Australian Molly Taylor has claimed victory in the inaugural race of the Extreme E off-road racing series in Saudi Arabia.
- Molly Taylor is the only Australian to compete in the Extreme E series
- Taylor and her teammate, Johan Kristoffersson, claimed victory in Saudi Arabia by 23 seconds
- Extreme E is a motor racing series that aims to highlight concerns over climate change
Taylor, who is the only ever female winner of the Australian Rally Championship, races for the Rosberg X Racing team, founded by 2016 Formula 1 champion Nico Rosberg.
Racing alongside Swedish three-time World Rallycross champion Johan Kristoffersson, 32-year-old Taylor finished 23 seconds clear of the Andretti United team in the final, two-lap race around the 8.8km desert course of Al-‘Ula.
“What an amazing start to the season,” Taylor, the only Australian in the series, said.
“It feels a bit surreal … It was definitely extreme. It was the first time we had experienced terrain like that, and on every lap, the course was changing — there were so many different variables to deal with.”
After being penalised 30 seconds for a technical infringement during qualifying, Taylor and Kristoffersson rallied to blow their rivals aside in the semi-finals and final.
“We were the quickest in every session,” Taylor said.
“You have to be fast when it counts, be smart when it counts and take the big moves when it counts, and for it to all come together when it mattered was really special.
“Huge thanks to Johan — his opening laps were just insane — and the team has done such an incredible amount of work behind the scenes.”
Kristoffersson paid tribute to Taylor for making the difference across the weekend.
“When you’re in the lead, you need to strike the right balance between backing off too much and risking too much, which is a new learning experience in this situation.”
Team lead Rosberg said the first weekend of competition was “insane” and praised his drivers for their skills.
“Molly and Johan produced some phenomenal driving,” Rosberg said.
“They both showed unbelievable speed out there — their performance was really inspiring and I felt really proud watching them.”
What is Extreme E?
Extreme E uses electric vehicles to race in five locations across the world with the aim of raising awareness of a particular aspect of climate change.
The series states that it is committed to having a net-zero carbon footprint at the end of its first season, which it hopes to achieve in part by limiting on-site attendance, transporting all infrastructure by sea on a converted Royal Mail cargo vessel — the RMS St Helena, and by appointing a scientific committee.
Races will take place in Al-‘Ula in Saudi Arabia, Lac Rose in Senegal, Kangerlussuaq in Greenland, Pará in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest and Tierra Del Fuego in southern Argentina — all places that have been impacted by climate change.
Teams will use identical ODYSSEY 21 electric vehicles, capable of putting out 550 horsepower.
Each team has a male and female driver, who must share equal driving duties in each race.
“It’s pretty cool to be part of this journey at the start of something that I think has an amazing future,” Taylor said.
“The male drivers we have here are the best in any motorsport category in the world, so it’s an awesome opportunity for us female drivers and a real investment in the development of female racing talent.
“This is just a dream come true all round.”
Alejandro Agag, the chief executive of Extreme E said the first weekend of racing exceeded his “wildest expectations”.
“If I had written a script for the perfect weekend, I could not have come up with anything better than what we have witnessed these past two days — I’ve never seen such extreme racing in my life,” Agag said.
“What we have seen from them here is extraordinary — some incredible talent and courage — and overall, I think it’s fair to say we have really made our mark. I’m over the moon.”
As well as impressing its founder, the series has captured the imagination of some of motorsport’s biggest names.
Rosberg’s former teammate and seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton also owns a team, X44, while another former F1 world champion, Jenson Button, both founded and races for the JBXE team.
Rally legend Carlos Sainz also competes in the series, as does nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb as part of a stellar driver lineup.