Extreme E: Acciona Sainz wins Desert X Prix in Saudi Arabia on Sunday
The Spanish team Acciona Sainz has won the second round of the Extreme E season in Saudi Arabia. In an unspectacular finale to the Desert X Prix, Laia Sanz gave her team its first ever victory. Also finishing on the podium were Veloce Racing, who thus maintained their championship lead, and Rosberg X Racing. The second German team, ABT Cupra, ultimately made it to fourth place after a strategy coup in qualifying.
Early Sunday morning, the first qualifying of the day was on the agenda. In the first heat, previous day's winner Veloce Racing again prevailed. Finishing behind the duo of Kevin Hansen/Molly Taylor was X44. Third place went to Andretti - a first small success for the US-Americans this weekend. Behind them followed ABT Cupra and Carl Cox Motorsport, who thus did not get off to a good start in the second round of the season.
In the second heat of the morning, Johan Kristoffersson and Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky carried off the win for RXR. Chip Ganassi also collected eight qualifying points. Sainz "only" made it to third place but thus preserved all chances for the final. McLaren finished fourth ahead of JBXE. There were no incidents worth mentioning in the second heat either.
Also in the second qualifying session, Taylor got the best start for Veloce. Chip Ganassi and McLaren were able to keep up to some extent, but were not a threat to the leading duo. After the driver:inside swap, Timmy Hansen caused the first excitement of the day: The Swede went a bit sideways and rolled over - for the third time in two days for Andretti. The car came to rest on its roof with no major damage, so the session was interrupted for a few minutes with red flags. The session then continued in the old order, which didn't change until the finish: Veloce won ahead of Chip Ganassi, McLaren, Carl Cox and Andretti.
Sainz won the start in the second heat, but had to relinquish the lead to RXR early on. Then Nasser Al-Attiyah - initially the only man in the field - attacked his rival Ahlin-Kottulinsky and took over first place with extraneous contact. He opened up a lead of around 17 seconds, behind him it was close. After the changeover Johan Kristoffersson chased the leading Klara Andersson, but only came within four seconds - victory for ABT! Third behind RXR was Sainz. X44 only came fourth after a time penalty, JBXE finished last. Despite being tied on points with X44, the Sainz team moved into the final because of its better Traction Challenge time.
Qualifying results at Desert X Prix II
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Timo Scheider got the best start in the "consolation lap," but Fraser McConnell ignited his hyperdrive early on and passed the German. Scheider stayed on, but couldn't get past. Then it was the women's turn. Christine Giampaoli Zonca and Cristina Gutierrez came back onto the track side by side. At first the Italian prevailed, but a few corners later X44 regained the lead. GZ rolled over a little later and dropped to the back of the field. Hedda Hosas in the JBXE also rolled over and stayed on its side. Gutierrez brought home the win ahead of McLaren and Andretti.
In the final, Sainz got off the line best. Veloce and RXR followed behind, but Kristoffersson overtook compatriot Kevin Hansen before the beach straight. Mattias Ekström pulled away at the front by around six seconds as the duo behind him struggled. RJ Anderson was unable to keep up, as was Klara Andersson. ABT was again the only team to rely on an alternative strategy and sent its female driver out on the course first. Hansen eventually overtook Kristoffersson, then it was off to the switch zone.
The drivers initially had relatively large gaps between them. Nasser Al-Attiyah took up the chase, but had to make up 20 seconds on the leaders. The ABT driver caught Amanda Sorensen, but it went no further forward for him. Further ahead, Laia Sanz left no stone unturned and took the first ever Extreme E win for Acciona Sainz. Second was previous day's winner Veloce, with RXR completing the podium.
Veloce continues to lead the overall standings thanks to his two heat wins. However, Sainz already follows just two points behind. Third is RXR. ABT Cupra made the biggest leap forward and is now sixth. Andretti and JBXE are at the bottom. The next race of the 2023 Extreme E season will take place on May 13. That's when the electric championship makes its first guest appearance in Scotland - but again with a "double-header."