RIYADH – March: Saudi Arabia is set to write yet another proud new chapter into its long-standing motorsports history when the Kingdom plays host to the world’s first Extreme E race next month.
Taking place the weekend of April 3/4th, the FIA-backed Extreme E rally will put ten teams and 20 drivers to the ultimate high-octane desert test as they zip through the breathtaking sands of AlUla over two days – Friday qualifying and Saturday racing.
It will be Extreme E’s first-ever outing after years in the planning and will feature big-name drivers including the likes of Jenson Button and Carlos Sainz amongst its field of world-class male and female competitors.
The rally season’s leading objective is to highlight the climate change challenges faced by different ecosystems around the world, whilst showcasing the performance of all-electric SUVs in extreme conditions.
In AlUla, the tour will highlight the impact of desertification, before continuing on to the stunning backdrops of Senegal, Greenland, Brazil, and Argentina to continue spreading the message while pushing drivers and their teams to their pulsating limits.
For Saudi Arabia, the hosting of Extreme E marks yet another significant motor-racing milestone. Having hosted desert rallies for more than half a century, the Kingdom welcomed its first FIA-backed street race with the Formula E Diriyah E-Prix in 2019 – a race that has since been held over two weekends since, most recently just last month.
In 2020, the Kingdom became the first Middle Eastern nation to host the world-famous Dakar Rally – “the hardest race in the world” – with pilots snaking across hundreds of miles of desert dunes as they looped around the country from Jeddah over the space of two weeks. Dakar Saudi returned in January of this year, with an even sterner, but just as the mesmerizing, heart-racing route over and across the Kingdom.
And now – in the same year the maiden Saudi Arabian F1 Grand Prix will take place in Jeddah – another incredible landmark for motorsports in Saudi Arabia, as AlUla prepares itself for the launch of Extreme E.
It is through the tireless work of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF) that Extreme E will take to the desert next month. It was also through the Federation’s partnerships with Formula E and Rally Dakar that the Kingdom is now hosting to both the Diriyah E-Prix and Dakar Saudi for ten years of events, plus F1.
Led by chairman Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, SAMF illustrated to Alejandro Agag, founder, and CEO of Extreme E, the burning passion for motorsports across Saudi Arabia. They were also able to show how under the ambitions of Saudi Vision 2030 and the Quality of Life program the progressive nature of Saudi thinking, and the Kingdom’s desire to implement green initiatives where possible.
Those key factors aligned perfectly with the goals and vision of Extreme E, sealing the deal on next month’s momentous race.
Prince Khalid said: “We feel the Kingdom is an ideal fit for Extreme E due to our forward-thinking and original approach to the new Saudi Arabia we are aiming for under the goals of Vision 2030. Under Vision 2030, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince seeks to create a vibrant society in which all citizens can fulfill their dreams, hopes, and ambitions to succeed in a thriving economy, and we see sport as a key component of that. It goes without saying that Saudis are recognized internationally for the passion and love we have for the sport, and perhaps none more so than motorsport.
“We also see the need for change and to do all we can to support the environment and our planet. That’s at the core of Extreme E’s mission and it gives us enormous pride to be hosting their first-ever race in the Kingdom this April. Together, Saudi Arabia’s partnership with Extreme E will bring incredible benefit to the Kingdom, Extreme E, wider motorsports, and the care we give to our planet.”
Prince Khalid added: “Extreme E will be a monumental event in what is already a phenomenal year of motorsports in Saudi Arabia. Our goal is to inspire through motorsports and to be hosting Dakar Saudi, Formula E, Extreme E, and F1 – as well as all our many, hugely loved Saudi-born events – in one year, and for many more years to come, is an incredible achievement and together open the exciting next chapter of motorsports in Saudi Arabia.”
Ten teams are signed up for Season 1 of Extreme E, including three owned by current and former Formula One World Champions, with Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, and Jenson Button founding X44, Rosberg X Racing, and JBXE respectively. Joining those teams will be ABT CUPRA XE, ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team, Andretti United, Chip Ganassi Racing, Hispano Suiza Xite Energy Team, Team TECHEETAH, and Veloce Racing.
The Extreme E driver line-up brings together champions from a variety of motorsport disciplines spanning single-seaters to rallying, rallycross, Dakar, and sportscar racing: Mattias Ekström and Claudia Hürtgen (ABT CUPRA XE); Carlos Sainz and Laia Sanz (ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team); Timmy Hansen and Catie Munnings (Andretti United); Kyle LeDuc and Sara Price (Chip Ganassi Racing); Oliver Bennett and Christine Giampaoli (Hispano Suiza Xite Energy Team); Jenson Button (JBXE); Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor (Rosberg X Racing); Stéphane Sarrazin and Jamie Chadwick (Veloce Racing); and Sébastien Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez (X44).
The Desert X Prix, AlUla, gets underway on Saturday, April 3rd with the qualification rounds, and the final plays out 24 hours later. Extreme E X Prix races are not open to fans to attend in person, but qualifications will be shown live on the Extreme E website, with the Finals broadcast live on KSA Sports in Saudi Arabia and MBC in the Middle East.
For more information, visit www.extreme-e.com