Extreme E: World-first gender-equal motorsport series champions female drivers on completely level playing field
International Women's Day 2021 focus
New electric off-road racing series Extreme E, which is primed to make its debut in Saudi Arabia in just under a month’s time, is on a mission to use its sport for purpose platform for two important goals: to eradicate existing preconceptions around gender divides in motorsport and to raise awareness of the climate crisis and the role of clean energy mobility.
To achieve the first, Extreme E will see a plethora of top female drivers, such as 2019 W Series winner Jamie Chadwick, Off-Road Truck champion and X Games medallist Sara Price and Australian Rally champion Molly Taylor, going head-to-head with some of motorsport’s biggest names, including F1 champion Jenson Button and WRC legend Sébastien Loeb – in a ‘Star Wars pod racing meets Dakar Rally’-style format – and all taking place in some of the world’s most remote locations.
The rules of this motorsport world-first state that each team will field one female and one male driver in identical 550bhp electric SUVs, over a two-lap race, known as an X Prix, ensuring a completely level playing field among competitors. Drivers will complete one lap each of the course with a driver changeover, ‘the Switch’, incorporated into the race format, and it’s up to the teams to determine the order in which they send out their drivers to best suit their strategy.
Veloce racing driver, Williams Formula 1 development driver and W Series champion Jamie Chadwick is raring to go. She said: “Extreme E is definitely a leap into the unknown for me, having only previously driven single-seaters and sportscars, but I’ve never shied away from a challenge. The first time I tested the car, I knew I wanted to race it – an electric SUV is a large vehicle, yet the stunning power it produces when you put your foot down makes it exhilarating to drive. The fact that Extreme E is also committed to gender equality is just the icing on the cake.”
Chadwick continued: “Winning the W Series was fantastic – and huge for my career – but I want to prove that I can beat everybody at this kind of level, which means men and women alike. The prospect of going up against the likes of Jenson Button and Sébastien Loeb – I mean, these guys were heroes to me when I was growing up – is incredible. If you want to succeed in sport, as in life, you must be prepared to really push yourself. That is exactly what I am doing in Extreme E and I cannot wait to get started!”
“If [Extreme E] can help change the number of girls that are involved in racing at grassroots level and therefore what the future of our sport looks like, I think it’s really important for that reason”
Rosberg X racing driver and Australian Rally champion Molly Taylor is equally enthusiastic about Extreme E’s format. “One of the great things about motorsport is that when you put the helmet on it doesn’t matter what gender you are and that’s always been my philosophy,” she said. “But what I have noticed through competing, is the number of young girls that when they see a female competing, they then want to be involved – so I think having that exposure at the highest level is really important to help improve the diversity and equality for the next generations coming up.”
Taylor continued: “If [Extreme E] can help change the number of girls that are involved in racing at grassroots level and therefore what the future of our sport looks like, I think it’s really important for that reason.”
Chip Ganassi racing driver, Off-Road Truck champion and X Games medallist Sara Price added: “When I put a helmet on you know I often get this question, ‘how is it being a female in a male-dominated sport?’, and I say, ‘I’m not a female I’m not a male, I’m just a racer’.
“What Extreme E is doing right now is pretty incredible. It is going to be able to provide girls who have incredible talent that’s never been seen before, a chance to showcase it – that itself is huge for women as well as for motorsport.”
Extreme E founder and CEO, Alejandro Agag, commented: “We are striving for equality, and Extreme E’s sporting format is the truest reflection of that goal. Everybody will race together, and only the most effective combination of drivers, team, engineers and car will rise to the top.
“I believe that our race format will challenge all of the drivers, male and female, which is what makes this concept so exciting. There is no shortage of women drivers good enough to take the seats!”
Agag’s ultimate goal however? To end the emphasis on a driver’s gender entirely: “My aim is that one day, female participation and achievement throughout motorsport will be at such levels where it simply is not a story – then I will be happy.”
Glenda Slingsby, engagement officer for International Women’s Day said: “Extreme E is an exciting and progressive example of gender equality progress within motorsport. By choosing to challenge traditional norms, Extreme E sets a new benchmark in including and appealing to a wider cohort. From challenge comes change, and through the vision of Alejandro Agag and the talent of many women like Jamie Chadwick, Extreme E accelerates opportunities for all.”
“My aim is that one day, female participation and achievement throughout motorsport will be at such levels where it simply is not a story – then I will be happy”
Extreme E’s opening race, the Desert X Prix, starts 3-4 April 2021 in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, before heading on to the Ocean X Prix: Lac Rose, Senegal, 29-30 May 2021. The Arctic X Prix takes place in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on 28-29 August 2021, before the event heads to South America for the Amazon X Prix: Pará, Brazil, 23-24 October 2021, and the finale, the Glacier X Prix in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina on 11-12 December 2021.
In addition to being a gender positive sporting format, this five-race global voyage highlights the impact of climate change and human interference in some of the world’s most remote locations and promotes the adoption of electric vehicles in the quest for a lower carbon future for the planet.