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Chip Ganassi Racing Prepares for Extreme E

As Chip Ganassi Racing prepares for the upcoming all-electric off-road racing series Extreme E, they headed to the Nevada high desert for the initial shakedown of their new racecar: the Odyssey 21. It is an all-wheel-drive 400 KW (550 horsepower) all-electric monster, developed by Spark Racing Technology. We were invited out to see the car up close and even given an opportunity to ride along in it. This day marks a historic day for the organization as it keeps an eye on the future of all-electric motorsports and gender equality. 

It is no secret that CGR drivers Sara Price and Kyle LeDuc are unfamiliar with this platform of electric racing as their racing background is in gas-powered Trophy Trucks and short course Pro 4 trucks. An all-electric off-road race car is going to be a new challenge for them to learn how to adapt to the platform. This challenge makes a shakedown such as this crucial to their success of the 2021 season.Despite having no experience in an electric vehicle, they are the only drivers in the series with experience in desert racing. While most have experience with Rally Racing or F1 this may be a huge advantage for them. 

“We’ve all been in this scenario; that’s why we’re sitting here in right now (at the test), and I know how to drive in it, I know how to live in it.” Kyle LeDuc says, referring to his and Sara’s experience racing off-road. “I think that’s a huge key to success. Honestly, anybody can do this, but for it to be second nature, I think was very smart, and it’s a good combo”. 

“We all come from so many different backgrounds (in motorsports), but we also have to learn how to develop that common lingo and bring our experience to something we are all learning, as well as growing with the car to figure out what’s going to work best for us as individuals driving together,” says Price.

It is uncertain what will be in store for the upcoming season besides where they are racing, such as environmentally impacted areas such as Greenland and Argentina. They have chosen to make the trek from Indiana to the Nevada High Desert for their first shakedown to replicate conditions of what would be most similar to the deserts of Saudi Arabia – their first race on March 20-21. 

This will give the team an opportunity to create simulated race conditions as much as possible while going through the logistics of setting up the pit and taking the car out. They have set up a large tent that will act as their garage pit for the car, team, engineers, manager, and racers. It is almost like a portable garage. But most importantly, they were able to get behind the wheel and understand the handling characteristics of the car. Although during the shakedown, the car would only be at 50% power as required by the Extreme E organization. After this shakedown, they will only see the car once more in Spain for an official test of the car at 100% power.

Dave Berkenfield is the team manager for CGR, whose job is to lead the team to success, which is to win – a motto they live by. He acknowledges the obstacles at hand to keep and an eye on the future for the upcoming season. 

“Racing motorsports is changing. We’re seeing that on a daily basis. We are banking on that. This (Extreme E) is part of that change. Chip (Ganassi) and the team is looking for that disruptive technology. Looking for innovation and looking for opportunities to win, and we see that with this series, and we see that with Sara and Kyle.” Dave says. 

The shakedown consisted of a short course they marked off the day before of rough desert terrain. This was just a short distance from where the base camp and pit were located. Since both Sara and Kyle will be sharing driver duties, they practiced the driver changes as often as possible. The team set up a few cones to mimic a pit and ran circuits up and down the course. Even at half power, the Odyssey 21 looked and sounded impressive, ripping up and down the desert.

It was a unique experience hearing only the soft whine of the motors and rocks hitting the bottom of the car; a moment of stillness comes upon the team as the car takes off. It sure is different than anything Kyle or Sara have driven. It will take some time to learn and adapt to the unique racing. But despite only utilizing half power, it certainly looks promising. While it certainly isn’t a Trophy truck in terms of power or suspension handling, the comparison wouldn’t be fair. If you had to compare it to a desert race car, a fair comparison would be of Class 5 Unlimited Bug having limited suspension travel at just around 15″, but then it is more rally car than anything. Though, the car was a blast to ride in, and can’t wait to see how it handles at full power. They even practiced jumping it off a sand dune.

Their official test will begin later this month in Spain, where they will be able to drive the Odyssey 21 at full power and see it’s full potential. The car is new to everyone and all the teams; each is limited to the amount of testing they are allowed to do, making it an even leveling field for everyone.

This may affect the future of motorsports as we see the adaption of electric vehicles in our daily lives; it was only a matter of time until we saw the crossover into racing. The future is here, and Chip Ganassi Racing is at the forefront of it and will do everything possible to achieve their goal- win. The race is only months away, and by the looks of which, they are doing all their homework possible, so come race day, they show up and are ready.  

 We will be doing a separate feature on the engineering marvel of the Odyssey 21 developed by Spark Racing Technology. Stay on the lookout for that. 

class5cole

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Kind of a bummer that this series has to have all these social political agendas but 2020 has taught us to appreciate what ever racing we get.

Awesome team to root for.
 

NIKAL

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It’s cool to see Sara and Kyle get this chance, but I’m still trying to understand why Chip Ganassi is apart of this series? This series seems like a “Buy a Ride” deal, where the series owns and manages the vehicles. Ganassi has always developed their own cars in the series they are apart of.
 

Jammminjay

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Kind of a bummer that this series has to have all these social political agendas but 2020 has taught us to appreciate what ever racing we get.

Awesome team to root for.
They are the only American team competing in the series, besides Andretti Motorsports United but they are basically British. And of course, Kyle and Sara are our Desert Racing family of course we are cheering for them.

This is definitely a series focused on social issues, this is the first racing series or maybe even the first sport to be mandatory to create Gender Equality. Even though Gender does not matter in motorsports, Sara has proven that so has many other female drivers. For example Michelle Mouton and the successful feats of her career. At the top of her rally career, she was unstoppable.

This is not political, this series is a platform to bring awareness to the environmental impact of climate change. Scientific researchers will be given dedicated time, during transits between each Extreme E race location, in order to conduct research and outreach programs whilst onboard the ship; St. Helena. You can learn more about it here.

As I mentioned in the article this series promotes a reduced carbon footprint with an eye on the future both the future of electric motorsport and environmental impact.
 

NIKAL

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The article mentioned that Sara & Kyle are the only two participants with off road racing experience. But I see that Carlos Sainz (El Matador) is entered. He’s the current 2020 Dakar Champ and has more off road experience then the whole field probably. He’s teamed up with Laia Sanz, shes bad ass and races a motorcycle in the Dakar.

And Andretti Motorsport is listed as the second American team listed in the event. But their drivers are not American, they are Swedish and British.
 

Jammminjay

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It’s cool to see Sara and Kyle get this chance, but I’m still trying to understand why Chip Ganassi is apart of this series? This series seems like a “Buy a Ride” deal, where the series owns and manages the vehicles. Ganassi has always developed their own cars in the series they are apart of.
In the beginning, everyone will start out with a spec car and later on, they will follow the same path Formula E is following: allowing manufacturers to get involved and use it as a way to develop technology for everyday vehicles. Audi has taken this approach in Formula E but has just recently announced that they are ending their Formula E team and focusing on Dakar next year. only a matter of time before they hop on Extreme E.

There is still a lot of unknown for the series and after speaking to the representatives of the team they are figuring it out as much as we are. They told me that they want to use this platform as a way to transition into the future of motorsports as well as win.

I think down the line they will definitely develop their own car similar to Formula E, but at this moment there is no
 

Jammminjay

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It’s cool to see Sara and Kyle get this chance, but I’m still trying to understand why Chip Ganassi is apart of this series? This series seems like a “Buy a Ride” deal, where the series owns and manages the vehicles. Ganassi has always developed their own cars in the series they are apart of.
In the begging, everyone will start out with a spec car and later on, they will follow the same path Formula E is following: allowing manufacturers to get involved and use it as a way to develop technology for everyday vehicles. Audi has taken this approach in Formula E but has just recently announced that they are ending their Formula E team and focusing on Dakar next year. only a matter of time before they hop on Extreme E.

There is still a lot of unknown for the series and after speaking to the representatives of the team they are figuring it out as much as we are. They told me that they want to use this platform as a way to transition into the future of motorsports as well as win.

I think down the line they will definitely develop their own car similar to Formula E, but at this moment there is no
The article mentioned that Sara & Kyle are the only two participants with off road racing experience. But I see that Carlos Sainz (El Matador) is entered. He’s the current 2020 Dakar Champ and has more off road experience then the whole field probably. He’s teamed up with Laia Sanz, shes bad ass and races a motorcycle in the Dakar.

And Andretti Motorsport is listed as the second American team listed in the event. But their drivers are not American, they are Swedish and British.
That is a good observation, at the time of writing this Acciona had not announced their drivers, I was unaware of this. We will make the edit and add it to the bottom.

Technically it is Andretti United a collaboration between U.S-based Andretti Autosport and England’s United Autosports. While they are wearing the American Flag as a team, they don't have American drivers and aren't testing in the US, they have been operating out of United Autosports shop in England. That is not a very American team. Chip Ganassi Racing is 100% American.
 

stephenrjking

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This is definitely a series focused on social issues, this is the first racing series or maybe even the first sport to be mandatory to create Gender Equality. Even though Gender does not matter in motorsports, Sara has proven that so has many other female drivers. For example Michelle Mouton and the successful feats of her career. At the top of her rally career, she was unstoppable.

This is not political, this series is a platform to bring awareness to the environmental impact of climate change. Scientific researchers will be given dedicated time, during transits between each Extreme E race location, in order to conduct research and outreach programs whilst onboard the ship; St. Helena. You can learn more about it here.
C'mon. Of course it's political. It discredits the intelligence of viewers and the credibility of the series to suggest otherwise. I think we can still watch a series and enjoy the racing and the success of drivers for whom we feel affinity if it is political, but let's not kid ourselves about this. Pretending causes we care about aren't political because we think nobody should disagree that they're important doesn't mean that people don't have different views about those issues.

I'm not offended by this, but let's be real about it. I'll enjoy the racing. I'm indifferent to the other stuff.
 

spalind

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Read this and the Dusty Times article...Like Sarah, Like Kyle, don't mind the "clean" and "gender equity" portions of it...but....20 miles of total racing? Really?? Put poop on a boat and push it around the world using giant diesel engines and an all male crew to conduct such operations (general assumption but pretty darn close) all for 20 total miles of racing in each location?? This isn't a sport, its a PR stunt...that's all.
 

RGFan

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Well first off, anything sanctioned by the FIA will have a political component, just look at their history. There will also be favorites, which means Chip Ganassi Racing should have hired some French drivers to have a shot, just ask RG ;) Nothing against Leduc and Price, they are both experienced, capable off-road drivers, being American will be a hinderence if they are competitive unfortunately.

With that said, the series does look interesting. But why the 20 mile limit? You would think they could have at least looped it if they were worried about damaging the environment. I wish it was longer and wish there was a different sanctioning body.
 

Charlietuna

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Participation trophy racing league..

4qgchu.jpg
 

Jammminjay

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Well first off, anything sanctioned by the FIA will have a political component, just look at their history. There will also be favorites, which means Chip Ganassi Racing should have hired some French drivers to have a shot, just ask RG ;) Nothing against Leduc and Price, they are both experienced, capable off-road drivers, being American will be a hinderence if they are competitive unfortunately.

With that said, the series does look interesting. But why the 20 mile limit? You would think they could have at least looped it if they were worried about damaging the environment. I wish it was longer and wish there was a different sanctioning body.
I believe the sanctioning body gives this new series some heavy legitimacy besides not only having heavy-hitting drivers. There will definitely be favorites, a part of the race will allow fans to vote on their favorite drivers and this being a European Series the fan-favorite might not go to Sara and Kyle. Just look at their most recent drivers announced. Carlos Sainz, Timmy Hanson, Sabastein Leob, not to mention the fact that Lewis Hamilton has a team. Automatically they will get a fan favorite.

Although we are routing for Sara and Kyle and can't wait to see how the do stacked up against some insane Rally Drivers.
 

spalind

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I highly doubt it, they will be racing door to door on a circuit off-road. It is going to be awesome!
20 miles as "awesome"? No. To far and open to be really "door to door" and to short to be a real endurance race like Baja or Dakar. Its the worst of both formats. And the fraud political motivations behind it make it worse. Anyone seen Formula E on TV? Nope...me either despite top flight pilots and manufacturer support for that series. Sounds like a big one year tax writeoff to me!
 

Jammminjay

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20 miles as "awesome"? No. To far and open to be really "door to door" and to short to be a real endurance race like Baja or Dakar. Its the worst of both formats. And the fraud political motivations behind it make it worse. Anyone seen Formula E on TV? Nope...me either despite top flight pilots and manufacturer support for that series. Sounds like a big one year tax writeoff to me!
Definitely wouldn't call this a "fraud political" race. Nikola Company is a fraud... not a racing organization that dumped Millions of dollars into a series. Each race is actually 9.94 miles or 16 kilometers. We will eventually see manufacturing support in this series hopefully by 2022. There are rumors Audi and Fisker are to be involved as Audi is done racing Formula E. Perhaps Volkswagen as well as their future is to only race electric.

Fox Sports actually televised the series Formula E.

This series is new and I hope all the best, we still haven't even seen a mock race, it is way too early to write it off. Electric racing is going to be the future one day and it is exciting we can see the early stages of it. I wish them nothing but the best and am cheering Kyle and Sara on the entire time.
 

stephenrjking

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Definitely wouldn't call this a "fraud political" race. Nikola Company is a fraud... not a racing organization that dumped Millions of dollars into a series. Each race is actually 9.94 miles or 16 kilometers. We will eventually see manufacturing support in this series hopefully by 2022. There are rumors Audi and Fisker are to be involved as Audi is done racing Formula E. Perhaps Volkswagen as well as their future is to only race electric.

Fox Sports actually televised the series Formula E.

This series is new and I hope all the best, we still haven't even seen a mock race, it is way too early to write it off. Electric racing is going to be the future one day and it is exciting we can see the early stages of it. I wish them nothing but the best and am cheering Kyle and Sara on the entire time.
I have questions about the racing as well, but 10 miles is a spring-length race that is not much shorter than short course races. Longer would become boring, frankly--short course uses competition cautions to bunch trucks back up, which helps the action a great deal.

Wouldn't be surprised to see them overhaul features of the series (format or technical requirements or what have you) as they learn how things work. That's got to be expected.