BILLY Monger, the double-amputee British racing driver, may aspire to compete in Formula One but he’s also got an eye on competing off-road, too after joining the driver programme for Extreme E.
Monger, 20, is now in the running to race for one of the 12 teams that will race in the inaugural Extreme E championship, which will see electric 4x4s racing in locations affected by man-made climate change with a view to promoting environmental messages. The series is the brainchild of Alejandro Agag, the founder of Formula E electric single seater championship, and scheduled to kick off in February 2021.
Should Monger make it onto the Extreme E grid, it would be another phenomenal accomplishment since his life-changing crash. In 2017, weeks before his 18th birthday, he was nearly killed in an accident at Donington Park while driving in a Formula 4 race. He had both legs amputated in hospital — one below the knee, the other just above.
Extreme E would be a major departure for the Surrey driver, known in racing circles as “Billy Whizz”, who has spent most of his career in regional single-seater series. Instead of a light and agile Formula 3 car of the sort he races in the Euroformula Championship, Monger would have to get to grips with the Odyssey 21: a 536bhp rally raid machine that’s purpose built to go as fast as possible over tough terrain.
Monger said he’s particularly drawn to the series’s potential to highlight environmental issues. Extreme E will visit five locations that have already seen the effects of man-made climate change: the edge of the Sahara, which is seeing increased “desertification” from rising temperatures; Greenland, which as part of the Arctic is facing the disappearance of see ice; the Amazon Rainforest, which is suffering from deforestation; the Himalayas, where mountain glaciers are retreating; and an island in the Indian Ocean, where rising sea levels and plastic pollution are threatening the ecosystem.
“The locations of Extreme E races are far from the public eye, and so they’re not the kind of place that most of us get to see day to day,” said Monger. “Bringing attention to the impacts of human interference on these places to people who might not otherwise see it is an interesting concept — and the fact that people can learn about it while watching racing is really cool too.
“Knowing that the Extreme E legacy program is going to mean we leave the locations in a better place than we’ve found them is a massive draw too; it’s something that I would be really proud to be involved with.”
Monger’s enthusiasm about Extreme E series alone won’t guarantee him a race seat for the first season. At the time of writing, he’s joined by another 24 racing drivers in the series’ drivers’ programme, which includes high-profile figures including three-times Le Mans winner André Lotterer; six-times World Rally champion Sébastien Ogier; two-times DTM German touring car series champion Timo Scheider; sportscar and DTM star Loïc Duval; former Formula E and Formula 1 driver Karun Chandhok; 2014 Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr.; Former F1 and Formula E racer Bruno Senna; and Sacha Prost – ice racer and the youngest son of Formula 1 legend Alain Prost.
British racing drivers are particularly well represented in the provisional line-up. Including Billy Monger, of the 25 personalities who have thrown their hats into the Extreme E ring so far, seven are from the UK. Big names include Jamie Chadwick, Williams F1 team development driver and this year’s W Series champion; Sam Sunderland, the first British competitor to win the Dakar Rally; and Katherine Legge, an experienced racer who has competed in Champ Car, the DTM, IndyCar, Formula E and Nascar.