Timmy Hansen and Catie Munnings completed a remarkable recovery for Andretti United following the team’s Saturday struggles — when a puncture in qualifying had threatened to derail their weekend altogether — to finish second in Saudi Arabia’s Desert X Prix, opening round of the Extreme E championship for electric off-road vehicles.
As winners of the fan-led GridPlay vote, Andretti United had the luxury of choosing their starting spot for the Final. Hansen duly plumped for pole position on the right, and led the early going after a great start, before being overhauled for the win by Rosberg X Racing’s Johan Kristoffersson. Still, the Swedish rallycross ace took plenty of satisfaction from the team’s runner-up place.
“This feels amazing. After Q1, this kind of result really felt a long way off,” he admitted. “What a performance by Catie in qualifying to keep the car on-track with the puncture; she brought our Odyssey 21 home and with a good time, too. That was a key moment for us this weekend. We were still the underdogs, but it felt like it all came together in the Crazy Race, which was a ‘must-win’.
“I think GridPlay was very important for us in the Final. That allowed us to choose our starting position and from there, I got way more traction than the others and could pull a gap straight away. Obviously I’m a bit disappointed that we couldn’t keep the lead, but Johan pulled a mega move into the chicane, so congratulations to Rosberg X Racing.”
Co-driver Munnings (pictured above), a FIA European Rally Championship Ladies Trophy champ, added: “I just don’t have the words – I’m smiling so much! Timmy is my absolute hero, just a legend. His starts today have been incredible, which has made my job easy and all about bringing it home. With the puncture back at the beginning of qualifying, who would have thought we would be here in second place now? The hard work paid off and we managed to turn our weekend around.
“Extreme E offers an amazing platform for female drivers, and it’s super cool to be racing against such fast girls. It’s been really nice to see everyone coming together, encouraging each other and creating a competitive environment, and all of us — men and women alike — have been learning on the job and having a great time while doing it.
“I’m super happy with the start to the season. This is a massive moment for my career and one I will remember forever. It’s been such a journey just to get to this point with a big build-up and no one really knowing what to expect, so to finish with a great result makes it even more special.”
There was satisfaction all around at the first Extreme E podium celebration. Sam Bloxham/Motorsport Images
After topping qualifying for Lewis Hamilton-owned X44 team, Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez ultimately completed the podium in third for X44, consistently losing time due to their power steering failure in the Final.
“The whole weekend has been really good, and it all just came down to some bad luck in the Final with the power steering breaking,” said Gutierrez. “There was nothing we could do about that, so we have to be pleased to finish third.
“I’m very happy to be in such a great team. I spoke to Lewis [Hamilton] during the weekend and he gave me a lot of advice and tips, and now I’m looking forward to going to Senegal to try to win. Extreme E offers such a great opportunity for female drivers to race directly against so many legends of the sport, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”
Teammate Loeb added: “It was a good weekend overall, scoring some good points, finishing on the podium in the first event of the season and leaving sitting second in the championship. For sure, we expected to do better in the Final, but entering the first corner, we lost the power steering — and without that, a car this big and heavy is just so difficult to drive and it became a hard battle to keep it on the track.
“That was a bit disappointing, but for the rest I’m happy with the weekend and the team did a great job. The main thing is that we showed that together, we can fight for the win. Both Cristina and I were very fast, so I think we have a good chance for the rest of the season.”
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