Andretti's Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen: "there’s really no limit to where we could go."
In this second part of my interview with the Andretti United Extreme E team, I asked Catie and Timmy about their hopes on the future of Extreme E, and the potential changes it could spark in the racing world.
What originally drew you guys to driving with the series?
T I think for me, it was something different, something very unique. It’s still racing that we love but doing it for more than yourself in a bigger picture so I really like seeing that message we do here. And now Extreme E has turned into a fantastic sport in itself, the racing and tracks are incredible and you can’t see it now but it feels like we're on Mars in the paddock here.
C Like Timmy said, it’s the challenge of doing something completely new, but also the fact that it’s electric. Most of us were racing combustion before moving to Extreme E, and I think this has been something everyone knew would change in motorsport in some way. Nobody really knew how it would become more sustainable, but obviously electric is one of the options so it was really cool to be part of the start in the beginning of that.
When I was first speaking to the championship and it was still just a concept, I didn’t believe that it was even possible. Logistically, you’ve got a massive boat transporting cars around the world, we race in the most remote places in the world, and we’re on Zoom from the middle of the desert in Chile now! So it’s cool to think what’s come about in just a few years, and it’s really exciting to think where the championship will go in the future as well.
Nobody really knew how it would become more sustainable, so it was really cool to be part of the start in the beginning of that.
Seeing the mixed gender teams, do you think this will potentially catch on in or inspire other series?
T I think it has already - usually this is a question for Catie, but I wanna talk haha - in World Rallycross, there’s a female racing full-time now, Klara Andersson, and she’s just got a podium this Sunday in Portugal. She’s the first woman to get a podium in a World RX race and I think it’s more normal to see girls racing everywhere now than it was twenty years ago. Extreme E has given this platform that has to be gender-equal teams, but it’s way more common and accepted to see women racing at high-levels now and I think it’s spreading.
C Yeah definitely, just giving girls the opportunity as well. I think that’s one thing where if you’re not in motorsport you don’t really know that much about. Training and practice is so different to any other sport, it costs thousands every time you sit behind the wheel because it’s an expensive sport. They are opportunities here like rookie tests to get girls sitting behind the wheel to get more exposure and seat time, and to meet the teams as well. That’s really important for the next generation of girls, but as Timmy said, it’s becoming a lot more normal.
There are championships asking me what the best way I can think of to get girls in because they can see what Extreme E has done. Obviously they don’t want to just copy the format, but I think it’s not enough just to create a ladies class because here, we’ve proven we can race with and against the men. It’s more about providing real opportunities for females to drive in those championships.
Catie, you’ve worked with Girls on Track in the past, how important is it for young girls to see a mixed-gender series?
C I think it’s massively important for young girls to have a role model to look up to, there wasn’t necessarily anything like that when I started in motorsport, I never though I’d have a career in motorsport when I was just having fun on my family farm driving cars around at the weekend. It wasn’t something I thought I was training for a career in. I know it was different for Timmy because he came from a family in motorsport that has really successful careers so it was a possibility. To have more women on mainstream TV, where young girls switch the TV on and it’s on BBC and ITV in the UK. It’s like when we did Girls on Track in schools, we’d ask at the beginning of the event, ‘how many of you want to be a Formula 1 driver?’ Some of them would say, ‘I didn’t think you were allowed to be because there’s no girls,’ and they’d completely shut it off and that’s sad. You obviously you want to let a child do anything they want to do and tell them that anything is possible, so we need more exposure for the next generation and then we’ll see more women beating the men haha.
you want to let a child do anything they want to do, so we need more exposure for the next generation
And what do you think the future of Extreme E could look like, how do you want to see it evolve?
T I think this championship has the least boundaries of out anything else. They just announced that we are going to have a series with hydrogen-fuelled race cars, not just electric. That’s just on the technology side, but the race tracks, the messages we can send, there’s really no limit to where we could go. It would be cool to race in snow or ice, but maybe that’s just me being Swedish haha. But we have already covered a lot of places on the planet and it’s so different to see, like this is the first time we’ve been here. The messages we can send about different environmental issues is also interesting, I don’t know where the limit is.
The last race of the season is in Punta Del Esta, Uruguay, on the 26-27th of November. Thank you again to the Andretti team for organising the interview, and best of luck in the Energy XPrix!