Guest blog by Thiemo Albers-Daly
Earlier this month, Extreme E announced that a brand-new team would be joining the grid for the 2023 Season. The XE Sports Group will become the first Asian Pacific Team headquartered in Australia to compete in the series – opening up a world of possibilities to the off-road electric racing series.
Fans have been clamouring since its inception for there to be a race held in the Australian Outback and one has to think that we might just be one step closer to seeing that dream become a reality. I’m going to try and not focus on that particular mouth-watering prospect right now though.
That’s because while we wait to hear about that, this brand-new Extreme E team is going to need some drivers. As part of its inclusion and diversity aim, every Extreme E team must have one male and one female driver. If they ever did a Formula e feeder series, I reckon they should adopt this same approach too. No announcements have been made as of yet and it might be some time before we hear anything in regard to this.
So, allow me to make a suggestion in the meantime – that if it came true, would be incredibly exciting both for the sport and for the fans.
Extreme E has drivers from all racing backgrounds and all ages taking part, showing that when it comes to selecting drivers, there really aren’t any limits at all. With this in mind, may I draw your attention to the first of the two drivers I’d like to put forward – Mr Mark Webber.
The former Formula 1 driver raced in the sport from 1999-2013, racing in a whopping 215 Grand Prix with 9 wins to his name which include winning the British and Monaco Grand Prix. Twice. Webber finished his career famously with Red Bull and the beloved Aussie has also raced in Sports Car and the World Endurance Championship.
He’s since retired from racing – but Extreme E would be the perfect epilogue to an already great racing career. With only a handful of rounds each season that are spread throughout the year, it could prove to be the perfect blend of retirement and racing action for the racing driver turned TV pundit. Webber would bring a wealth of experience with him whilst also being faced with a new and exciting challenge as he takes on a breed of motorsport he’s not really been involved with before. Sponsors would jump at the opportunity to join him and the team in this venture, further helping to draw attention to Extreme E and raise awareness of the climate change crisis. It’s a win-win scenario – especially for a team based in Australia.
Who would join Webber then? For this, I’ve decided to choose a driver who does have a background in off-road racing and who would act as the perfect partner in crime for the former F1 driver.
You may not have heard of Rebecca Busi – but you should have. The Italian racing driver made her racing debut at the legendary and infamous Dakar in 2022, completing it and thus adding an impressive first notch to her racing belt. It’s not everyday you see someone start their racing career at arguably the most difficult race in the world. But Rebecca isn’t an ordinary racing driver – and that’s why she’d be an ideal fit for Extreme E.
Since the Dakar, she’s come second in the Fenek Rally in Tunisia (which involved several unique challenges such as battling a ferocious sandstorm). The rally is more than 1,100 km in the extreme desert terrain and in terms of difficulty when compared to other rallies, the official organisers scored it eight out of 10, proving that this isn’t a race for the feint-hearted. In other words, it’s ideal training for something such as Extreme E.
Rebecca continues to test her limits, as she did at the Rally Greece Offroad at the end of May – a type of rally she isn’t used to but in which she quickly got up to speed. She’s a passionate up and coming legend of tomorrow who would not only be able to benefit from having someone like Webber as a teammate but would also be able to teach the old dog some new tricks along the way.
Having Rebecca join Extreme E would also mean having an Italian driver permanently on the grid which is something we can all get behind. Currently Tamara Molinaro is racing for Xite Energy but she stepped in at the last minute to replace Klara Andersson after she unfortunately got Covid-19. At the time of writing, we don’t know who will be partnering Ollie Bennett at the next round of Extreme E taking place in Sardinia in July.
With Ferrari’s resurgence in Formula 1 this year too, Italian companies might be looking for other Italian drivers to sponsor and support. Extreme E and Rebecca Busi would be a perfect way for them to achieve this. With both an Australian and an Italian driver on board, there’s a lot to love about this team-up.
NFL star Tim Cahill is also going to be involved with the XE Sports Group. The reason I mention this is because not only does he have the potential to propose an Extreme E round in America and boost their audience figures that way, but he is also someone that with his sporting background should be able to see all of the potential in this driver pairing.
In Webber, you have a member of the old guard coming back to the fight to show everyone he’s still got it (insert your Rocky Balboa references here) – and in Rebecca you have a fresh, determined face of the future willing to throw everything at this opportunity and with the know-how to do it.
Sure, there are plenty of other driver pairings that could be suggested for this new team. But of all the ones I’ve thought about, this is the dynamic duo that excites me the most. It’s a perfect blend of experience and youth, off-road knowledge and track racing expertise. It’s Extreme.
At the very least, they should both get to have a test drive in the Extreme E cars this year, don’t you think? The balls in your court Extreme E and XE.