The showcasing of emergent female racing talent that Extreme E has provided is well illustrated by Hedda Hosaas.
Two years ago, the 20-year-old was working as a mechanic at a Nissan dealership in her native Norway. Now she can count herself among the elite few who have got to call themselves a McLaren factory driver after making her debut for the papaya outfit at the Copper X Prix in Chile alongside veteran Tanner Foust.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s a huge honor to be with McLaren,” she tells RACER of her rise up the ranks. “I was a mechanic until I got the contract with Veloce as a development driver. Then I started to put my all into racing, I quit my job and went all in. Two years later I’m here with McLaren, which is unbelievable.”
Originally a motocross competitor before transitioning to rallycross, it was while racing in Denmark where she was spotted by her now-manager Ian Davies, who lined her up for a test with Extreme E team Veloce Racing.
“Her ambition and professionalism drew me to her and she didn’t really know how good she could be, if that makes sense,” Davies tells RACER. “She was happy to join the Veloce tests and just absorbed everything. She always got on well with Lance Woolridge, who took her under his wing. She was grateful for even a few kilometers in the car as a driver but sat as a passenger alot to observe the others, too.”
Since that initial test in 2021, Hosaas has served the vast majority of her racing apprenticeship under the spotlight on Extreme E’s world stage, climbing from the testing role with Veloce Racing to filling in at that team when Christine Giampaoli Zonca was injured at the 2022 season opener in Saudi Arabia. The brief cameo in the desert, which saw her go toe-to-toe with motorsport icon Carlos Sainz, earned her a call-up for JBXE where she remained for the remainder of that season and most of ‘23 before McLaren came calling.
It’s been a big platform for Hosaas to grow but one that she’s flourished in, benefitting from the endless amount of experience that surrounds her.
“It’s amazing because in Extreme E you get to be with drivers like Tanner — he has a lot of experience, you can learn from them, and also McL aren as a team,” she says. “Also, I’ve been with Andreas Bakkerud, I’ve been with Fraser McConnell, Kevin Hansen… you have so much to learn about drivers that have so much experience and Extreme E’s given females that chance.”
Giving female drivers the chance to race for big teams alongside vastly experienced male drivers has paid dividends. Already before the 2023 season, a 26 percent rise in female driver lap times was noted, and now it can be said that the competitive order isn’t completely clear cut between the genders.
“Yeah that’s true,” Hosaas agrees. “The females are up there with the boys, which is so good — it’s amazing to see.”
Davies adds, “Extreme E is incredibly valuable. It’s been one of the only opportunities that exists for female athletes to gain experience at a high level.”
Hosaas’ chance with McLaren also reunited her with former Veloce teammate Emma Gilmour, whom she replaced in the driving seat after the New Zealander was injured at the second Island X Prix in September. Despite not driving, Gilmour was on-hand in Chile to offer her input.
“It’s been good that she’s here — she has the experience with the car and the team and Tanner,” Hosaas said of Gilmour. “She can help, and Tanner’s helping — we’ve got a lot of help.”
The chance with McLaren is something that Hosaas admitted was “a big step” but she instantly made her mark, helping the team bounce back from its tricky Sardinia spell with fourth on the opening day in Chile and a top qualifier result on the second, a result solidified by a stellar drive from Hosaas where she fended off a hard-charging Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky — whom hours later would become series champion.
“They’re very professional and when they do stuff like this it pays off in the race,” she said. “It’s been good to work with them and learn a lot and the first race with them, P4, I wouldn’t have believed that.”
Don’t expect her brief fling with the Formula 1 icons to lead to a transition into circuit racing any time soon, though. Hosaas’ previously stated aim of competing in the Dakar rally is still top of her career bucket list, along with a climb further up the rallycross ladder.
“No, I don’t think so,” Hosaas insists. “Tarmac is not for me. Rallycross has tarmac and that’s OK, but I’m not really a circuit kind of person, I really like being sideways, jumps, all that stuff.
“Dakar’s definitely a dream, I want to do that, but also there’s a lot of things I want to do. I want to keep my career in racing, really, especially in Extreme E, off-roading, rallycross — there’s a lot of things I want to do but Dakar is really one of the biggest goals, I would say.”
And she likely won’t be short of options, with Davis confident there’s even more to come from Hosaas after her meteoric rise up the Extreme E ranks.
“We have always looked to position Hedda as a talented athlete from a humble background with a great future,” he says, “and with her ambition and dedication, I’m sure we will see her progress even further.”