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Ken Block tests Extreme E car at Dakar | Update

Adrian Newey-headed series will kick-off next year; Block clocked third quickest stage time in 550hp EV

By Sam Sheehan / Friday, January 31, 2020

Ken Block has posted new video footage from his recent stint in Extreme E’s 550hp rally car, showing how development is going with little more than one year before the inaugural round of Adrian Newey’s championship takes place. The American Gymkhana star had his first stint in the all-electric Odyssey 21 during the last stage of the Dakar Rally earlier this month, where he clocked an impressive third quickest time overall – albeit in a car not bruised and battered by 11 days of rallying and carrying spares, tools, or conforming to Dakar regulations. But while direct time comparison is irrelevant, it does illustrate the pace of Extreme E’s 750lb ft of torque-producing machine.

In the new video, Block says the drive was “fun” but that it also required a “reset” of his techniques, thanks to the instant arrival of that torque. As we know from his usual content, Block's more used to boost than dual electric motors. The Odyssey 21’s use at Dakar was, of course, driven as much by the potential for exposure as it was testing mileage. The cars fielded in the Extreme E series, which Newey will run alongside two-time Formula E champ Jean-Eric Vergne, will compete only with identical machinery in some of the world’s most hard to reach areas, including on an Asian glacier of the Arctic and next to the Amazon rainforest.

That has, unsurprisingly, left many puzzled as to how Extreme E can proclaim to be emphasising the vulnerability of these global environments, given that it'll bring a series-worth of people and equipment to those very places. But the championship believes the attention it provides them and their problems will far outweigh its use of nearby land. The series will be filmed using drones and there'll be no spectator grandstands, minimising the amount of space needed to run each event. Oh, and the cars, drivers and everything else will be carried from place to place on an efficiency-adapted ex-Royal Mail ship rather than planes, in a bid to further reduce the global impact.

While that might still leave some unconvinced, at least now we’ve something tangible to go on to illustrate progress on the actual car. Over to you, Ken...

Original story: 19.09.2019

Fresh from a drive at the Goodwood Revival, Adrian Newey has just established a new Extreme E team alongside two-time Formula E champ Jean-Eric Vergne. The pairing’s new squad, Veloce Racing, will compete in the electric rally racing championship from its opener in February 2021 with Venturi, ABT and HWA also confirmed – and Sebastien Ogier and Jamie Chadwick amongst the driver line-up.

Veloce is a name only previously known in E-sport racing, so this marks its first entry into traditional (aka real) motorsport. Although Extreme E is not conventional either, because it uses a purpose-built, 550hp all-electric racer called Odyssey 21 and will be hosted in some of the world’s most vulnerable places – all in a bid to highlight the damage humanity is doing to them.

In fact, Veloce said it’s this highlighting of global destruction that has drawn it to the championship, with the firm announcing that it is eager to “support Extreme E’s goal of implementing positive legacy projects in each race location and not only raising awareness of the challenges faced but actively aiming to improve those environments”. Newey added that “everyone involved in Veloce Racing is extremely passionate about racing, competition and cutting-edge technology, as well as tackling environmental issues that face the world today”. Touching, no?

Rounds are due to take place in the Arctic, on an Asian glacier, next to the Amazon rainforest, on the Sahara Desert and on a Pacific Ocean island. If that all sounds bizarre, in order to the reduce the impact of this global motorsport series, Extreme E has purchased ex-Royal Mail ship RMS St Helena for £32 million to be its floating base, reducing the demand for air travel.

RMS St Helena, which is currently being modernised to lower its emissions, will carry the cars, operations equipment and pretty much everything else (barring the drivers and team staff, we assume) needed to host a championship at the five planned venues. The racing itself will run using a knockout format, while drones handle the filming duties - presumably to reduce the infrastructure that needs to be put into place.

There’s no mention of spectator grandstands or viewing spots on Extreme E’s website, which comes as little surprise given the intended locations, but it may hamper the appeal a bit. Still, with Newey, Verge and Ogier amongst Extreme E’s ranks, the series appears to have legs. Not that most of us lot will fall into the target market; we suspect this is a series very much looking to motivate Generation Z. We wish it luck!

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