Friday, July 19, 2024

Benediktas Vanagas tests Extreme E car in Sardinia

Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah elected to skip Extreme E‘s Island X Prix to focus on the Italian Baja, but that did not mean there were no Toyota Hilux rally raiders in Sardinia. Benediktas Vanagas joined the XE paddock for much of the early weekend which culminated in getting to drive the Spark ODYSSEY 21.

The opportunity materialised in June when Vanagas spoke with Extreme E officials attending the FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas’ Rally Greece Offroad. After arriving in Sardinia via the series’ St. Helena mothership (the exit and return trips being marred by choppy waters), he participated in track reconnaissance in a UTV alongside series test driver Patrick O’Donovan before eventually getting into the car himself.

After the test, Vanagas described the experience as “really, really fun” and has “plenty of potential.”

He added in a video, “I was quite skeptical because the Extreme E car looked clumsy when watching the video, but when I started driving—my experience with this car is seven kilometres less than seven kilometres on two wheels, but the acceleration that the electric motor does is 300 kilowatts, like 400; above 300, you get 100 kW by pressing the button for more. I did not have the opportunity to do it, but the Odyssey feels lighter than the Hilux by some 400 or more kilograms.

“The suspension travel is not much, but it’s a little bit and a lot of ‘a little bit’ adds up to a really tasty thing. I might be a bit of a cranberry in motor racing, but they still need a lot of work to do to get a lot of miles. It’s a long way to go from here, but it’s quite a first experience anyway.

“In this series with drivers from the world’s fastest nations, who are here to drive it, it’s really a great honour and a unique experience. It’s not the last electric car in the world, but it should be recognised. I will be watching this series and all the other electric series even more.”

Vanagas and Al-Attiyah are good friends and Toyota Gazoo Racing colleagues. While Vanagas competes in the European Cup, Al-Attiyah leads the World Rally-Raid Championship and World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas; in March, Vanagas loaned his “BlackHawk” Hilux to Al-Attiyah for the World Cup’s Qatar Baja after the latter wrecked his truck in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, and Al-Attiyah went on to win.

With Al-Attiyah not in Sardinia, he entrusted his ABT CUPRA XE car to fellow W2RC driver and reigning XE champion Sébastien Loeb. ABT CUPRA finished fourth and sixth in two days of racing, winning the Redemption Race in the latter.