Cupra has become the first car manufacturer to enter the Extreme E all-electric off-road racing series, having teamed up with ABT Sportsline (which runs Audi’s Formula E team and confirmed its entry into Extreme E in July 2019).
Other teams confirmed include Chip Ganassi Racing and Lewis Hamilton’s X44.
The series, which looks as though it’s been delayed a couple of months until March 2021, will see teams race identical “Odyssey 21” electric SUVs in remote locations that have already been damaged by climate change. Five rounds are planned in Senegal, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Greenland and Brazil.
Teams will travel around the world on a specially converted cargo ship, which is apparently much more eco-friendly than doing everything by air freight. The races will not be open to spectators, but broadcast on TV and online.
The SUVs themselves are mechanically identical – producing 550bhp, capable of 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and weighing in at 1,650kg – but teams are able to change body panels
Each team must field one male and one female driver. Cupra and ABT have already confirmed FIA World Rallycross and (two-time) DTM champion Mattias Ekström will race for the team in 2021. The 42-year-old Swede has been an ambassador for Cupra for the past year. No word yet on the female driver.
Formula E boss Alejandro Agag, who is also behind Extreme E, said he is “delighted to welcome Cupra on-board as Extreme E’s first automotive partner”. Cupra has been a standalone brand since early 2018 – its first car was the Cupra Ateca crossover, and soon it will release Cupra versions of the new Seat Leon, a standalone crossover called the Formentor and the el-Born EV hot hatch.
ABT has been involved in Formula E since the first season in 2014, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when it committed to Extreme E too. You’ll be familiar with the company’s tuning arm, which specialises in making already fast VW Group cars even faster, but it helped VW’s Commercial Vehicles arm develop electric versions of the Caddy and Transporter.