The historic land of the Dakar Rally in Senegal was the scene of the first day of racing for the Extreme E with the Ocean X-Prix. As expected, it was a very exciting day where Cristina Gutiérrez and Sebatien Loeb, drivers of Lewis Hamilton’s X44 team, gave an exhibition.
Loeb, a nine-time world rally champion, was the fastest among those who started first up to that point, taking Ekström’s time down by two seconds. However Gutiérrez’s performance was spectacular.
The Spanish, with great maneuvers behind the wheel, took more than two seconds to Kleinschmidt in the first sector, five seconds in the intermission to Taylor in what will be the Super Sector in the final, and another half second to the Australian from Rosberg X Racing.
The second position of the day went to the Chip Ganassi team on the African track with Sarah Price in first place while Kyle Leduc, who was a negative protagonist in Saudi Arabia, flew with brilliant driving to set the last two best sectors of the morning and the best total lap. However, they fell 4.239 seconds behind Loeb and Gutiérrez’s X44.
For its part, Nico Rosberg’s team, which was the winner in the Saudi Arabian desert, took Johan Kristofferson out in the first place to deliver a coup of authority.
The Swede managed to beat Carlos Sainz’s records in the last two sectors and beat him in total time by thousandths of a second. Molly Taylor couldn’t beat Laia Sainz’s best time in the first sector, but she completed the last two better than Sarrazin and Munnings to top the timesheets 35 seconds ahead of Veloce Racing.
Bad omen for the Sainz
Regard to the Spanish ACCIONA team, they haven’t luck at the start of the weekend in Senegal. After suffering a throttle problem on Friday at shakedown, his Odissey 21 came to a complete standstill in sector 2 with Laia Sanz at the wheel.
Until then, Carlos Sainz had scored each and every one of the sets, in a brilliant performance from the three-time Dakar winner and two-time world rally champion.
The big surprise of the day
The unexpected of the actions on this first day of emotions was for CUPRA with Mattias Ekström falling to the best time, topping the table individually, just as he did in practice on Friday.
However, the return of Jutta Kleinschmidt, who came in emergency for Claudia Hürtgen, surprised everyone by scoring the best first and third set of those who started second. The 58-year-old German has not forgotten to drive to the full and she gave a real lesson a few kilometers from where she triumphed in the Dakar Rally in 2001.
Another of the outstanding teams this Saturday was Veloce Racing, which had Jamie Chadwick as the main exponent. The British only left four seconds with respect to her partner, the Frenchman Stéphane Sarrazin, in the intermediate sector.
After this entertaining day, Sunday will be the moment of truth among the teams competing in the Extreme E and it will be seen who climbs to the top of the podium in the land of motorsport titans in Senegal.