• Two-time SA Cross Country Series Class T champion Lance Woolridge selected to join UK-based Veloce Racing for inaugural Extreme E season in 2021.
• The electric 4x4 motorsport series is aimed at racing awareness around climate change.
• The races take place in remote locations around the world impacted by environmental issues.
South African Lance Woolridge, a two-time Class T Production Vehicle champion in the South African Cross Country Series (SACCS), has been selected to join the UK-based Veloce Racing team for the inaugural season of the global Extreme E series.
The electric off-road series is aimed at creating aware around climate change and takes place in remote locations around the world. Seven-time world Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton recently announced Sebastien Loeb will join his X44 team.
Only South African involved in Extreme E
Woolridge will play a role as the reserve and development driver for the Veloce Racing squad, which features legendary F1 designer Adrian Newey in its leadership team. Woolridge will be the only South African driver involved in the new all-electric series.
The South African will support Veloce Racing's lead pairing of Frenchman Stéphane Sarrazin and reigning W Series champion Jamie Chadwick in his reserve and development role.
"The car is fantastic. The instant power and torque are mind-blowing," Woolridge reveals. "With it being fully electric with no link between the front and rear axles, there is so much to play with, from the torque distribution mappings between the front and rear axles to the steering sensitivity, lateral G percentage adjustments to find more grip, and the usual pedal sensitivity maps."
Season kicks off in April
The Extreme E series was founded by the same visionary team that established Formula E. The 2021 season will be staged across five diverse environments, kicking off in AlUla in Saudi Arabia (3-4 April), followed by Dakar, Senegal (29-30 May), Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (28-29 August), Pará, Brazil (23-24 October) and Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina (11-12 December).
The 29-year-old Woolridge has 12 years of experience in the highly competitive local cross country series, including consecutive Class T Production Vehicle titles in 2018 and 2019 with Ford.
According to Ian Davies, Veloce Racing, both male drivers add significant experience to the team. "Stéphane and Lance worked extremely well with Jamie and Veloce's engineering team at our recent test in Spain, and their different skillsets and experience complimented each other perfectly. Lance is well accustomed to vehicles like the Odyssey 21 from his cross-country racing and has a very well developed mechanical understanding, so he will be able to provide valuable input for the team."
The test in Aragón, Spain during December 2020 was Lance's second opportunity to drive the Odyssey 21, but it was the first to drive the car with full power. An earlier private test with the Veloce Racing team in France saw the car's power restricted.
"The Spain test was the first time we drove the car with full power, and with all the other teams and drivers present, it was the first chance for us to see where we are regarding performance and setup. We learnt a lot more from this test, and it's all in the thinking pot now as we work hard ahead of the first race which will be in Saudi Arabia in April," Woolridge said.
The 29-year-old will continue competing in the SACCS in 2021 for the Neil Woolridge Motorsport team, which is backed by Ford South Africa and Ford Performance. He will debut the all-new Ford Ranger developed by the NWM team to compete in the premier FIA-class.
Male and female drivers
Extreme E adopts a unique format, with each team comprises two drivers, including one male and one female, who alternate the driving and navigation duties for the two laps that make up each race.
"Everyone also needs to get to grips with the electric nature of the car, including refining its setup to maximise performance and maintaining the highest levels of safety. It's certainly a lot more pressure than normal cross country racing, but it is a challenge and opportunity that I relish."
The Odyssey 21
Teams will all compete with identical Odyssey 21 all-electric SUVs in these extreme conditions. The cars are manufactured by Spark Racing Technology, featuring McLaren drivetrains, batteries produced by Williams Advanced Engineering, and Continental tyres.
Power output is rated at 400kW, with the vehicles weighing 1650kg and capable of a 0-100 km/h time of 4.5 seconds.