The first qualifying session kicked off with the slowest team from Friday’s practices session starting first. That meant Veloce Racing hit the track, with the two drivers completing successful runs and immediately topping the charts.
That would prove to be a rare feat in a fraught qualifying session, with Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky from JBXE breaking her steering arm as she attempted to finish the team’s first lap. The car had to be towed back to the pits.
Xite Energy Racing seemed to be struggling initially as well, but Christine GZ gained time on Veloce. It wasn’t meant to be for Oliver Bennett, however, and he struggled to set a quick lap. The team ended up slower than Veloce.
Abt Cupra XE’s Jutta Kleinschmidt proved to be the woman to beat in the session; she finished her lap 12 seconds faster than Veloce. She swapped with Mattias Ekstrom, who wiggled a bit but continued to whittle away time. Overall, the team finished a full 30 seconds ahead of Veloce, taking the lead.
And then came chaos for Rosberg X Racing, the first team to put their male driver behind the wheel first. Johan Kristoffersson suffered one problem after another, with his car dying and restarting again multiple times. The team lost several seconds to that, but he did manage to get the car back to the switch zone to get Molly Taylor behind the wheel. As Kristoffersson said after he exited the car, “I’m not very impressed.”
Taylor knew she would have to claw back time, but she was pushing too hard. Taylor rolled her car and got it back on all four wheels before sending it on her way. She sustained a lot of body damage, but she did complete her lap. RXR, though, were one minute and 40 seconds slower than leaders Abt Cupra.
Sara Price of Chip Ganassi Racing set a very solid first lap, cutting nearly four seconds back on Abt Cupra’s leading time despite blowing a corner and losing time on her hyperdrive sector — a much needed small victory for a team that has severely struggled this year. Kyle LeDuc got behind the wheel for his own lap, though it took a while for the team to get buckled in. He nearly rolled the car in the same place as Taylor, but he did manage to save it and continue on. Using hyperdrive in the super sector worked for LeDuc, and the CGR team went fastest in qualifying. Unfortunately, they sustained a 10-second time penalty and were moved back to second in the running.
For X44, Cristina Gutierrez started her second lap of competition after her back injury, where two vertebrae ruptured. She had a solid lap but did look to struggle as she exited the car to swap with Sebastien Loeb. As one can imagine, the dynamic duo set the fastest lap of qualifying thus far.
Andretti United put Timmy Hansen in first, mimicking RXR’s decision to put the male driver in first. He set an incredible lap, almost 20 seconds ahead of the leader, but as he slowed to enter the switch zone, the Andretti car died. Hansen managed to get it started, but Andretti advised Catie Munnings not to push the car on her lap and to instead just set a lap and bring it home. And that’s jsut what she did.
The final team to qualify was the Acciona Sainz XE team, with Carlos Sainz taking on qualifying first. He set a fast lap, but he came into the wrong switch zone and therefore lost some time while getting Laia Sanz into the car; she lost five seconds in her swap. The rest of the lap saw Sanz lose time around the course.
- X44: Cristina Gutierrez and Sebastien Loeb
- Abt Cupra XE: Jutta Kleinschmidt and Mattias Ekstrom
- SEGI TV Chip Ganassi Racing: Sara Price and Kyle LeDuc
- Veloce Racing: Emma Gilmour and Stephane Sarrazin
- XITE Energy Racing: Christine GZ and Oliver Bennett
- Acciona Sainz XE Team: Carlos Sainz and Laia Sanz
- Andretti United XE: Timmy Hansen and Catie Munnings
- Rosberg X Racing: Johan Kristoffersson and Molly Taylor
- JBXE: Mikaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Kevin Hansen
The second round of qualifying was delayed by an hour to allowed the RXR team to make repairs.
Veloce once again led the qualifying field, but Sarrazin struggled during his lap and brought the car back believing that there was a problem with the power steering. There wasn’t time for a change, so Gilmour had to take the car out despite the issue, which resulted in a slow time for the team.
Kevin Hansen took over the wheel of the JBXE for the next lap, his first of the day, and while it looked incredibly impressive, Hansen suffered the same problem his brother did — the Odyssey 21 died as he brought it into the switch zone. He was able to reset it and get it moving for the swap with Ahlin-Kottulinsky, who took her lap fairly easy.
Next came Xite Racing, with Oliver Bennett struggling on his first lap with no power and incredibly slow speeds; even changing different power settings failed to make a difference. He stopped and reset the car, but even that didn’t seem to help. Bennett couldn’t get enough power to mount one of the dunes and rolled backwards instead of going up. He tried backing up and flooring it to raise the power to get up that hill, but it wasn’t going to happen. They failed to finish the second qualifying session.
Next up was Abt Cupra XE. Ekstrom took the first lap, and it looked as if he were struggling over some of the bumps. It looked as if he incorrectly struck the rock garden, causing problems with the tires at the rear of the car. The jack couldn’t raise the car because of the sand, and the drivers changing the tires had issues with the wheel nut gun and with pulling the tire out of the rut in the ground. He bent the rims of the rear right, and the left rear rim was stuck on the car. Kleinschmidt had already climbed into the car, which left her unable to help. They soon decided to retire the car.
Chip Ganassi Racing took to the start next, as RXR was still working on fixing its car, but the lap didn’t last long. Just before hitting the first second, the left rear suspension was completely ripped off of the vehicle, ending LeDuc’s run early
After a brief pause, X44 took to the circuit. Loeb appeared to take it easy on his lap, but he did manage to gain time after such a fraught qualifying session — and Gutierrez appeared to do the same. It paid off in the form of the fastest time of the session, despite the rain falling down harder at that part of the day.
Catie Munnings took the first lap with the Andretti United team, gaining a bit of time and leaving Timmy Hansen in a great position to bring the car home in second overall.
Laia Sanz started out the Acciona Sainz team’s lap as the rain picked up in intensity. She and teammate Carlos Sainz both took a careful lap of the track, as all the issues enabled them the opportunity to secure a solid result event without a massively fast lap.
The final car was Rosberg X Racing, trying to recover from a difficult previous qualifying session. Molly Taylor lost a piece of bodywork after a rushed repair job, but she looked steady and strong nonetheless. That left Kristoffersson in a great position for his lap — where he quickly ran faster than everyone else. It was a stunning finish to the qualifying event for the Rosberg team.
- Andretti United
- Veloce Racing
- Acciona Sainz Racing
- Abt Cupra XE
- Xite Racing
- Chip Ganassi Racing
The races tomorrow are organized based on the sum of the classification points scored by drivers during both qualifying sessions. Here are how the classification points have ranked the teams:
- X44 (17 points)
- Abt Cupra (11 points)
- RXR (11 points)
- Andretti United (10 points)
- Veloce Racing (10 points)
- Acciona Sainz (9 points)
- Chip Ganassi Racing (8 points)
- JBXE (7 points)
- Xite Racing (7 points)
Ties are broken based on who completed more of their laps.
Teams that qualified first, fifth, and sixth place transfer to Semi-Final 1. Those teams are:
- Veloce Racing
- Acciona Sainz
Teams that qualified in second, third, and fourth go to Semi-Final 2. Those teams are:
- Abt Cupra
- Andretti United
Team that finished seventh, eighth, and ninth move to the Crazy Race. Those teams are:
- Chip Ganassi Racing
After rain and racing, the track has been seriously cut up, which is set to make for some exceptional racing on Sunday, when cars will be going side-by-side.