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Extreme E Desert X-Prix

Ekstrom replaces injured Sainz for Extreme E season

Two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom will return to Extreme E this season at the Sainz XE team in place of the injured Carlos Sainz Sr.

Mattias Ekstrom, ABT CUPRA XE Carlos Sainz, Sainz XE Team

The 60-year-old rally legend sustained multiple spinal fractures in a crash during January's Dakar Rally. He rolled his Audi on the ninth stage of the Saudi Arabian event, leading to T5 and T6 vertebral fractures that put him out of the rally.

With the two-time World Rally Championship winner still in recovery, Sainz's Audi Dakar team-mate and recent Race of Champions winner Ekstrom has stepped up to join Laia Sanz at the Spanish team.

It marks a return to the series for the newly-appointed World Rallycross Championship sporting director, who recorded a best finish of second during the championship's inaugural season in 2021 with the Abt Cupra XE team at the Island X Prix alongside Jutta Kleinschmidt.

Sainz Sr will still play a non-driving role in Sainz XE’s effort and is expected to travel to Saudi Arabia to support the team that carries his name for this month's season-opening Desert X Prix, as it seeks a first series victory.

“Mattias Ekstrom is one of the best rallycross, track and off-road drivers in the world,” said Sainz XE team principal Joan Orus.

“His illustrious racing record will surely help us further develop as a team. Our aim is to win and we know that we can fight for the title if we all do our work right.

“We start the year in a tough situation with the news that Carlos will not be in the car in Saudi Arabia, but we still feel we have found the best possible driver to complete the team with Laia.”

The injured Sainz has full faith in his Swedish replacement, who has two DTM titles and a World Rallycross crown to his name.

“I believe he is one of the best and most multifaceted race drivers in the world,” he said.

Laia Sanz, Carlos Sainz, Acciona | Sainz XE Team

Laia Sanz, Carlos Sainz, Acciona | Sainz XE Team

Photo by: Colin McMaster / Motorsport Images

“I have raced against him in Extreme E and know him as my team-mate in Audi in the raids, so I am aware of his potential and strengths.”

Ekstrom's return follows Chip Ganassi Racing announcing an all-new lineup with Amanda Sorensen and fellow American RJ Anderson, who replace Sara Price and Kyle LeDuc.

The third season of Extreme E kicks off on 11-12 March with a further four events scheduled throughout the year including a visit to Scotland on 13-14 May.

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