“I keep this weekend in good memory – especially after everything that happened yesterday,” says Nasser Al-Attiyah. The five-time Dakar winner had rolled over during an attack on the leader in the small final on the first day of the event. What looked harmless at first turned out to be a huge task for the four mechanics: As the roll cage was damaged and could not be repaired on site, the team had to build a replacement Extreme E car overnight and adapt it to its drivers. “Our comeback on Sunday with a win in the qualifying race and a strong performance in the grand finale was at least a small reward for the guys’ efforts,” adds Al-Attiyah. “We learned a lot and will definitely be racing for trophies and wins next time.”
There was a 30-second penalty for ABT CUPRA XE for switching to the replacement car in qualifying on Sunday morning. To make the best of this poor starting position, the ABT engineers chose a bold strategy: they had Klara Andersson start against four men in the two qualifying races – a first in the still young history of the series, in which all teams otherwise send men and women to race against each other for tactical reasons. The 23-year-old Swede proved she had nerves of steel, chased best times and defended an advantage all the way to the finish. The result was a sensational entry into the “Grand Final”, the race of the best five.
“The fact that we were able to race at all on Sunday is a small miracle and only thanks to the mega guys in the garage,” says Klara Andersson. “We fought for a podium finish in the final until the last metre, but unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough.” After two laps each by Andersson and Al-Attiyah, the duo was just 0.558 seconds off the podium party at the finish. “We gave it our all, but it was hard to stay on with the fine dust in the air. We’re still proud of our weekend and comeback and now come to the races in Scotland even hungrier for a win.”
For the first time, Extreme E presented itself in Saudi Arabia with a new race format: after free practice, all heats are held as five-car races, and there is also a stand-alone race day on Saturday and Sunday each. “The races were quite competitive. It was extremely exciting for the spectators, but also a great challenge for the teams and drivers,” says ABT CEO Thomas Biermaier. “My thanks go to the whole team, who never gave up and built a completely new car overnight with just one hour of sleep. With this spirit, I’m sure we’ll have many more great and successful moments this season.”
After the two races in NEOM, ABT CUPRA XE is sixth in the team championship with 15 points. The season continues on 13 and 14 May in Scotland. For ABT CUPRA, it’s already back on the race track the weekend after next, when Formula E starts in São Paulo (Brazil) for the first time in its history.