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X44 top opening Extreme E qualifying

X44 top a dramatic qualifying day ahead of the opening race of the 2022 Extreme E season.

The qualifying masters of season one were behind reigning champions Rosberg X Racing after the first qualifying session, but emerged on top after the heats in the second round of qualifying.

For this second season of Extreme E, qualifying has been adjusted to incorporate the addition of McLaren’s Extreme E team. Qualifying 1 was the same as last season, with each team getting a two-lap run. Qualifying 2 was made up of two heat races, with qualifying points being awarded for each session.

RXR topped the times in the first qualifying session with a run of 9m03.604s, less than seven seconds quicker than X44 in P2.

The drama started early with a dramatic incident for Veloce Racing. The team had been running second after the first lap, run by Lance Woodridge, and the speed continued after Christina GZ took over the car. But a small mistake in the closing stages of the lap caused the car to roll and GZ was taken to hospital with damage to her foot. The team had the option to run a reserve driver for the rest of the weekend, but failed to get the car ready in time for Q2.

This meant it was a four-car shoot-out for the first qualifying heat. X44 were joined by Chip Ganassi Racing, Abt Cupra, and Sainz XE.

Despite a strong start from Carlos Sainz, Sebastien Loeb in the X44 took the lead early on while Sainz was left to battle with Abt’s Nasser Al-Attiyah. Al-Attiyah briefly got ahead, almost missing the flag at a checkpoint in the process. The move put him off line and he had to scramble to get in position to take the next gate. He couldn’t get on line in time and collided with Sainz just after the flag.

The incident left both cars with significant damage. Sainz retired in the switch zone while Al-Attiyah handed over to Jutta Kleinschmidt a car with steering problems.

Christina Gutierrez in the X44 was unchallenged on her lap, finishing 21s ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing who piped Abt to second.

With X44 taking the maximum points from the race, only RXR could deny them the top position in qualifying.

It was the Andretti, piloted by Timmy Hansen, and McLaren of Tanner Foust who got the best start and spent the opening lap battling for the lead. They were separated by just a handful of seconds as they came to the switch zone, but the McLaren team struggled to get going again.

Catie Munnings in the Andretti was left with a considerable lead, but this was raidly closed after Johan Kristofferson took over the car. The two were side by side in the closing stages of the lap, with Kristofferson taking the chequered flag just 0.92s ahead of Munnings.

It would all be for naught, however, as it was found the team had sped in the pit lane. A 17 second time penalty was awarded, knocking them down to fourth behind the Xcite team of Oliver Bennet and Tamara Molinaro.

The incident drops them back to fifth in the overall qualifying standings. They will join Xite Energy and X44 in the first Semi Final ahead of the Desert X-Prix.

Andretti, who were promoted to the top spot of the second qualifying heat, took second overall ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing. They will be joined by Abt in the second semi final.

Image courtesy of Extreme E

Bethonie Waring

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