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The Lewis Hamilton’s X44 team claims the best qualifying spot on the first day of the Extreme Es Desert X Prix in AlUla

ALULA: The Lewis Hamilton’s X44 team closed the first day of the Extreme Es Desert X Prix weekend at AlUla by finishing at the top of the qualifying standings and securing a place in Sunday’s semifinals.

Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutirrez booked the best overall time on Saturday two qualifying rounds to beat the ACCIONA Sainz XE Team and Roseberg X Racing, the two other teams, to advance to the final four.

Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez from X44 were the team that got caught on the first day of the Desert x Prix. (Supplied / Extreme E)

We were very happy to have finished qualifying in first place. Today went really well and the entire X44 team did a great job with the car in difficult conditions, Loeb said. We were the first drivers to hit the track so it was difficult to know what to expect in the first qualifying lap, but our strategy clearly paid off and we got the time we needed. Tomorrow is a new day and the standard of the other teams will be very high so we would just keep doing what they were doing and pushing to win.

The current Formula 1 champion team ended the day with a 44 second lead over their Spanish rivals at the top of the standings, but only after an intense battle against the team founded by Nico Rosberg, a former Hamilton teammate at Mercedes and himself an ex-F1 champion.

Roseberg X Racing’s three-time FIA ​​World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristoffersson and former Australian Rally Champion Molly Taylor combined to set the pace in the first qualifying session, with the former demonstrating his effortlessly smooth style and the latter demonstrating her famous auto control while artfully holding on the road to a wild bucking bronco moment.

The Swedish-Australian pair followed that by setting the fastest time in qualifying two and beating X44 by just under five seconds, but a 60-second penalty for exceeding the 30 km / h speed limit in the transition area. the driver took them first and was raised. Loeb and Gutirrez head the nightly order. Laia Sanz and Carlos Zainz moved up to second place.

It was a strong start to the weekend for RXR, and I am happy with our performance, said Taylor. The track changes a lot during the sessions due to the tracks and new tire tracks that appear, so each lap feels different from the last and is a new challenge. We had some wild moments in first qualifying, but we managed to hold on to go the fastest and had a strong run in qualifying second to advance to the semifinals tomorrow.

Andretti United, Hispano Suiza Xite Energy Team and Jenson Buttons JBXE finished in fourth, fifth and sixth positions to qualify for The Crazy Race, which will determine the last team to join the top three in the semifinals.

Veloce Racing, which did not complete the qualifying round, SEGI TV Chip Ganassi and ABU CUPRA will face the comforting Shootout race, but will not advance in the competition.

Laia Sanz and Carlos Sainz from ACCIONA Sainz XE Team finished second in the qualifying round. (Supplied / Extreme E)

I think the first day of Extreme E was absolutely fantastic, said Alejandro Agag, founder and CEO of Extreme E. I was blown away by the action and the images there was just so much to look at. It was even better than we expected, and the social media feedback was great and this was just qualification. I really think we’re onto something big here.

Extreme Es’ five destinations have been specifically chosen to highlight a different environmental issue, starting with Saudi Arabia and desertification. Further races will follow in Senegal (rising sea levels), Greenland (melting ice sheets), the Amazon in Brazil (deforestation) and Patagonia, Argentina (glacial recession).

Under ideal weather conditions, the debut Extreme E event started with the female and male drivers of all teams completing a lap every morning. After a break in the action, with unforeseen delays, they returned in the afternoon for the second round.

The new electric SUV off-road racing series ventured into the heart of the Saudi Arabian desert for its inaugural X Prix, and the challenging, 8.8km super-fast track layout is designed to spectacularly weave its way between canyons, through ravines and over deep sand dunes.

Interrupted by 33 waypoints, the rock-strewn course was bumpy, with steep climbs offset by The Drop, a 100-meter and 45-degree descent compared by some competitors to tackling a black ski run.

Friday’s shakedown had already seen some drama when SEGI TV Chip Ganassis Kyle LeDuc hit a rock and turned his SUV over, causing extensive damage to the car’s body.

Thanks to some diligent work by the team, the car was repaired the next morning, but it meant the two drivers had missed some precious time on the track. Their relatively poor first qualifying lap in which they finished sixth was exacerbated by steering wheel issues for Sara Price on lap two, meaning she and LeDuc will be limited to the Shoot Out race tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a promising run for Button and hlin-Kottulinsky in qualifying two was reversed by penalties totaling just under three minutes for a switch zone violation and speeding, although the 2009 F1 World Championship team got a jailbreak . free card through even bigger problems for three of their opponents.

Combined qualifying results:

– X44 (Sbastien Loeb / Cristina Gutirrez) 21m55.998s

– ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team (Carlos Sainz / Laia Sanz) + 41,097s

– Rosberg X Racing (Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor) + 50,825’s

– Andretti United (Timmy Hansen / Catie Munnings) + 1m08.536s

– Hispano Suiza XITE Energy Team (Oliver Bennett / Christine Giampaoli Zonca) + 3m14.734s

– JBXE (Jenson Button / Mikaela hlin-Kottulinsky) + 4m54.880s

– Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing (Kyle LeDuc / Sara Price) +2 laps

– ABT Cupra XE (Mattias Ekstrm / Claudia Hrtgen) +3 laps

– Veloce Racing (Stphane Sarrazin / Jamie Chadwick) +4 laps

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