Looking over the dramatic, retro-inspired “hyperlux” curves of the Hispano Suiza Carmen, the very last word to come to mind is “off-road.” But the revived Spanish marque has been full of surprises and contradictions ever since it resurfaced in 2018, determined to bring together its early 20th-century heritage with the latest 21st-century technology. So perhaps we should not be shocked that its latest announcement is the launch of an Extreme E off-road racing program. The Hispano Suiza Xite Energy team will take 550 electrified horses to the dirt, sand and ice when the 2021 Extreme E season commences in March.
Hispano Suiza moving into racing seems logical enough; it has been highlighting its racing heritage all year. The ultra-limited Carmen Boulogne it introduced in March was designed as an homage to the brand’s very first race, which saw André Dubonnet pilot the Hispano Suiza H6 Coupé to a win at the George Boillot Cup endurance race in Boulogne, France. Next year marks the 100th anniversary of that 1921 event, which kicked off three consecutive Hispano Suiza wins, each with a different driver.
What is surprising is that Hispano Suiza chose to concentrate its first new-era racing efforts on Extreme E. All we’ve seen from the revived Hispano Suiza are road/track-prepared electric hypercars, so something like Formula E seems a more natural fit.
Miguel Suqué Mateu, Hispano Suiza chairman, explains the move: “Being able to take our brand to the desert, the Polar Arctic Circle or the Amazon, and also do it in a competitive, sustainable way and taking care of our planet, is something magnificent that we will achieve in a competition as revolutionary as Extreme E.”
Every fiber in our beings wants to see a lifted, gutted Carmen Boulogne with skid protection and 37-in mud-terrain tires, but that won’t be happening because Extreme E has its own series race car, the Odyssey 21, prepared by Spark Racing Technology. So we’re left with an Odyssey 21 all decked out in Hispano Suiza/Xite Energy livery … which isn’t so bad, either.
Taking the wheel of the powerful off-roader will be British driver Oliver Bennett and Italian-Canary driver Christine Giampaoli Zonca. Both rallycross drivers have experience in World Rally Championship (WRC) competition, along with other off-road races around the world. Spanish engineer Juli Mundet Caballero will be the team manager.
The inaugural season of Extreme E will take place in five locations, picked as some of the most remote, varied ecosystems in the world. Things kick off on March 20 with two days in the Saudi Arabian desert. The remaining two-day legs then take place across earthly space and time throughout 2021 — Lac Rose, Senegal (Ocean) in May; Kangerlussuaq, Greenland (Arctic) in August; Para Brazil (Amazon) in October; and Patagonia, Argentina (Glacier) in December.
Beyond racing zero-emissions cars powered by sustainably generated hydrogen, the series will look at the climate change impacts each extreme location is undergoing. Research scientists will accompany the race teams at each stop.
Source: Hispano Suiza