NEOM, 20th February 2022. A weekend thriller for Rosberg X Racing ended with a sensational top podium finish in the first race of the 2022 season. The reigning Extreme E Champions provided for some heart-stopping race action in the deserts of Saudi Arabia against the stunning background of deep-red dunes and sandstone cliffs.
The team was up against all odds, battling with difficult and changing conditions. Heavy rain during the night meant the 6.9-kilometre course provided a lot of grip and pace during the semi-finals. Johan Kristoffersson started the knock-out race in centre position, alongside Xite Energy Racing and X44. The Swede immediately moved to the right to block Christina Gutierrez in the X44 car, which brought him to the front of the grid. Tamara Molinaro in the Xite Energy Racing stayed closely on Kristoffersson’s back while the Swede ploughed through the sand. But the four-times Rallycross Champion sped away and came into the switch zone first to hand over to his teammate.
Åhlin-Kottulinsky took over with a comfortable lead on Sebastian Loeb in the X44 and Oliver Bennet in the Xite Energy Racing car. While they battled each other, Åhlin-Kottulinsky struggled with the heavy sand as her ODYSSEY21 got dug into a deep dune, dropping her to the back of the pack as a result. Although she tried to fight back using her Hyperdrive Power Boost on the fast-downhill section, she couldn’t catch up. But a premature end to the Desert X Prix for RXR was prevented by a 10-seconds penalty for Xite Energy Racing moving the German squad up to P2 – and through to the finals.
As the course dried up over the course of the day, dust became an issue again during the finals. RXR was up against McLaren Racing,, X44, Chip Ganassi Racing and the Acciona Sainz XE team. Starting on P4, Åhlin-Kottulinsky moved into third position behind Sainz and Loeb. Struggling with bad sight due to heavy dust, Tanner Foust bumped into the RXR car from behind, causing the McLaren vehicle to roll over and crash, while Åhlin-Kottulinsky was left with a heavily damaged rear. She made it safely to the switch zone, where a red flag put a temporary halt to the race. Restarting from third position, Kristofferson was fully committed to closing the gap to Laia Sanz and Christina Gutierrez despite the damage to his car. Being first to use his Hyperdrive Boost, he managed to get past X44 in the Continental traction challenge, jumping high with the extra speed. Kristoffersson went flat out as he flew down the steep section of the escalator, eventually leaving Sanz behind before coming up to the crest. “The Goat” did full honour to his nickname, crossing the line first to take the winning round 1 of the season and claiming another sensational victory for RXR.
Rosberg X Racing driver, Johan Kristoffersson, commented: “This was incredible. Very rarely do I get a rush from driving a racing car, but this was the biggest adrenaline rush that I’ve had for many years. I wasn’t sure how much I could push due to the dust and damage, but I came closer and closer and found some new lines that I didn’t think were drivable. Then I did a really risky move, driving up blind and breaking more speed than I could have imagined, but came out first. I am just super happy that it all went well and very proud of the result.”
Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, Rosberg X Racing driver, said: “First epic weekend with RXR and Johan, who is an absolute machine. I am just so proud to be a part of this team. I was trying to do my best and come as close as possible, which was difficult due to the dust and heavy sand. Obviously, the Dakar guys have a lot more experience in these conditions, but we did amazingly well and worked very hard, so I couldn’t be happier about this victory.”
Kimmo Liimatainen, Rosberg X Racing Team Principal, added: “What an amazing day. Although we had to deal with a few issues and were facing some really tough battles out there, we kept our cool. The restart was a new experience due to a different format from last year, but it was a fair decision. Johan started with a 12-seconds gap on the others, but he made a massive drive through the field and eventually overtook everybody. We also won the Continental Traction Challenge, which means we had a perfect weekend.”
With 30 Championship points in their pocket, RXR will be heading to Europe for the Island X Prix in Sardinia, on 7th and 8th May 2022.