By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Extreme E, an off-road series launching in 2021 to shine a spotlight on environmental damage and showcase electric SUVs with races in some of the world's more remote locations, mapped out its first season on Tuesday.
The five-round series will debut on the shores of Senegal's Lac Rose in January before travelling to the deserts of Saudi Arabia, Nepal's high-altitude Kali-Gandaki valley and the retreating glaciers of Kangerlussuaq in Greenland.
The series concludes in the Brazilian Amazon, on land deforested by slash-and-burn agriculture.
The locations have been chosen to bring attention to climate threats such as deforestation, rising sea levels, desertification, and plastic pollution.
"We have all the calendar and all the venues now. That's the first big step," series founder Alejandro Agag, who also established the city-based Formula E electric championship, told Reuters.
"When you create a new championship, first of all people think will it happen or not? And the first big step to say it's happening is where and when."
Extreme E will use the 7,000 tonne former mail ship 'St Helena', previously used as a link to remote South Atlantic islands, as a floating paddock and transporter between locations.
For the Nepal leg, the ship will dock in Calcutta. Drivers, who are yet to be finalised but likely to include some familiar names, will fly in.
Agag said any locals were welcome to attend but no tickets would be sold, with the races staged on a 10km layout and broadcast live over three days, and no event infrastructure created.
"What has been really gratifying is how enthusiastic the local population is about any event coming to their land because those places are basically almost forgotten by everyone," he said.
"We go to places where its already damaged, so there is no risk of these SUVs damaging the place. But there is a chance to rebuild it and that’s what we’re going to do."
Agag said organisers planned to use "a massive amount of drones" for live filming, with further documentaries to follow post-season. Fox Sports has already signed a multi-year deal.
Formula E, which has Liberty Global and Discovery Communications as major shareholders, has a partnership with the Drone Racing League.
"The broadcasting is going to be completely state-of-the-art, completely new, very digital and immersive with augmented reality elements to create a TV experience like has never been seen before," promised Agag.
Four private teams have signed up already with another four to be announced early next year and two more slots likely to be filled after that.
Agag was not expecting any immediate manufacturer involvement.
"We have many different conversations, some of them with OEMs (manufacturers). But OEMs are more slow to react and sometimes they come in season two when they see how the championship is working. That's not a problem," he said.
Plans to change venues from season to season had been abandoned.
"We cannot really leave a lasting legacy if we are only there one year in each location," said Agag.
"We will see how the logistics of the boat goes and how much spare cushion of time we have between races to see if we can introduce a sixth event. But we are going to stay in those places.
"What we are going to focus on is to make the legacy grow and grow."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)