“If you’d have told me last year that we would be P3 in the championship with three wins — joint top amount of wins — I would have taken it,” says Veloce Racing CEO Dan Bailey — who was in a surprisingly positive mood about the Extreme E season considering his team fell at the final hurdle in its quest to become champions of the electric off-road series.
But, given the massive steps the team has taken this year, it shouldn’t be a surprise at all.
After claiming one podium result in two years and featur ing a revolving door of high-profile drivers, the team realized it needed to make big changes. Ahead of the 2022 finale, it brought in Season 1 champion Molly Taylor and World Rallycross front-runner Kevin Hansen. Both drivers were tied to long-term deals, signaling the team’s intent. And it immediately yielded results, with the team making it to the final for the first time in 2022 on the pair’s first outing with the team.
It was the perfect springboard for 2023, which began in Saudi Arabia with a maiden victory and a second place the very next day. Veloce had gone from being underachievers to being the team to beat overnight. Except it wasn’t overnight — it was a process that began midway through the preceding season.
Prior to Taylor and Hansen’s arrival, the team had a run of seven events across 2021 and ’22 without making the final, with the two Sardinia rounds in ‘22 — where the team had hoped to rebound and kickstart its campaign a car-destroying crash in Saudi Arabia for the second straight year — proving pivotal for the team’s need to reset.
“I think Sardinia last year was a low point for our team and we took some fairly brutal decisions as to what we needed to change to be competitive,” Bailey explains to RACER. “It included not just the drivers but the management structure of the whole team and this year you’ve really seen that come to fruition with how we’ve performed.”
The changes to the team came amid evolution for the series as well. Originally envisioned as something of a longer-distance formula with single- and multi-car elements, Extreme E transitioned to, and then settled on more of a rallycross-esque format.
“I think the series changed a bit from what we initially thought the skill set would be, which is probably more Dakar spec, really big tracks, changing terrain, which led us to go for the likes of Lance who is a fantastic driver, just has a slightly different skillset to the likes of Kevin,” Bailey explains. “As the series has evolved, it’s moved to a little bit more of a rallycross spec skill set.
“We’ve had to make decisions to ensure that we become this competitive. We made some decisions with drivers and certain team members which didn’t necessarily fit the series as to what we expected it to be, but I’m proud of the fact we reacted and responded and got the right people in for that.
“And that’s not to say the people we had in before weren’t right for what we thought the series was — the series has evolved and we had to evolve with that.”
Hansen feels that when he arrived at the team, the key ingredients were in-place, but it needed to work on its execution, and that a comfortable working relationship with Taylor enabled them to fast-track the outfit’s development.
“Me and Molly came in we really clicked and progressed so much,” Hansen says. “Together with the team, we’ve really found our match, which is a really nice feeling
“This season has just been so natural for us to go out there and do our thing. We’ve been very constructive and to the point with what we want to do. We had some reality checks for sure, but that’s part of building a winning team.”
Those reality checks included broken windshield wipers and power steering gremlins in Sardinia, where the team made the final only once in four attempts; and in Chile where, on the penultimate day of the season, crash damage and resultant mechanical issues stopped them from competing for a win — a result they would ultimately get a day later once their championship fate had already been sealed.
“I still believe that without the mechanical issues that we had, we would have been in a position to try and win the championship,” Bailey insists. “We did everything within our power to be successful, but importantly it was within our power.
“All we can do is maximize the situation in front of us. Every time we’ve had a situation, we’ve maximized it. So you can’t get too caught up in the external factors that can affect the team, you just have to be fully focused on what you can do — and in this series more than most, because the amount of external factors in this series are more than any other racing series in the world.”
Rumors are rife about who’s going where in Extreme E for next season, but Veloce will be retaining Taylor and Hansen — one of only two teams yet confirmed to be continuing with its 2023 drivers along with Andretti Altawkilat, which fields Hensen’s brother Timmy along with Catie Munnings. It’s Veloce’s hope that the continuity will once again give the team a head start like it had going into this year.
“We’re going to have the same drivers, the same engineering outfit — we’re completely set for next year, which is why we made the fairly big decision to change our drivers and some of our team personnel before the end of last year,” Bailey says. “I think that with continuity, as long as you’ve got talent, you’ve got a better chance of success — and for next year there’s nothing that I would want to change.”
While the team will be picking up from where it left off, Hansen emphasizes that doesn’t mean it will get complacent.
“Obviously we will not stand still — we will try and make any adjustments necessary to make sure to be as close to perfect as we can be as a team, and work really hard over the winter,” he adds. “Extreme E is so spread out, you need to work hard between every round — it’s the same amount of time to Season 4 Race 1 as it was to Season 3 Race 4, so it’s really really a different type of championship.
“I look forward to the winter to build and improve and I think we have a nice sweet tooth after winning the final round of the season. It really puts a smile on everyone’s faces to have the energy and the passion to work all winter long.”