X44 Vida Carbon Racing took the 2022 Extreme E crown, snatching the title away from favorites Rosberg X Racing in the season’s final race as ABT Cupra took their maiden win at the Natural Energy X Prix. It was a weekend where several teams faltered, with X44 the only top-four team making it through to the Final – and even they had to do it the hard way via the Crazy Race. Meanwhile, eventual victors, ABT Cupra, managed to progress to the Final despite receiving a penalty after Nasser Al-Attiyah rear-ended RXR and took them out in Q2.
The series has traveled across the world from Saudi Arabia through Europe and into South America this year. In the end, it was XITE Racing’s time penalty for speeding by just 2 km/h in the Switch Zone that handed Sébastien Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez the Championship.
RXR won two of the first three X Prix of Season 2 and would have made it a clean sweep had it not been for a penalty in the first Island X Prix. They might have been able to wrap up the title in the season’s penultimate race, but a technical issue saw them sit out the Final as X44 won to force a title decider in Uruguay.
Even then, a 17-point lead meant their fate was very much in their hands, and the smart money would still be on an RXR victory and a second consecutive Championship win. However, Extreme E has always been unpredictable, and the finale was perhaps the most chaotic weekend of them all.
Signs of what was to come appeared during Practice as RXR’s Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky went up on two wheels and only just managed to keep her ODYSSEY 21 the right way up. The course’s ruts and bumps claimed their first victim later in the session as Emma Gilmour rolled her Neom McLaren Extreme E car. JBXE’s Hedda Hosås rolled in Q1 before Åhlin-Kottulinsky again put it on two wheels and recovered once more. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make a third save when she got too sideways over a jump, and the tires dug in, rolling the car.
Title rival Cristina Gutiérrez was the next casualty and sent her X44 car somersaulting out of contention, forcing her team to use a spare chassis due to the damage. However, Acciona Sainz still had an outside chance of claiming the title and came out as the quickest in Q1. Veloce Racing sported an all-new line-up, with 2021 Champion Molly Taylor coming in alongside Kevin Hansen, who moved across from JBXE. The changes immediately paid dividends, as they emerged top of Qualifying after coming second in both the Q1 and Q2 Heats.
In the first Qualifying Heat, Genesys Andretti United’s Timmy Hansen battled past Carlos Sainz to win, while X44 finished well off the pace in P4, condemning them to the Crazy Race. In Heat 2, RXR took the lead down the course’s long straight and looked one step closer to the title with their rivals struggling. But disaster struck ABT Cupra as an awkward bump pitched Nasser Al-Attiyah’s car into the back of Johan Kristoffersson’s RXR, taking him out of the running and into the Crazy Race alongside X44.
The first Semi-Final saw a spectacular battle between Veloce and No.99 Hummer EV Chip Ganassi Racing, who received two penalties for downed waypoint flags. After plenty of contact with both Veloce and ABT Cupra, the Chip Ganassi’s door flew off, and for all their efforts, the penalties sent them to P3, knocking them out. The second Semi-Final ended Acciona Sainz’s distant title hopes. While racing McLaren’s Gilmour, Laia Sanz caught a rut, digging in and rolling twice. The Spaniard floored it the moment all four wheels were back on planet Earth and drove with gritted teeth to the line but finished last.
Ahead of the Crazy Race, trouble stirred behind the scenes. X44 claimed the stewards had told them that they’d apply the penalty for their new chassis to their Qualifying Heat before hearing the five-second punishment would apply to the Crazy Race. After being told that an appeal would take over 30 days to process and call into question the result of the Championship, X44 decided to withdraw the appeal. Of course, that penalty made victory seem even less likely, and it appeared once again that RXR would finally get over the line and clinch the title.
The two remaining contenders went door-to-door along the opening straight, and X44 went through into the lead while Åhlin-Kottulinsky tangled with several cars and broke her steering in the process. RXR were left trying to fix the car in the hope that the others might retire, but the stewards disqualified them for having too many people working on their ODYSSEY 21. So, when X44 won the Crazy Race to progress to the Final, the outcome was – for the first time – no longer in RXR’s control.
In the Final, Al-Attiyah fought past Loeb to take the lead, which ABT Cupra would hold to the end. Loeb’s rivals swamped his X44, and he fell back to 4th, struggling to see thanks to the dust thrown up by the other cars, and the title seemed to slip out of his grip. However, the 2022 season had one final twist in its tale, as the stewards handed third-placed Andretti a seven-second penalty for speeding in the Switch Zone, promoting X44 into third, winning them the title while RXR helplessly watched.
The Natural Energy X Prix was the perfect showcase for Extreme E, encapsulating its unpredictability and underlining how fiercely competitive the series is. With the likes of ABT Cupra and Veloce looking resurgent, 2023 looks set to be just as hotly contested. With one title apiece for RXR and X44, both teams will be desperate to prove their superiority next year.