Before we get going, I’m well aware this is a bit of an out-of-left-field idea, but bear with me – there’s method to my madness.
Extreme E’s modus operandi is to travel to remote areas affected by climate change to highlight the issues faced by our planet, raise awareness, and put on a good show in the process. But while melting ice caps, forest fires, habitat destruction, and the practice of sustainable living are all very real issues, the remoteness of Extreme E’s X Prixs can create a gulf between the average viewer and the message being conveyed.
Environmental and ecological issues affect every one of us, so why not hammer that point home by taking the message directly to the people? As well as raising awareness of those issues we might be oblivious to by shining a spotlight on them in our own backyards, why not highlight those unmentioned closer to home as well?
Other than the Greenland race in 2021 and the 2022 season finale in Uruguay – which also hosted a hugely successful fan engagement event on the streets of Punta del Este before the race – fans have been kept away from Extreme E events in a bid to reduce the inevitable environmental impact of thousands of additional people all descending into one place. And even then, the two aforementioned rounds only allowed locals, and in limited numbers at that.
Of course, racing 10 big truck-like vehicles on the streets of London, Paris, or Los Angeles is highly unlikely. But while it might seem like a silly idea on paper, when it comes to messaging, it might not be a million miles away from what Extreme E is already try ing to achieve.
Extreme E is a racing series, but it’s also a platform. A platform that’s done a damn fine job so far of shining a spotlight on things a typical sports fan might not be aware of. So what’s the next step? Take that thinking and apply it to an everyday, relatable setting.
But the whole environmental and educational side of Extreme E is only half the story. If you’re visiting RACER, you’re obviously a car or mot orsport fan – and there would be benefits from that angle, too.
Okay, so a street race in a series that prides itself on racing on some of the most dramatic race tracks ever conceived might seem like a bit of a let down – although if you think Stadium Super Trucks at Long Beach or Surfers Paradise, you’ll get a good idea of what I’m going for. But factor in this as well: SUVs dominate city streets these days. They might not make much sense in Manhattan or Mayfair, but you could take that thinking – the big, inappropriate SUV – and use it to share a better message. So you like your big cars in your big cities? How about these? And while you’re at it, let’s make a difference.
There could be a benefit for the series as well as those of us on the outside looking in. Right now, Extreme E has Volkswagen (via its Cupra brand) and General Motors (with GMC) involved. A relatable event in a location that mirrors where OEMs’ products are sold could bring more car brands to the table.
The Formula E question has the potential to scupper this entire idea. That’s an all-electric series (from the same creators, too) that races in cities to showcase the benefits of electric mobility in built-up areas. But with the messaging and fanbase of both championships being different, not to mention the vehicles differing considerably too, there could be room at the table for both. After all, you might see showroom-resembling touring cars or GT cars racing on the same bill as open-wheelers despite them being poles apart. And two events on one weekend negates the impact of holding additional events.
What’s more, it’s an idea that’s not a world away from what series organizers have already been considering, with joint events between Extreme E and the upcoming all-electric E1 boat racing series being mooted. “We could think of doing an Extreme E and E1 race in the same location, it would be incredible,” series founder Alejandro Agag told this writer last year. “I was thinking, in Greenland, imagine around the icebergs, it would be incredible. It would be very cool.”
A one or two day racing festival that educates and enlightens about how we could do better, while entertaining with two of the most competitive championships around, racing on the same course, certainly has the potential to be a big win for fans and sponsors alike. It might not be the greenest idea short-term, but if it can get eyeballs on the issues, while providing a thrilling sporting product, what’s not to love?