Kleinschmidt to replace Hurtgen for full XE season at Abt

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Kleinschmidt, who in 2001 became the first and to date the only female driver to win the Dakar Rally, will team up with two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom for the remaining three rounds.

The 58-year-old German, who is making his return to the professional front row for the first time since 2016 after a myriad of amateur rally outings, replaced Hurtgen last time in Senegal.

She impressed enormously in qualifying, teaming up with Ekström to set the second and third fastest times over the two sessions to advance to the first semi-final.

But the duo failed to reach the final after a change of driver following a communication error that caused the car to fall from first to last in the heat after Kleinschmidt could not see when to join it. .

Kleinschmidt said: “I’m really looking forward to this new challenge, the preparation with the ABT team and of course working with Mattias.

“At first I watched the series from the organizers’ point of view, then I had spontaneous driving and now with Mattias I’m actually a permanent member of the driving family. I am very happy to have the chance to compete again at the highest level.

Kleinschmidt was called up on the Friday evening of the Senegalese event to replace Hurtgen after Helmut Marko’s former protégé was dismissed from severe food poisoning caused by shrimp.

Autosport understands that she was then flown back to Germany and had to stay in hospital for a week after contracting a viral or bacterial infection.

This followed his dramatic outing at the inaugural event in Saudi Arabia when Hurtgen was involved in two massive shunts that damaged the car’s terminal chassis.

Claudia Hurtgen, Mattias Ekström, ABT CUPRA XE

Photo By: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Hurtgen said: “This time commitment is unfortunately not compatible at the moment with my professional work at BMW, for which I live with the same passion.

“I am very grateful for the experiences I have had within the Extreme E family and I wish ABT, Cupra and Jutta the best for the next races.”

Ekstrom, who insisted on telling team members to eat only rice and bread in Senegal, added: “Accidents in Saudi Arabia, spontaneous driver change in Senegal – now is the time for us to have a have a nice week end.

“We are going to thoroughly review the season so far, prepare more intensely than ever and try to make a fresh start in Greenland.”

“Having [Kleinschmidt] in the team is also something special for me. I look forward to the collaboration and its cumulative experience, which will serve us well in Extreme E. ”

The season continues with an event in Greenland on August 28-29, when Kleinschmidt celebrates his birthday, but two more race locations have yet to be confirmed.

This follows the double cancellation of the heats in Brazil and the season finale in Argentina due to the COVID-19 situation in South America which forced Extreme E to abandon its course reconnaissance.


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