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How Extreme E could pioneer an inclusive and sustainable motorsport future

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Early April saw the launch of Extreme E, an all electric racing series built out of concern for the global climate crisis. Steps taken by the brand-new series could prove to be a key instigator in the push for a more sustainable and inclusive future in motorsport.

The Extreme E championship will travel to five different countries across the globe to host off-road racing events in a multitude of different environments. These range from the sandy deserts of Saudi Arabia, where the season made it’s debut, to the snowy arctic regions of Greenland.

One thing these areas do have in common, are that they’re already suffering the negative impacts of climate change. That is why Extreme E’s legacy programme aims to raise awareness of the damage within these areas and provide support for the social and environmental challenges at racing locations.

This is done all whilst working alongside ecological experts, who will help the series keep the environmental impact of their presence to a minimum. One way in which they’re already doing this is by transporting the whole series on a ship, named St. Helena.

St Helena will be the ‘floating paddock’ and base of Extreme E, transporting the championships infrastructure and vehicles to the nearest port of each race location. This will help to minimise the emissions profile of the series as it travels across the globe, all whilst facilitating scientific research via an onboard laboratory.

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Credit: Extreme E

Lewis Hamilton is the founder X44, one of nine teams competing in the championship. He gave details on why he was drawn to committing to the series, despite also pursuing an eighth Formula 1 world title.

“Extreme E really appealed to me because of its environmental focus,” he told Extreme E.

“Every single one of us has the power to make a difference, and it means so much to me that I can use my love of racing, together with my love for our planet, to have a positive impact.

“Not only will we visit remote locations facing the front line of the climate crisis, we will also work closely with these locations and leading climate experts to share our knowledge and leave behind a positive legacy in each location which goes far beyond the race track.”

However for Extreme E, being on the frontline of the climate crisis isn’t enough, the radical championship has also take a firm step forward in the fight for diversity and inclusion in motorsport.

How has it done this? Well, the driver-line ups have been set up in a way that completely removes preconceptions around gender divides in motorsport. Each team has two drivers but they cannot be of the same gender, therefore providing a completely even split of male and female drivers throughout the grid.

This has given the opportunity for some of motorsport’s brightest female stars to take center stage, including W Series Champion Jamie Chadwick and X44’s Cristina Gutierrez.

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Jamie Chadwick ready to race in Veloce Racing’s ODYSSEY 21
Credit: Veloce Racing

Ahead of the launch in Saudi Arabia, Chadwick revealed her eagerness to be a part of such a future-focused motorsport series.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to drive anything like an Extreme E car, I absolutely fell in love with it.

“Extreme E is a gender neutral series, it’s 100% fair,” she told BBC Sport.

“It’s exciting to know that half of the grid is going to be female.”

Hamilton also spoke out about how he aims to use X44 as a vehicle to “address the inequalities that are along the career pathway for many people”.

Speaking to Autosport magazine in 2020, he said: “Providing opportunities for those from a more diverse background is naturally a priority for us and we’re currently exploring the best ways in order to do that.

“I think it’s going to take some time, it is a process to address the inequalities that are along the career pathway for many people.

“But I really do think this is an opportunity for us to lay the foundations.

“I love that Extreme E is allowing us to have two drivers, a male and a female and you’ll see that transcend down through the small team that we have and that’s a key focus for us.”

Whether it’s battling against the climate crisis or pushing to improve diversity and inclusion in motorsport, the teams are committed to the fight. And it’s  Extreme E that has given them the platform to do so.

 

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