Driving to Extreme E’s Arctic X Prix track from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland means you descend upon it from above. The paddock, start, and finish of the 5-mile (8.1-kilometer) circuit takes place in a sandy scar carved out of the tundra by a glacier that would have run through the mountains thousands of years ago. It seems unassuming — until you step foot onto it.
This weekend, I had a chance to walk part of the course and then, later, drive the rest of it in a UTV, or utility terrain vehicle, driven by Albrecht Kreutzmann, the mayor of Kangerlussuaq. It was difficult enough on foot and via UTV. It’s going to be a whole other challenge in Extreme E’s Odyssey 21 vehicles.
Our course guide was Guy Nicholls, Extreme E’s sporting manager, who told us that the course is usually built over the course of six days. For the first three, Nicholls and his crew heat out on UTVs and drive around the area, trying to find the best possible course — something that will be difficult but also won’t totally destroy a car. Then, for another three days, the production crew heads out to see how they intend to film the track. They’ll ask Nicholls to make some changes to get a better shot. Then, CEO Alejandro Agag and the weekend’s race director will review the track and ask for any last-minute tweaks to be made.
Greenland’s track is the longest circuit Extreme E has seen yet, and that’s because Nicholls wanted to take advantage of as much of the local landscape as possible. Here, that includes a variety of different features, including:
- Sand, ranging from fine to gritty
- Sand dunes
- Flat-looking areas that are actually dotted with small bumps of sand and camel grass
- Compacted sand studded with larger rocks
- A rock garden that includes large boulders that drivers will have to tackle
- A riverside curve
The track will skirt around the Russell Glacier, but cars won’t actually be racing on ice.
If you were to walk the whole track, it would take about 2.5 hours. Drivers will likely be tackling it at over 110 miles per hour in some sections before slowing to a crawl while hitting the rock garden.
Guy Nicholls also told us to pay attention to the battery usage disparities. In pre-season testing, some drivers would use 30 percent more battery than other drivers who had set the exact same lap time. That comes down to the way the driver works the throttle; a constant pressure will use less battery than anyone who’s constantly between throttle and brakes.
This track is also wider than normal, which should provide for some excellent side-by-side racing.