It was a mixed day for New Zealand’s Extreme E driver Emma Gilmour and her driving partner Tanner Foust who walk away from the opening races of the Desert X Prix sixth in standings.
Their NEOM McLaren Extreme E team finished fifth in the first qualifying race and henceforth faced an uphill battle to make the Grand Final with only one further qualifying session to determine who would progress.
They did bounce back in that second qualifying run to finish third but it was too little too late for the outfit who had to settle for the Redemption Race.
Luck was on their side that time out, the duo taking the chequered flag first in the Redemption Race to ensure they received some good points to sit sixth in the standings.
It was a tricky start to the season for Gilmour and Foust following their Qualifying 1 result despite the American leading proceedings early. X44 Vida Carbon Racing debutant Fraser McConnell pushed the American back to second with a superb move on a right tight-hander, sticking to the inside line to move from fourth to first on one corner.
Foust remained second for the rest of the first lap only to lose time and drop to third at the start of the second, dropping a wheel into the water on the shoreline to allow JBXE’s Heikki Kovalainen past.
They lost a further spot at the Switch Zone for Gilmour to sit fourth in a tight pack as her drive commenced. RXR’s Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky took fourth off the Kiwi on the water’s edge not long after, only for Gilmour to make contact with the RXR Odyssey 21 as she tried and failed to take the position back. The team also faced a penalty off the back of this to finish fifth and last in their heat some 28.7 seconds off the lead.
Despite the difficult result in the opening qualifying session Gilmour and Foust were back on pace in a drama-free Race 2, coming home third place only behind eventual winners Acciona Sainz XE Team and X44 Vida Carbon Racing.
The strong result wasn’t enough to see them qualify for the final leaving the team forced to battle it out for valuable championship points in the Redemption Race.
A strong start for Foust saw them take the lead early only for a Turn 2 incident to bring the race to a halt not long after. Contact between the Carl Cox Motorsport entry and the Andretti Altawkilat Odyssey 21 saw the latter roll for the second time of the day.
That was the first of two rollovers in the race with Abt Cupra suffering a similar fate when Nasser Al-Attiyah attempted a move on Foust to take the lead. The inside line didn’t work for the Qatari and resulted in him rolling over the top of the McLaren entry.
JBXE’s Heikki Kovalainen made the most of the opportunity to take the lead into the Switch Zone leaving Gilmour to inherit second spot of the three remaining competitors.
She was quick to use her ENOWA Hyperdrive to close down the leader only for JBXE’s Hedda Hösas to drop back and eventually withdraw with technical difficulties. This left only McLaren and Carl Cox Motorsport running, Gilmour putting all her experience to use to cruise to the flag by 5.552 seconds.
They were awarded 8 championship points for their effort which sees them maintain ground on those who qualified for the Grand Final.
Overall Round 1 honours went to Veloce Racing despite crossing the line second after on course winners Rosberg X Racing received a post-race 136 second penalty for speeding under yellows. This also elevated the Acciona Sainza XE Team to second leaving Rosberg X Racing to settle for third.
The Grand Final also featured two DNFs with Chip Ganassi’s entry the first after coming to a stop on course. Lewis Hamilton’s outfit, X44 Vida Carbon Racing, soon suffered a similar fate leaving three competitors remaining to determine the podium place.
A chaotic opening round sees Gilmour and Foust head into this evening’s second round of the Desert X Prix sixth in standings. their Redemption Race and second qualifying results show they’re in the mix with the leaders and should be able to move forward with clean and consistent running.
They’ll go again tonight with the first qualifying race at 6.30pm (NZ Time) followed by Qualifying Round 2, the Redemption Race and Grand Final from 1am.
TVNZ Duke has free-to-air coverage of the event with delayed stream of Qualifying Round 1 from 11.30pm followed by live coverage of Round 2, the Redemption Race and Grand Final immediately after.