Swedish Extreme E driver Timmy Hansen has spoken of his excitement at getting out on the sands of AlUla this weekend in Extreme E’s first ever competitive race, Saudi Arabia’s Desert X Prix.
With qualifying taking place on Saturday – the eco-friendly, all-electric rally’s first ever X-Prix final is on Sunday– drivers, teams, and race fans alike are in the home stretch in the countdown to one of motorsport’s biggest moments.
One of the nine teams is Andretti United, with Sweden’s Timmy Hansen and Britain’s Catie Munnings in the driving seats.
“I’m very excited. Honestly, I don’t really know what to expect,” said Hansen, who joins Extreme E as a previous FIA World Rallycross Championship Rallycross champion. “It’s the first ever race and the format, the places we drive and cars we race are all new, as is the competition itself. It’s all very exciting and I’m looking forward to getting started. There’s been a lot of talking and a lot of preparation so I can’t wait to get going now and get in the car.
Extreme E will pit dual teams of male and female drivers together in a new style of racing aimed at promoting green energies and helping tackle some of the world’s biggest environmental issues – starting with desertification in the Kingdom this weekend.
Other races include Senegal (rising sea levels), Greenland (melting ice cap), the Amazon, Brazil (deforestation) and Patagonia, Argentina (glacial recession).
“It’s a significant moment. It marks the point of motorsports being equal between men and women,” Hansen said. “It should have happened before but Extreme E is the first series to take this on and properly give women the right arena to show what they’re capable of.
“And that’s happening on top of everything Extreme E has to do with the environment, highlighting these issues around the world and what’s happening with climate change, going to these places that are already damaged, racing in those locations and leaving them in better shape than when we got here. It feels really good to be part of something like this, something very modern and futuristic, away from the typical motorsport stuff, the type of car, the difficult terrain, the high speeds, which all come with it too, of course. It’s a good package.”
Alongside his trusted teammate Munnings, Hansen – who hails from Gotene, Sweden – has spent the last few months getting to grips with Extreme E and a completely new style of racing.
In Extreme E, all teams compete in the same all-electric SUVs, with drivers only being given one look at the track they will be racing before heading out at top speed. Each race comprises two lengthy laps: one completed by the male driver, and the second by the female driver.
The pair said they cannot wait to get out on the sands of AlUla and put their training to the test.
“Catie and I have done a lot together,” the 28-year-old said. “We’ve been in Dubai driving in the sand and Sweden for a week, where we drove up north on the ice, so we’ve spent a lot of time together away from regular testing. It feels like I’ve gotten to know her well and I’m very happy to be racing with Catie. She’s got great speed, great technique and I’m very happy it’s her I’m racing with.
While Hansen acknowledges the difference between the electric SUVs and traditional combustion engine ones, he says that ultimately it’s “still a racing car” that the drivers have to adapt to, one that he has found very natural to drive.
“You don’t have to think about what gear you’re in or if there’ll be lag on the engine, where the good torque is or RPM. The engine just delivers instantly exactly what we want to have,” he said. “That takes our focus away from the engine, which I’m used to giving feedback on, but now that it’s always perfect, we’re looking more at the chassis. It’s new and feels light and like a car that can go faster than a fuel car.”
“This whole championship will take us to remote locations which, on a personal level, will be very exciting to see,” Hansen added. “First up is Saudi and AlUla, a desert between rocks, where we’ll talk about desertification and go to the beach to clean up plastic and leave a positive footprint, doing what we can for the community.
“It looks like a magical destination, and we’re going to be racing there, which is so cool. There’ll be some big climbs and drops, depending on where the waypoints are and exactly how the track will be. It’s a beautiful place to race and I can’t wait.”
Follow all the live Extreme E action this weekend on MBC Sports and KSA Sports, with coverage getting underway on Friday.