June 18th 2023, Hell/Barcelona – The FIA RX2e Championship kicked off its highly anticipated Season 3 with a thrilling display of skill and determination in Norway. The track of Hell was the ideal setting for the spectacular battles that took place and Isak Sjökvist won the spectacular season opener after a no-less spectacular weekend.
The way to the top at the end of the weekend was not easy. This was the first race in which the new racing format was applied. As of this season, each competition will comprise Free Practice sessions, a Qualifying Practice session, four Heats, two Semi-Finals, and Final, where the six fastest drivers fight for the victory. Adding to the excitement, the top three drivers in the ranking after all the Heats will be awarded championship points bonuses, setting the tone for a fiercely contested event.
In the Practice Sessions on Saturday morning, the drivers set the car perfectly for the battle in the following stages and Isak Sjökvist set the fastest time in the Qualifying Practice, representing his new team, #YellowSquad.
The four Heats witnessed thrilling battles, as each driver aimed to get the extra championship points at the steep slopes of the Lånkebanen track in Norway.
Pablo Suárez secured the title of the first race winner of the 2023 season in Heat 1 Race 1. However, Laia Sanz encountered an unfortunate incident and had to stop on the track during the opening lap. The defending champion, Viktor Vranckx, engaged in a fierce battle with the local hero from Norway, Ole Henry Steinsholt, for the second spot in Heat 1 Race 2. Meanwhile, Sjökvist continued his strong performance and took the win in Heat 1 Race 2.
The intensity of the Heat 2 reached its peak right at the start as Steinsholt made an aggressive maneuver at the first corner. The Norwegian missed his braking zone making hard contact and the car riding up the #5 car, causing severe damage to the rear part of Suárez’s car. His fault also ended him up with a disqualification from the H2. Heat 2’s second race brought even more surprises, as Sanz encountered misfortune in the first lap and rushed off the track, subsequently retiring from the race. Undeterred by the incident, Sjökvist and Andersson showcased exceptional driving skills and claimed the first place in each race.
In the first race of Heat 3, Catie Munnings showcased her prowess by starting from the pole position and skillfully defending her position against a relentless chase from Steinsholt. With exceptional driving, Munnings held her ground until the very last meters, securing an extraordinary win in Race 1. Heat 3’s second race witnessed a dramatic start as Vranckx collided with the pole starter, Sjökvist, at the first corner, triggering a chain reaction that involved Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky as well. Unfortunately, Vranckx ‘s race came to an early end due to the collision. Sjökvist was also affected, losing his position. Andersson took full advantage of the situation and seized the chance, ultimately claiming victory in the race.
And thus arrived Sunday, the day in which everything was decided. In the first race of the last Heat, the defending winner Vranckx performed an excellent launch and passed all the competitors, leading the race until the very end, ultimately achieving the long-awaited victory. Åhlin-Kottulinsky showcased remarkable performance, securing the second position. In the Heat 4 Race 2, Andersson displayed exceptional composure as he held his position from pole position, ultimately clinching the win. Unfortunately, Steinsholt’s #88 car encountered technical issues and was forced to retire.
After the completion of the four Heats, Isak Sjökvist emerged as the frontrunner, securing the first place in the rankings, followed by Nils Andersson in second place and Viktor Vranckx in third. These remarkable drivers earned 3, 2, and 1 championship points respectively, placing them at an advantageous position in the overall standings.
The competition intensified as the 10 drivers were divided into two groups for the eagerly awaited Semi-Final showdown. In Semi-Final 1, Sjökvist and Vranckx started in the front row. However, Vranckx’s hopes of defending his previous victory in Hell were shattered as he made a crucial mistake on the first lap, spinning off the track and retiring from the race. Sjökvist continued his outstanding performance, crossing the finish line in first place, followed by Suárez in second and the other Spaniard Gutiérrez in third, all earning their spots in the Final session.
In Semi-Final 2, Andersson demonstrated a commendable start, closely pursued by his teammate of KMS, Åhlin-Kottulinsky. Meanwhile, Munnings displayed relentless determination, pushing hard for the third position on the Final grid. However, as Munnings exited the joker lap, a collision with Steinsholt abruptly ended the race for both drivers. Despite the incident, The three Swedes Andersson, Åhlin-Kottulinsky, and Thorén emerged as the triumphant contenders, securing their spots in the eagerly anticipated Final.
In the highly anticipated Final session of RX2e, the front row of the grid was occupied by Sjökvist and Andersson, while Åhlin-Kottulinsky and Suárez took their positions on the second row, followed by Gutiérrez and Thorén on the third row. Sjökvist initiated the race with a strong start, setting an impressive pace throughout the event, closely trailed by Andersson. Meanwhile, the talented female driver Åhlin-Kottulinsky engaged in a fierce battle with Suárez for the third position. Unfortunately, a contact with Thorén in the first lap impacted Suarez’s performance. As the race reached its climax, Sjökvist triumphantly crossed the finish line, securing a resounding victory for his new team #YellowSquad. Andersson claimed the second spot on the podium, while Åhlin-Kottulinsky, in her debut race, made history as the first female driver to grace the RX2e podium, finishing in a commendable third place. Suarez settled for fourth, followed by Gutiérrez in fifth and Thorén in sixth.
The first winner of the 2023 RX2e season, Isak Sjökvist says: “I feel amazing! We come here with a proper new team, with Hansen Motorsport behind us. I’m incredibly proud of our team. They have pulled out a really great car and the performance for everyone is astonishing. I want to dedicate this victory to my sponsors, my family, and our hardworking mechanics.”
The race also showcased the remarkable performance of female drivers, accounting for an impressive 40% of the starting grid, with Extreme E front-runners Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, Cristina Gutiérrez, Catie Munnings and Laia Sanz. Making an impressive debut in a ZEROID X1 car, Åhlin-Kottulinsky demonstrated remarkable potential, trailing just one step behind the top three seasoned drivers in the Heats session and achieving the podium at the third place though the event. The other rookie Gutiérrez also showed stable skill in her debut in RX2e and secured a spot in the Final session and finished in fifth position. Munnings exhibited exceptional skill, fending off her Norwegian competitor and securing the race victory in Heat 3. While Sanz faced challenges during the weekend, the renowned «queen of the desert» remains optimistic and looks ahead to her next exciting challenge. Their presence and achievements further emphasized the growing inclusivity and diversity in motorsport, inspiring the next generation of racers.