Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

A race around the world to save it

The countdown is on, with less than two months to go until the official start of the inaugural season in the spectacular off-road race series Extreme E. On April 3 and 4 this year, the ODYSSEY 21 electric SUVs will do battle for the first time in the desert of Saudi Arabia.

By choosing settings close to endangered habitats, the Extreme E series aims to raise awareness of climate change among motorsport fans worldwide, as well as among politicians, residents and local authorities at the venues, encouraging them to step up their efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Saudi Arabia is home to the largest area of continuous sand in the world. It is hard to think of an environment that appears so inhospitable to life – and yet this is also a unique ecosystem very much worth preserving.

The racing will be staged around AlUla, an oasis city some 150 kilometres south-west of Tayma and 400 km north-west of Medina. Also not far away is the Suez Canal, which links the Red Sea with the Mediterranean through the Isthmus of Suez. AlUla stands on the site of the Biblical city of Dedan. Once the capital of the Kingdom of Lihyan, it served as the hub for various ancient trading routes and holds great cultural and historical significance as the centre of numerous archaeological sites. Mada‘in Salih, for example, became Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. But global warming is accelerating the erosion of the 110 monumental tombs, which were cut into the sandstone around 2,000 years ago.

The teams will then head for the banks of Lac Rose – also known as Lake Retba – near the Senegalese capital Dakar. The salt content of the lake is similar to that of the Dead Sea, and it owes its remarkable colouring to the presence of specific bacteria that produce red iron oxide. “This is an extraordinary place,” says Roslan. “But due to its proximity to the coast, it is sadly under increasing threat from climate change.”

On May 29 and 30, the dunes, salt flats, gravel, rocks and the corrugations on the narrow off-road sand routes between Lac Rose and the Atlantic coast will provide a stern challenge for the drivers, teams and cutting-edge ODYSSEY 21 electric SUVs alike. As at all the Extreme E locations, the routes are designed to incorporate existing obstacles and features in the racing – with no need to adapt the natural setting. Damage to the environment is avoided as a matter of principle.

Next up after the desert and ocean stages comes ice. On the last weekend in August, the Extreme E series will switch its attention to Greenland, the frontline of the global climate emergency. Around 70 percent of the total public energy supply here now comes from renewable sources, and that number is still on the rise. That said, nowhere on the planet are the unprecedented effects of global warming more evident. Greenland has lost 600 billion tons of ice in the last year alone.

The penultimate stop-off in this inaugural season of Extreme E will be the Amazon rainforest of Brazil in October. The continued survival of this area is threatened by a whole range of serious problems – of which overexploitation and slash-and-burn land clearance are currently among the most topical and urgent.

The first Extreme E champion will be crowned in December – when the season finale takes place outside Ushuaia in Argentina. “Ushuaia“ is an indigenous word meaning something like “bay looking into the east”. Located on the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia is the southern-most city not only of Argentina, but in the whole world.

The Extreme E competitors will race at Tierra del Fuego National Park, located approximately 18 km from Ushuaia and home to the Glaciar Martial which is threatened by climate change.

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