‘I’d describe it as Star Wars pod racing in some of the most beautiful locations in the world with future technologies driven by men and women.”

It is quite a sell by Ali Russell, and one that makes it difficult not to be intrigued.

Russell is the chief marketing officer of Extreme E, one of the newest, fastest-growing, and innovative ventures in motorsport.

With Extreme E having only staged its inaugural race two years ago, it is unsurprising its profile remains considerably lower than the phenomenon that is Formula 1. However, with increasing awareness globally about environmental issues and the negative impact cars can have on the planet, it would seem that Extreme E is where the future of motorsport lies.

Sanctioned by the sport’s governing body, the FIA, Extreme E sees electric SUV vehicles race in some of the world’s most striking destinations, with race locations chosen specifically for their ability to raise awareness about climate change.

That some of the biggest names in motorsport own teams is further confirmation of the expectation of its big future; Formula 1 superstars, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button are all team owners, with the sport growing significantly year on year to the point now where tens of millions in nearly 200 countries are tuning in to watch.

And for Russell, the most prominent Scot in the set-up, this fast-developing sport has exactly the right priorities.

“What we’re trying to do is focus on electrification and not look as much at aerodynamics or making the car lighter,” he says. “We’re looking at future technologies like hydrogen that can help to accelerate the transition to clean mobility.

“And what I love is we don’t rely on selling t-shirts and tickets and hotdogs, it’s about creating the best possible media so it’s great to watch.”

Deserts, glaciers, mountains and rainforests in countries such as Chile, Saudi Arabia, Senegal and Uruguay have been some of the race locations and this weekend will see yet another destination added to the list – Scotland.

Over two days of racing, the old coal mine at Glenmuckloch in Dumfries and Galloway will host the second leg of the 2023 season and for Edinburgh native Russell in particular, bringing this venture to his home country is an exciting milestone in his time at Extreme E.

“I’m immensely proud of being Scottish and having a race in Scotland but it’s my team who deserve the credit for finding this incredible location with such an amazing story,” he says.

“It’s a beautiful part of Dumfries and Galloway that’s been scarred by open cast coal-mining and so now, they’re looking at renewables and the green revolution that’s going on, which is where we fit in. It’s going to be an incredible weekend.”

Russell’s route to the upper echelons of Extreme E has been unusual. His early career saw him have spells at both Edinburgh Rugby and the SRU before moving into football, with time spent at Hearts, QPR and then, briefly at Rangers, as COO under the tenure of Craig Whyte.

However, it was his time at QPR, which was then owned by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, which opened the door to motorsport, with the electric disciplines being viewed by many as the most viable direction for the sport to pursue.

Formula 1 has received considerable criticism about its significant carbon footprint and while it is working on reducing this, Extreme E is light years ahead in that respect. As well as racing in electric cars, teams travel to the race locations by sea, on the ex-Royal Mail cargo ship, the RMS St Helena, which has been modified to act as a “floating paddock”.

Russell is reluctant to suggest the clock is ticking for F1 but it is hard to imagine the future success of motorsport will continue to rely on something which is far from environmentally friendly.

“Each of the motorsport disciplines have their role to play – F1 is amazing and the technologies that have come from that are really inspiring and we all benefit from that,” Russell says. “What we’re trying to do is take the same philosophy so we don’t make compromises with electric vehicles; that we can make electric cars that are similar, if not better than the combustion engine equivalent.

“Ultimately, F1 has been incredible in creating an excitement around motorsport and so I’m hoping we can feed off those fans and give them a slightly different proposition.”

Another notable aspect of Extreme E is the focus on gender equality. Each team have both a male and a female driver, who split the driving time in each race, which lasts less than 10 minutes and consists of between two and four laps of each circuit.

It is a radical idea in a sport which has, at the highest level, struggled to find room for female drivers, but Russell believes it is a vital component of this fledgling sport.

“The gender equality thing is really in keeping with what we’re doing. Motorsport has traditionally been male-dominated so that leads you to asking how you can get more females involved in motorsport. And one of the ways is to have more role models and more heroes. There’s a reason there’s no females driving in things like F1 and that’s because not enough females are inspired to go out there and get involved in motorsport in the first place.

“I may be biased but it makes the product so much better to have both men and women at the top.”

This weekend’s race may not have the superstar names of F1 on show but there is, nevertheless, no shortage of talent on display, with Russell’s personal favourites not necessarily the most recognisable names to those outwith motorsport.

“The most popular teams are usually the teams with links to F1 but I actually think Veloce, who are an esports team who have moved into motorsport, have a really nice story and are a great team with some great drivers.

“But one name I’d suggest to watch is Catie Munnings. She’s British, she appeals to younger kids because she makes children’s programmes, she’s a very capable driver and she’s a great person. I think we should be very proud of having a young driver who’s on the way up like her.”