Apr 02, 2021
Season opener in the desert of Saudi Arabia
This weekend (April 3–4), the new Extreme E electric off-road racing series will kick off its first season in Al-Ula. The Desert X Prix marks the start of a total of five events that will take the nine teams to Greenland, the Amazon region and Patagonia, among other places. Among them: the ABT CUPRA XE team with its drivers Claudia Hürtgen and Mattias Ekström, who will be sharing the cockpit of the 550-hp eCUPRA ABT XE1, just one spectacular aspect of the series. The Desert X Prix will be held over two days with the qualifying heats on Saturday and the final races on Sunday. In each case, four or five cars will compete against each other in a direct duel on a circuit with an approximate length of ten kilometres. There will be a driver change at the halfway point in the race.
“We were one of the first teams to sign up, because we believe in the innovative concept of Extreme E,” says Hans-Jürgen Abt, Managing Partner of ABT Sportsline. “After many months of intensive preparation, it’s now getting serious and the adventure begins. It’s great that ABT is once again involved as a pioneer right from the very beginning.” Claudia Hürtgen: “Even after 25 years, it feels like the first race” Claudia Hürtgen summarizes her thoughts ahead of the season opener.
“Even after 25 years in motorsport, it feels like it does before the first race,” says the only German driver in the field. She adds that formulating expectations is difficult. Hürtgen: “The car, the team, the race format and the surface, everything simply is new for us. We’ve prepared intensively and are now looking forward to the race finally getting underway.” For the Aachen native, who is one of the most successful racing drivers in Europe with successes in various touring and sports car championships, as well as several endurance races, among other things, the issue of sustainability also plays a major role alongside racing:
“Of course, I’m a racing driver first and foremost and want to win races, but on the Extreme E tour, we are also learning in detail about many of the consequences of climate change.” Mattias Ekström: “Extreme E is like a best-of of motorsport” DTM, Rallycross or the Dakar Rally: Mattias Ekström has experienced and won a lot in his career. And yet, everything is different now. “I’m familiar with electric cars, races on sand and door-to-door battles, but I’ve never experienced everything together like this. Extreme E is therefore like a best-of of motorsport for me,” says the Swede, who is considered as one of the best and most versatile racing drivers in the world.
He was part of ABT’s DTM team from 2001 to 2017. He celebrated two titles with them, and in 2016, he won the drivers’ title of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. For the past year, Ekström has been an ambassador for the CUPRA brand. “When the names CUPRA, ABT and Ekström come together, there is no need to discuss goals at length: We are all racers and want to fight for trophies,” says Ekström. And also to raise awareness. “Together with the Extreme E family, we want to show people where the world is suffering or has already suffered.”
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