One of the mavericks yet again: Just like in Formula E, ABT Sportline is involved right from the very beginning in Extreme E. After years of success in various types of racing on track and with experience in electric mobility and sustainability, the German squad from Kempten in the Allgäu region joins forces with CUPRA as the ABT CUPRA XE team and heads off road in the latest and most adventurous electric motorsport category.
Extreme E is a fully-electric off-road racing series that has been born out of the rising concerns facing our environment. It aims to share the story of the effects of climate change and humanity’s impact on the environment through the adventure of exciting motorsport taking place around the world, in order to promote environmental conservation and responsibility from everyone. “We want to bring awareness, showcase electric cars and we want to leave behind a positive legacy linked to climate change,” says Alejandro Agag, Extreme E Founder and CEO. The exciting and remote locations have been selected to showcase various environments that are in constant danger due to the ongoing global climate crisis.
On board the RMS St. Helena cargo-passenger vessel, the paddock’s floating base cruises the open seas to the calendar’s remote locations around the world. From Saudi Arabia to Senegal, to Argentina, Greenland and Brazil, Extreme E has five exciting destinations for its inaugural season starting in April 2021.
The events are comprised of two race days. The first includes the qualifying races on Saturdays, followed by the semi-finals and the final concluding the event on Sundays. The tracks offer various challenges for the drivers along the way with jumps, gradients and more along the courses that are up to 10 kilometers in length. Each race will have two laps and will last for approximately ten minutes.
A further highlight: A woman and a man take turns behind the wheel of the racing cars, with a driver swap taking place after one of the two laps.
ABT CUPRA XE was the first team in Extreme E to announce its starting number: 125. “Because our company is celebrating its 125th birthday in 2021 and we want to honor this with this special starting number at our races around the world,” says Hans-Jürgen Abt, managing partner.
“For us, participation in Extreme E is a great story, also in view of our history,” says ABT CEO Thomas Biermaier. ABT was founded in 1896 as a horse smithy in Kempten and is now in the hands of the fourth and fifth generation. “From horse-drawn carriages in the Allgäu winter to high-tech electric SUV in the desert of Africa, this shows the impressive development of our company in over a century.”
The Extreme E race car, nicknamed “the Beast”, has been specifically developed for the series. The car was designed by Spark Racing Technology in France and consists of a tubular frame with niobium-reinforced steel alloy, a crash structure and a roll cage. The spec car will be used by all of the teams competing in the inaugural season. The battery technology is supplied by Williams Advanced Engineering from the UK. This energy is transferred to the ground through Continental tyres from Germany. The car of the Kempten-based team is called the e-CUPRA ABT XE1.
The SUV was first revealed at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed and driven there by Indy 500 winner and Extreme E co-founder Gil de Ferran.
One look at the all-electric SUV makes it clear: With its 400 kW (550 hp) of power and a weight of 1,650 kilograms, this vehicle was born for off-road racing. Even rally superstar Ken Block has already done his laps in the race car, at no less an event than the 2020 Dakar Rally.
Now, a spectacular look into the future shows what the next car from the ABT CUPRA XE team could look like in Extreme E. At the IAA Mobility 2021 in Munich, the Spanish brand presents the CUPRA Tavascan Extreme E Concept to the media and visitors in attendance.
The design of the front and rear has changed considerably from the vehicle competing in the current Extreme E season. The headlights in three triangular groups on each side also create a more imposing look. Thus the car is reaching the next evolutionary stage with even more CUPRA DNA. However, it remains to be seen when the new generation car will be deployed.
The Swedish ace continues his 22-year history with ABT Sportsline while competing for ABT CUPRA XE: Having first raced with ABT Sportsline in 1999, Ekström rose to prominence in the world of motorsport as a longtime Audi factory driver and became a two-time DTM champion in a career spanning seventeen years in the German touring car series from 2001 to 2017, all done together with ABT Sportsline. Together with his own EKS team, he went on to compete in the FIA World Rallycross Championship, in which Ekström was crowned as world champion in 2016. As an CUPRA ambassador he is part of the Spanish company’s future of electric mobility on the race track, which includes being part of the development of the CUPRA e-Racer. A whole new chapter will begin in 2022: Ekström will tackle the Dakar Rally as an official Audi factory driver for the brand from Ingolstadt.
She is the “Queen of Dakar”: Jutta Kleinschmidt is the first and so far only female winner of the legendary Dakar Rally and shares the car with Mattias Ekström since the second race in Senegal. Extreme E is familiar terrain for Jutta Kleinschmidt: In her role as Championship Driver and Advisor she supported the organizers with her profound knowledge from 17 Dakar participations. In Senegal she stepped in at short notice for Claudia Hürtgen, who had to pull out due to illness, and impressed with a strong performance. Since then she has been part of the team.
Extreme E calendar 2021
04/03–04 Sharaan, Al-’Ula (Saudi Arabia)
05/29–30 Lac Rose (Senegal)
08/28–29 Kangerlussuaq (Greenland)
10/23–24 Sardinia (Italy)
12/18–19 Dorset (UK)
Each of the selected locations tells its own story within the global climate crisis, with all of them being under constant threat. Extreme E aims to raise awareness of the environmental concerns and, through its Legacy Program, help each of the regions with initiatives in order to provide both social and environmental support.
The desert of Saudi Arabia was the setting for the first-ever Extreme E event. With its harsh conditions, the location impressively demonstrates the increasing risk of water shortages and droughts. After two violent accidents on Saturday and Sunday, ABT CUPRA XE remains without a countable success at the opener.
The race in Lac Rose is held along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. This stretch of beach is known as the traditional finish of the Dakar Rally. Mattias Ekström and Jutta Kleinschmidt are only narrowly defeated in the semifinals. Highlight off the track: The drivers learn about local environmental projects in schools and support the children in their next steps.
Racing next to the Russell Glacier on the world’s largest island, Greenland offers Extreme E a beautiful and challenging location. Increasing temperatures puts the arctic at risk, resulting in melting ice caps and rising sea levels. Extreme E emphasizes awareness by racing on land left behind by the receding glacier.
In October, Extreme E will hold the Island X Prix in Sardinia after the originally planned race in Brazil had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. The venue for the series’ first European appearance is a military training area in Capo Teulada in the Sulcis-Iglesiente region, a historic area in the south-west of the island. The Legacy program focuses on restoring some of the areas affected by the forest fires.
Extreme E’s Season 1 finale and the crowning moment of the first ever Championship team in this sport for purpose series is taking place in Dorset, UK. Gone are the sands of Saudi and Senegal, the glacial plains of Greenland and the hard-baked features of Sardinia. A mixed surface of clay, sand, gravel, and mud dominates the course in Dorset, making grip, or the lack of it, a formidable test for the first time this season as rain is always likely in the UK in December. There will be a mixture of fast downhill sections, narrow twisty areas and wide-open spaces providing options for different lines and overtaking.