W Series champion Jamie Chadwick is among the drivers who have committed to competing in the new Extreme E electric SUV racing series in 2021.
Chadwick, a Williams development driver, won the inaugural season of the all-female W Series this year and joins a list of high-profile names signing up to Extreme E. They include multiple world rally champion Sebastian Ogier, two-time DTM champion Timo Scheider, Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi, Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer and former IndyCar racer Katherine Legge.
Extreme E, which will host its inaugural race in Greenland in February 2021, hopes to spread a message of environmental sustainability by racing off road in parts of the world affected by climate change. The series plans to race in Greenland, the Himalayas, the Sahara Desert, the Amazon rainforest and low-lying islands in the Indian Ocean to highlight the environmental issues caused by global warming.
The races will see specially-built, all-electric SUVs go head-to-head over stages no bigger than 10km-squared. The circuits will be located in areas that have already been damaged by climate change and track designers will use existing obstacles to create the features of the circuit without the need to adapt the local environment.
The racing will not be broadcast live, but instead edited into a documentary by Academy Award winning filmmaker Fisher Stevens. The documentary will tell the story of each race as well as highlighting the environmental issues impacting each area.
The series, which is owned and run by the same company as Formula E, aims to take part in projects to help the places it visits and, ultimately, leave them in a more sustainable condition. There will be no fans at the races, no crash barriers and no physical branding on the courses, with the outline of the stages being added to the documentary in post-production.
"Top teams, drivers and machinery, all racing in some incredible locations whilst raising awareness for climate change - what's not to love." Chadwick said. "As part of the generation who are needing to be increasingly more aware of our environment, and having grown up in the countryside in England, for me it is more relevant than ever to be raising awareness. It really is a win-win."
Testing of the single-make SUV, known as the Odyssey 21, will get underway next year.
"Extreme E is unlike anything else we have in motorsport, so it is incredibly appealing to me," Ogier said. "The short stages, the power and performance of the Odyssey 21, the head-to-head format and of course the spectacular, unique locations, will make the racing extremely intense and very exciting for drivers and the fans watching from home."
In order to reduce its carbon footprint, the paddock will sail from race to race in the former Royal Mail ship, RMS St Helena. The ship is undergoing a multi-million-pound renovation so that it can accommodate 12 cars in its cargo bay as well as making space for the teams, drivers and organisers. The series claims fuel usage on the ship will be cut by 50 percent with the use of a Sky Sail.
Three teams -- Venturi, Abt and HWA, which also race in Formula E -- have already signed up to the series and the first venue has been located next to the Russell Glacier in Greenland. The teams will have their emissions levels monitored while on site and will be given sporting and financial incentives for achieving the lowest overall output.