Loeb vs Kristoffersson vs Sainz: Extreme E's thrilling 2022 finale

Extreme E

Whilst the rest of the motor sport world slumbers, Extreme E is kicking into gear for a monumental title showdown in South America

Cars at Extreme E Chile Copper X Prix

Extreme E is set for a thrilling climax in Uruguay

Extreme E

The F1 title has long since been wrapped up, WEC 2022 has petered out and this year’s WRC was snapped up by Kalle Rovanpera with almost robotic ease – but there’s still a fierce title battle raging elsewhere this weekend.

A whole host of rally legends going head-to-head on a thrill-a-minute track in volatile racing conditions, competing for teams owned by bitter F1 rivals – this Sunday’s Extreme E finale in Uruguay offers plenty of reasons to tune in, even if you normally don’t.

The illustrious rally pairing of nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb and Dakar star Cristina Gutiérrez – competing for Lewis Hamilton’s X44 squad – are attempting to snatch an unlikely title from 2021 champion Johan Kristoffersson and this season’s revelation Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, who both drive for Nico Rosberg’s eponymous RXR team.

RXR at Extreme E Uruguary Energy X Prix

The RXR team has one hand on the title

Extreme E

Also with an outside of the title is El Matador himself, Carlos Sainz, and his fearless team-mate Acciona Sainz Laia Sanz, plus the Ganassi duo of Sara Price and RJ Anderson – the showdown in South America is a mouth-watering prospect, with Åhlin-Kottulinsky admitting “anything can happen” in the all-electric off-road championship.

Picturesque seaside venue Punta Del Este is the venue for the ‘Energy X Prix’ showdown, but the tricky grass course – set under brooding grey skies in an area prone to electrical storms – is an arena which could well play host to high drama.

Kristofferson and Åhlin-Kottulinsky have been the class of the field so far this year, and therefore have a sizeable lead in the championship – they could have wrapped up the title in Chile but for a software issue ending their day early. Add in the fact they’re being hunted down by Loeb and Gutiérrez, and both RXR drivers know nothing is certain.

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“As the reigning champion, you always have a little bit of a target on your back,” five-time WRX king Kristoffersson told Motor Sport.

“We’ve definitely seen that anything can happen in Extreme E,” adds Åhlin-Kottulinsky. “It was really unfortunate what happened in Chile.

“We do have some points ahead of other teams, but it’s a wide-open championship. I think it’s gonna be very close in qualifying, so it will be an exciting weekend.”

Kristoffersson and Loeb were fierce rivals in last year’s championship, and it’s been much the same in 2022.

The X44 duo are 17 points behind. Though the ever-calculating realist Loeb admitted, “our chances are low, we need to get the maximum” a scoring system similar to F1 plus five more points available for setting the fastest time in the ‘Super Sector’ part of the course means a bad day for RXR could vault X44 or even Acciona Sainz into top spot.

3 X44 at Extreme E Uruguary Energy X Prix

Gutiérrez and Loeb are still in the title fight

Extreme E

From the dust-laden disaster of last year’s opener in Saudi Arabia to cars which sometimes break down with the slightest touch, the racing in Extreme E has come in for criticism – but improved reliability with necessary track tweaks have remedied many of the issues.

Potentially inclement weather also threatens to turn the circuit into an exotic Lydden Hill, meaning this event is set to be one of Extreme E’s most challenging and exciting.

McLaren’s Emma Gilmour rolled her Spark Odyssey in practice, and other competitors struggled to get their cars stopped in time for the ‘slow zone’ used for safety procedures and driver changes.

“The grass is quite slippery in the braking zones,” explained Gilmour’s team-mate Tanner Foust. “So it’s easy to get a little extra yaw or rotation, and that’s just what happened there – there’s sure to be door to door action.”

Kristoffersson is aware that a grass surface will be a leveller. It’s more familiar to club racers in Norfolk and new to the championship – in a series where performance has converged over the two seasons it’s run.

“I have never driven on [that surface] before, so that would be a new challenge,” he says.

“It will be interesting to see how the track develops during the weekend. There’s a lot of overtaking opportunities, it’s a wide track and so I think it will be good racing – the competition is really tough, so we really have to do our best to be on the front.”

Extreme E’s gender-equal driver line-up policy brings in a dynamic rarely seen in motor sport, and Kristoffersson pays tribute to the competitive chemistry provided by a team-mate as consummate as Åhlin-Kottulinsky.


“Mikaela impressed me a lot during the year,” he says. “She’s done so great, she’s a hard worker, and she learns very quickly, and I think we’ve learned from each other a lot during the season too.

“I’ve known her many years back, racing against each other many times Sweden. We speak the same language, get along very well on track and off track. All of that is, you know, quite easy.”

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Åhlin-Kottulinsky has similar warm words for Kristoffersson in what has proved to be a winning combination – the pair cut relaxed figures whilst Loeb and Gutiérrez play the part of hardened off-road veterans, with thousand-yard stares to match.

The latter, who with her medical background might just be the rightful heir to Tony Brooks’ title of world’s fastest dentist, also paid tribute to how the WRC’s most successful driver helped her hone an already impressive skillset.

“He helped me a lot from the beginning,” she explains. “Always giving me good advice, like with [how to analyse] the cameras onboard, all the time making some things learn, teach some advice, and also outside of the race – he’s like a sporting father.”

Petrolheads in South America are no stranger to off-road thrills, with huge numbers previously turning out for the Dakar when it was held for a decade in Argentina, Chile and Peru.

X44 at Extreme E Uruguary Energy X Prix

Grass surface provides new challenge

Extreme E

Six thousand local fans are descending on the Energy X Prix for the series’ first proper event with spectators this weekend, meaning a carnival atmosphere could be in the offing.

With qualifying today and the knockout races tomorrow, you can watch all the action live on YouTube – as racing spectacles go, it’s likely little will match it this year.