RIYADH: As the championship’s 10 teams got behind the wheel at the Season 3 opener, NEOM McLaren Extreme E looked to pick up where they left off with a podium finish at the Season 2 finale in Uruguay.
The 3.4-kilometer course of the 2023 Desert X Prix in NEOM provided the first of the challenges in what promises to be the most tightly fought season to date.
A hectic Qualifying 1 on Saturday saw McLaren’s Emma Gilmour and Tanner Foust experience a frustrating start to their Season 3 campaign. Albeit running in P3 in Qualifying 1, the driver pairing ultimately finished fifth in the first session, suffering a Switch Zone penalty as they also adjusted to the course.
Bouncing back with a stronger performance in qualifying, the NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team finished their heat in third place. It was not enough to escape the Redemption Race, however, as the team finished sixth in the overall qualifying standings – one spot short of a place in the grand final.
Having won the Crazy Race in spectacular fashion at last year’s Desert X Prix, Foust and Gilmour were no strangers to battling it out against the best of the rest in NEOM.
Foust enjoyed a great start to the series’ first ever Redemption Race, but multiple incidents including Nasser Al-Attiyah’s ABT CUPRA XE car rolling over the top of Foust’s ODYSSEY 21, saw the race red flagged.
In the chaos, Heikki Kovalainen had taken the lead for JBXE, but as the race resumed Gilmour used her ENOWA Hyperdrive to close the gap on Hedda Hosas and overtake the JBXE driver as NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team won the Redemption Race and secured valuable championship points.
Foust said: “We certainly didn’t disappoint on the extreme side. We started off with some pretty aggressive set-up changes due to the lack of track time we have in this series. We unfortunately lost a bit of time in the process in Qualifying 1, but then showed good pace for the rest of the day.
“The team were fantastic, repairing the car, enabling us to improve, and we won the Redemption Race making us the best of the rest.”
Round 2 offered a chance to use the momentum from that race win for a better qualifying stint, with plenty of racing and points opportunities still on the table in NEOM.
Sunday was another challenging day for the NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team, with fourth and third-place finishes in their respective qualifying heats meaning the team narrowly missed out on Round 2’s grand final.
Running in second and fighting for points once again in the Redemption Race, Foust and Gilmour nearly gained an all-important two championship points from the Continental Traction Challenge as they pushed hard for another Redemption Race win.
Closing out their weekend with second place in Round 2’s Redemption Race saw the NEOM McLaren Extreme E Team come away from Saudi Arabia having accrued a total of 14 points and in seventh place in the championship standings.
Gilmour said: “It was a slightly frustrating day and it’s a shame that we have not come away from this Desert X Prix with more points.
“In motorsport though, you can always have worse weekends. Considering where we were at the start of the weekend, and the progress we had to make, I think we did well.”
The Neom McLaren Extreme E Team will be looking to hit the ground running at the next Extreme E round in Scotland on May 13 and 14.