Extreme E, the all-electric SUV racing series that’s taking to extreme weather climates to raise awareness about climate change, is kicking off its first event this weekend. The Desert X Prix takes place in Saudi Arabia, and so far, we’ve seen two incredible qualifying sessions. But if you live in the United States, you aren’t going to get to watch it.
Well—you might get to watch the semi-final race if you have Fox Sports 2, or the main event if you have Fox Sports 1. But you’re not going to get it live. The event is on tape delay, which in motorsport terms is basically Death; if you use social media or check up on websites that cover motorsport, you’re already going to see who wins. It saps out the magic that happens when you watch it live.
There was some exceptional stuff in the first two qualifying sessions, which determine who’s moving on to the final event and who’s taking part in the “crazy-race,” which is something of a last-chance qualifier. Claudia Hürtgen of ABT Cupra XE rolled her Spark Odyssey 21, as did Veloce’s Stéphane Sarrazin. Catie Munnings of Andretti blew a tire and still finished her qualifying lap. And to no one’s surprise, Sébastien Loeb, a multi-time rally champion, and Johan Kristofferson, a multi-time rallycross champion, showed the field who’s boss. And those two drivers are driving for teams owned by Formula One World Champions used to doing battle on race day: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
It was excellent! It was great! The broadcast itself was awesome! Or, at least, that’s what I gathered as my husband gave me the early morning play-by-play from Canada, where you can stream all racing sessions on Extreme E’s YouTube page. I, meanwhile, was trying to get a VPN working so I could be ready for the second qualifying session (which is no simple task when you’re cracking your eyes open just before 2am).
Now, I don’t want to give the series too much shit, since it’s just starting out. This is, after all, Extreme E’s first race ever. But it’s indicative of a larger symptom of being an American motorsport fan, which is the fact that racing gets low priority on the broadcast totem pole. I’m sure it seemed like a really great idea to sell your American broadcast rights to Fox Sports and then proceed to block US viewers from watching the qualifying sessions that aren’t actually going to be broadcast here—but it’s not a great way to grow your fanbase.
I’m still a big fan of Extreme E as a concept. Pushing for gender equality by mandating female drivers share a car with their male competitors is awesome. Raising awareness for climate change is great—as is limiting attendance of crews and barring fans to keep their initial carbon footprint as low as possible. And the racing looks like it’s going to live up to all the hype. It’s just a shame that we’re not going to be able to see it play out in real time over here in America.