Meet the women taking on Extreme E
When the pioneering electric off-road racing series Extreme E was first announced, they claimed that they were putting gender equality at the forefront of its mission. In a first for motorsport, all teams will consist of a male and female driver. As driver and co-driver, each will compete for one lap of the two-lap race behind the wheel, before changing over.
Let us introduce you to the nine incredibly talented women taking on the challenge of Extreme E.
Claudia Hürtgen, Germany
One of Germany’s best known female racers, Claudia Hürtgen, will be lining up for ABT Cupra XE. The 49-year-old started her career in karting and German Formula 3, before a roll-over crash at the F3 invitational at the Monaco Grand Prix saw the end of her single-seater career.
Claudia moved over to touring cars in 1995, winning the German Touring Car Trophy, before taking victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona in the GT2 class in 1997. This was followed in 1998 with third in LM GT2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 2005, she won the VLN Endurance Championship and became the first female champion since Sabine Schmitz in 1998.
In recent years, Claudia competed in the ADAC GT4 Germany and took part in the 24 Hours of Nȕrburgring for the 15th time in 2020, achieving victory in the SP10 class.
Laia Sanz, Spain
The 13-time Trial World Champion, Laia Sanz, will be making her official move from motorcycling to car racing as she joins Acciona Sainz XE Team, to take on Extreme E.
After learning to ride her brother’s motorbike aged only five, her glittering motorcycle career was set. In 1998, Laia won the first edition of the Women’s Trial European Championship at 12-years-old, competing against more experienced riders. She won the Spanish Cadet Championship in 2000, as the only female rider in the series. That same year, she achieved her first Women’s Trial World Championship title and helped the Spanish team to victory in the Female Trial Des Nations.
2011 saw Laia’s childhood dream come true and enter the Dakar Rally, where she won the female class and finished 39th overall. In 2015, she finished ninth, the best ever finish for a female rider.
Catie Munnings, UK
Up-and-coming British rally driver, Catie Munnings, was not always set on becoming a rally driver. Having originally wanted to become a vet, the 23-year-old showed a natural talent for rallying at a young age and now lines up for Andretti United in Extreme E.
Catie made her European Rally Championship debut in 2016 and won the FIA European Rally Championship Ladies Trophy on her first attempt, at only 18-years-old. The following two years saw her take class victories for the Saintéloc Junior Team in the Junior Under-27 Championship. Last year saw Catie make her debut in the World Rally Championship at Rally Sweden.
She also forged a successful TV career as the original host of CBeebies’ Catie’s Amazing Machines in 2018.
Christine Giampaoli Zonca, Italy
Hispano-Suiza Xite Energy Team’s Christine Giampaoli Zonca, better known as Christine GZ, is an Italian-Canary rally and off-road driver. Born in India to Italian parents, she moved to Milan in Italy when she was eight, later moving to the Canary Islands.
In 2014, in her full-time debut, Christine achieved her first victory in a gravel rally. That same year, she took her first title in the Championship of the Canaries. Her World Rally Championship debut came at the 2016 Rally de Catalunya, where she was a part of the first all-female rally team. She then went on to win the women’s category of the Spanish Gravel Rally Championship in the same year. Alongside her rally career, she completed a degree in motorsports technology at Birmingham City University.
Since 2017, Christine’s career has seen her compete in the United States and Mexico, finishing seventh in the Baja 1000 in the Pro UTV Turbo category. Last year, the 27-year-old achieved third in the T2 category in the Andalucia Road to Dakar Rally, as the main driver for Avatel Racing Team.
Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, Sweden
JBXE’s Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky started her racing career at the age of 12 in go-karts. Stepping up to touring cars in 2011, she was a part of the FIA Women in Motorsports shoot-out. As a result, she got a chance to race in the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup and in 2014, Mikaela became the first woman in history to win a race in a Volkswagen supported championship.
In 2015, she was selected for the Audi Sport TT Cup, with her best result a third place at the Norisring, alongside racing in the German ADAC GT Masters and becoming a part of the Audi Sport Racing Academy in 2017. Mikaela then made her debut in Scandinavian Touring Car Championship that same year, before becoming the only woman to have won a race in the series the following year.
Molly Taylor, Australia
Born into a motorsport-loving family in Australia, Rosberg X Racing’s Molly Taylor has been a force in the female rally scene for years. In 2006, she became the first female accepted in the Australian Motor Sports Foundation International Rising Star Programme and proved her talents by winning the New South Wales Rally Championship that same year.
Molly then took victory in the F16 class of the Australian Rally Championship on her debut in 2007, which she repeated the following year. Moving to the UK in 2009, she became the first non-UK driver to win the British Ladies Rally Championship, making it consecutive championships with victory in 2010. After being spotted by the FIA World Rally Championship Academy, she secured a scholarship to compete in the World Rally Champion in 2011, becoming one of the youngest and only female driver participating. Molly then took her maiden stage win at the final race of the season, the Wales Rally Great Britain.
2016 saw her become the first female and youngest driver to win the Australian Rally Championship, finishing second the following year. Molly then went on to make her circuit racing debut in the TCR Australia Championship in 2019.
Sara Price, United States
SEGI TV Chip Ganassi Racing’s Sara Price is no stranger to challenges, having competed on dirt bikes since she was eight years old. In 2010, she became the first female factory-supported motocross racer for Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing. Prior to 2012, Sarah won 19 national motocross championships and medaled in the X Games.
After transitioning to off-road racing, she finished as the top rookie at the 2015 Rallye Aicha des Gazelles. The following year, Sara became the first female driver to compete in the Stadium Super Trucks series. She then became the first female SCORE International Baja 1000 IronWoman finishing second in the trophy trucks spec class after solo driving the entire race. Last year saw her return to rallying, placing second in the UTV class at the Sonora Rally and it was announced that she would become the first female driver in Chip Ganassi Racing’s history, as a part of their Extreme E lineup.
Jamie Chadwick, UK
Making her competitive off-road debut for Veloce Racing, Jamie Chadwick will be a familiar face for many. The British driver got her start in go-karts aged 11 and broke into car racing in 2013 at the Ginetta Junior Championship. This came after turning down a trial with the England under-18 hockey team to compete at that weekend. She then stepped over to the 2015 British GT Championship, competing in the GT4 class, where she took two wins and five podiums on her way to becoming the first female and youngest-ever champion in the series.
After moving over to single-seaters, Jamie competed in the 2017 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship and the following season saw her become the first woman to win a British F3 race when she took victory in the second race at Brands Hatch. She then dominated to take the 2018-19 MRF Challenge title, with six wins in the final ten races, becoming the first woman to win the MRF Challenge.
However, Jamie is most known as the inaugural 2019 W Series Champion, achieving two victories, three podiums and three pole positions in six races. Alongside her role as a development driver for the Williams Driver Academy, the 22-year-old finished first in the SP8 class at the 2019 24 Hours of Nürburgring with Aston Martin and competed in the 2020 Formula Regional European Championship.
Cristina Gutiérrez, Spain
Team X44’s Cristina Gutiérrez is no first-timer to off-road racing, having started racing at four-years-old. The 29-year-old has been Spain’s Women’s Off-Road Champion since 2012. In 2017, she made history when she became the first Spanish female driver to finish the Dakar Rally and placed fifth among the rookie drivers. Cristina has completed the five Dakar rallies from 2017 to 2021, with her best result of 26th overall when driving a Mitsubishi in 2019.
Earlier this year, she became the second woman in history to win a stage of the Dakar Rally, competing in the lightweight vehicles category. When she is not racing, Cristina works as a dentist, so she will be primed to sink her teeth into the challenges of Extreme E.
Round 1 of the 2021 Extreme E Championship gets underway with the Desert X-Prix in Al-’Ula, Saudi Arabia, this Saturday, April 3.
Image Credit: Extreme E