to a halt with a technical issue. Gilmour held on to take a comfortable win from Giampaoli Zonca.

The second round of the season, and final part of the opening Desert X Prix double-header weekend, will take place on Sunday.

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