DirtFish driver returns to the top

Our own Fraser McConnell crosses swords with Extreme E's finest


The celebration was trademark Fraser McConnell – leaning back and pointing to the sky in the same manner fellow Jamaican Usain Bolt always used to.

But for a driver who’s become a regular visitor to the winner’s circle, there was a little more emotion behind it. You sensed this one meant a little more than others.

Why? After all winning in Extreme E was nothing new for McConnell and his X44 champion team-mate Cristina Gutiérrez. They’d done so back in May when the championship visited Scotland for the first time.

But after three incredibly difficult events where they failed to make the final, let alone the podium or indeed the top step, Sunday’s victory in Sardinia was a much-needed moment of redemption.

A reminder of what winning felt like.

“From the last win in Scotland it’s been a really rough patch of races with a lot of stuff out of our control, not making the final a number of times and it was very frustrating,” McConnell tells DirtFish.

DirtFish McConell pic

“We’ve shown the pace right through, been leading races and things have taken us out of contention. The way this format is set up it’s so difficult to make the final, if you have any mistakes or penalties all of that work is gone. There’s no real time in the race to make up for it so you have to stay 100% committed to driving fast and making no mistakes.”

“There’s a lot of pieces of the recipe that need to come together to get a win, so I really, really enjoyed this one. Like everyone saw how emotional it was for me and the entire team to get back on track because we know we can do it and we’ve been pushing 100% the entire time.

“To repay the team with a top-step trophy is priceless.”

As was McConnell’s epic around-the-outside move at the start, sweeping past Sébastien Loeb no less!

“If someone’s on my inside I’m going to do as I can to get in front of them. You can’t go through them, so around them is better!” McConnell smiles.

Extreme E 2023: Island X-Prix

That spectacular move earned the Jamaican a lead he would stretch until the mandatory switch zone where Gutiérrez took the wheel and confirmed the pair’s victory.

Before XE, winning as a team of drivers is something only endurance racers could really experience. It’s a very different sensation to McConnell’s other program in Nitrocross, but he enjoys it.

“I guess that’s what makes it so special – everyone is celebrating such a big win because it’s not just one driver,” he says.

“Everyone has done their part to win. The mechanics are involved with the switch which is such a crucial part of the race, so it’s not like a normal race where mechanics send you out and say ‘see you in parc fermé’ – they’re such a crucial element to making sure you get a fast switch time.

“It’s a really big involvement from everyone which I find super special and unique.”

Lining up on the starting line Séb Loeb was to my right, to his right was Johan Kristoffersson. It’s just such a sick feeling

But McConnell himself is also super special. He has been touted as tomorrow’s superstar for some time now – the up-and-coming guy who’s destined for greatness.

Now his time has come. In rallycross and now Extreme E, McConnell has proved he belongs at the very top table of motorsport – even if he still gets a bit starstruck by those around him!

“I’m still inexperienced,” he explains. “Lining up on the starting line Séb Loeb was to my right, to his right was Johan Kristoffersson. It’s just such a sick feeling.”

“It’s so funny that it’s a DirtFish interview when my first time ever visiting DirtFish I was just in awe of the Sébastien Loeb suit that was hung up on the wall and was thinking ‘oh my god one day I want to hang up my suit at DirtFish’.

Cristina Gutierrez (ESP) / Fraser McConnell (JAM), X44 Vida Carbon Racing

“So it was really cool shaking hands and [getting] congratulations from everyone, it was super special. I know in myself I have what it takes to beat these best guys in the world, and to do it now for the second time really shows that we’re on the right track.”

McConnell faces a bit of a break before his next competition – rounds four and five of Nitrocross at Phoenix.

“I’ve never had a good result at Phoenix, it’s always been some sort of mechanical failure or contact that’s taken me out of contention but we’ve always been fast there,” he reflects.

“It’s a super demanding track with huge jumps, really high speed corners so I’m really looking forward to carrying this momentum.

“It’s a different genre and different series but the momentum is definitely there when you’re coming off of a race win.”

Job done on the track, interview now done on his way to airport, McConnell has one final message he wants to share.

“Big up DirtFish, they’ve been with me since the start of my international racing career so they’re definitely a big part of my story.

“Hopefully they can stay onboard for as long as I’m doing it. It’s like a family at DirtFish and I need to come up and give them a visit soon.”

Words:Luke Barry