Extreme E alters format ahead of opener after dust concerns

Excessive dust in the Saudi Arabian desert has led Extreme E to alter the format of its qualifying heats and finals only two days ahead of the championship’s inaugural round.

Extreme E alters format ahead of opener after dust concerns

Multi-car qualifying races for the Desert X-Prix event in AlUla have been replaced by single-car time trials on the Saturday.

Each driver pairing will complete one morning run and one afternoon run and have their average lap time taken to decide the grid for the semi-finals.

The choice of starting order for these qualification time trials will still be based on a lottery draw.

The grids for the semi-finals and final on Sunday have now been capped at three entries in favour of the previous plan to have the nine teams compete over one five-car and a four-car run.

This is largely out of concern for safety, due to narrower track confines for the five-mile circuit and the increased levels of dust kicked up by the cars compared to the initial Saudi recce in January.

Extreme E co-founder Alejandro Agag said: “When we came and we tested in January, we sort of thought of this.

“There was no dust because of the humidity of the night. The sand was more humid. The cars were going and no dust was coming up. We arrived here last week: huge clouds of dust.

“So, we tweaked the race format. Saturday, one by one. It's going to be very cool. Then, races of three cars instead of four [and five] cars.

“It's going to be fine. Actually, it's going to look pretty cool. It's going to look like Mad Max, all the cars going and the dust behind.”

Alejandro Agag, CEO, Extreme E

Alejandro Agag, CEO, Extreme E

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Competitors were informed of the alterations to the format by Agag at 1800hrs on Wednesday during a drivers’ briefing.

Extreme E had planned to undertake three simulation races in preparation for its maiden season, however they were all cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

Agag added: “'Let's go have an experiment that costs already like 40 million euros to see how it works. That's what we're doing so it's a big risk.”

Agag is also toying with the idea of having a surprise television reveal of the starting drivers.

Teams need only decide which of their male and female driver will take the race start five minutes ahead of the scheduled start time.

He wants all six drivers entered into the three-car heat to line up alongside one another. The driver taking the race start for each team will then step forward on command to reveal themselves.

As part of this plan, only Agag will be aware of the nominated driver. He will then check that no teams have made a pre-mediate switch in response to which of their rivals steps forward.

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Series Extreme E
Author Matt Kew