With the Formula E track series gaining significant momentum as it heads into its sixth season, organizers are taking things to extremes. Extreme E, to be more precise, a new race series that might be thought of as the battery-powered alternative to the World Rally Car championship.
And even though its two years before the green flag drops to start the first race, the new SUV series is getting charged up by signing on Sebastien Ogier, the six-time WRC champion as one of its first drivers. The Frenchman, the incumbent World Rally titleholder, will be one of the marquee attractions when Extreme E takes off in 2021.
“Having Sébastien involved from this early stage is truly an honor and a huge endorsement of what we’re doing with the series,” said Alejandro Agag, the founder and organizer of both the Formula E and new Extreme E race programs. “Sébastien is among the most talented drivers in the history of motorsport and rallying,” said Agag, adding, “We couldn’t have a better man onboard.”
Extreme E looks to have some energy going in as Formula E continues to expand. The track series was conceived in 2011 and, at the time, few expected it would actually ever stage a race. The first year, in 2014, was clearly a struggle, but the pace has picked up and, when the series wrapped up its fifth season last weekend it clearly appeared on the right track, so to speak.
Despite temperatures well into the 90s, the Brooklyn event sold out for two days of racing. Meanwhile, Formula E organizers confirmed that both Porsche and Mercedes-Benz will field teams for the first time for the 2019-2020 season.
The Extreme E program has been described as something of a take on the famed Dakar Rally, albeit with a series of races planned for all around the globe, much as Formula E has been staging. With its focus on zero-emissions vehicles, Fisher Stevens, an Academy Award-winning director and one of the new programs organizers, has described Extreme E as “Blue Planet Meets Dakar.”
Like the original Series, Extreme E will use all-electric vehicles. Rather than the customized, open-wheel race cars, however, drivers will man ruggedized SUVs, dubbed Odyssey 21.
The prototype model sports 37-inch diameter wheels and a body that would look at home in a “Mad Max” movie. Weighing in at 3,638 pounds, it measures 14.4 feet in length and 7.5 feet in width, while standing 6.2 feet in height.
It’s also designed to perform like some of the most rugged SUVs now on the road, climbing the steepest of grades while launching and, with motors on each wheel providing a combined 550 horsepower, it will launch from 0 to 60 in just 4.5 seconds.
The Odyssey prototype made its formal debut last month at the Goodwood Festival of Speed making an impressive showing on the hill climb.
How close the final SUVs will be to the Odyssey 21 prototypes is not clear, but they are expected to retain their battery drive system and remain seriously fast.
During a conference in Brooklyn ahead of the Formula E race this month, organizer Agag said Extreme E will stage races in places as diverse as the Arctic, Himalayas, the Sahara and the Amazon rainforest in a bid to focus attention on “fragile ecosystems … to highlight the impact of climate change.”
Extreme E will kick off, if all goes well, in 2021, and while there are not likely to be the sort of crowds that are now turning out for Formula E, organizers plan to produce a “docu-sport” TV series using the races to highlight environmental issues. Fox Sports, meanwhile, has signed a multi-year contract to cover the races, as it has already done with Formula E.