Woah, Extreme E is really starting to bag some momentum and big names. It’s just been announced that another Formula 1 champion has jumped on the EV rally-raid bandwagon, following in the footsteps of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
Yep, non other than 2009 champion Jenson Button has decided to put his chips on the table and set up his own JBXE Racing team for the inaugural season of the climate-conscious electric rally series that kicks off in Saudi Arabia in April. But better than that, he’s also driving.
“I caught the off-road bug a few years back, which led to me entering my own team in a few races including the Mint 400 and even the Baja 1000, and I absolutely loved it,” Button said.
“It was around the same time I first heard about the plans for Extreme E, which I’ve followed with great interest, and what Alejandro [Agag, the brains behind the series], Ali [Russell, chief marketing officer], and the team have managed to create is nothing short of incredible.”
JBXE Racing knocks the tally of teams for Extreme E up to a grid of 10 for its first season. But if you’re wondering what the hell Extreme E is, don’t worry—it’s become the new motorsport craze to be a part of quite quickly. So, here’s a little refresher.
Extreme E is basically what happens when you put the largely underwhelming world of Formula E in a blender with the rather excellent and exciting world of Dakar-style rally-raid racing. Agag was also the founder and former CEO of Formula E, so he’s got some skin in the game of ‘sustainable’ racing. If that can ever truly be a thing.
But this environmental angle has helped draw in a star-studded crowd, with Button being the latest. And he’s no stranger to setting up race teams, having founded Button Team Rocket RJN last year to run a McLaren 720S GT3 in the British GT Championship. And as the rendered livery suggests, it looks like he’s carrying over the white and fluorescent yellow paint scheme—an obvious homage to his 2009 title-winning Brawn GP car.
That paintwork will be slapped on the body of a fully-electric bi-motor Odyssey race buggy with 550hp and 917Nm. With a battery from Williams Advanced Engineering, the 1,650kg racer is capable of zero to 100kph in 4.5sec and a 200kph top end.
It’ll compete in short-course, round-robin, rally-style events in some of the most extreme and ecologically sensitive environments in the world: a glacier in Nepal for snow, the Saudi desert for sand, Brazil’s Amazon for rainforests, the Arctic in Greenland, Lac Rose in Senegal—the venue they call “ocean” since it wends its way through the sandbars and Atlantic coastal regions.
How will they get there? Well, the cars will be transported around the world in a converted Royal Mail cargo vessel called the St Helena, a massive ship that is to be transformed into a floating paddock/pits and scientific research vessel.
Button selecting himself as the driver means he’s taking on some punchy names, including the most successful driver in WRC history, Sebastien Loeb, who’ll be driving for Lewis Hamilton’s Extreme E team next season. That’s set to be quite juicy. However, JB’s female teammate (part of the rules of Extreme E) has yet to be announced. He’ll also be mighty busy, given he has just joined the Williams F1 team as a senior adviser. We hope he’s good at scheduling.
Given its nature and being a completely new racing discipline and championship, Extreme E naturally faces a lot of questions. All of them we want to bring you the answers to, so we can’t wait to see how it all plays out in April when the first wheels start turning in sandy Saudi Arabia. Until then, let us know your thoughts on Extreme E and JB’s arrival into the sport in the comments below.
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.