The British carmaker will join the Extreme E Offroad EV Series with Jenson Button at the helm.
If we told you that there was a racing series called Extreme E, for all-electric SUVs, held in some of the most remote locations in the world, you could probably guess some of the teams. Obviously, GM would be up there with its new Hummer electric. You might guess that some Formula E teams like ABT would also be involved, and you'd be right again. One automaker that you probably wouldn't guess is Lotus. Yet, as of today the British brand has joined the series, starting later this week.
The JBXE team was founded by F1 champion Jenson Button, who's been busy relaunching a coachbuilder, and Scandinavian Touring Car winner Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky will compete in the first round of the championship later this week in Saudi Arabia. The series will then go to Senegal in May, Greenland in August, Brazil in October and finally Argentina for the season finale in December.
Lotus will be a technical partner of JBXE. The brand doesn't have a lot of experience with huge SUVs, but it has some skills in electrification. It also has decades of motorsport under its belt, and we know the company can do a good suspension.
"Lotus is a great British brand that is inextricably linked to motorsport, so we are delighted to welcome Lotus Engineering to JBXE," said Button. "Extreme E is a unique and exciting formula, full of 'world firsts' and challenges, and to announce that a brand such as Lotus Engineering is coming on this journey with us is a proud moment for myself and the team. We are very excited about our new technical partnership and can't wait to show what we can do in the first race this weekend."
Lotus will be joined by Chip Ganassi's team running the Hummer, ABT, Sainz XE, Andretti, Hispano Suiza, Rosberg Racing, Veloce Racing and a team called X44 with Sebatian Loeb at the helm. As for TV, the series has secured a one-year deal with each race to broadcast live on Sky Sports. We here in the US can catch it on Fox Sports or the Fox Sports app. It has a three-year deal to broadcast.
The races will look much like the World Rallycross format. The teams will compete in a group of qualifying rounds to progress into the final. On-track position will decide, rather than just times. Each heat will see two laps, one driven by a female driver and one driven by the male with a midrace pitstop. Four cars will contest each qualifying heat, about 10 miles long, from a lottery position.
The series will also feature a few cool new tricks.
"We're going to have this thing called 'hyperboost' and it's going to be for the one who does the longest jump in the beginning," said Extreme E CEO Alejandro Agag. "The four cars are going to go and then they jump and whoever jumps longer will go faster."
The JBXE team headquarters will be at the new Lotus Advanced Technical Center in Warwickshire, England.