When it comes to rallycross drivers, Scandinavia is the Mecca. Every single World Champion in the discipline has hailed from the region, while all but four top-level European crowns have been taken by Scandinavians in the last 30 years.
Yet one Jamaican driver is making waves in the rallycross world – he’s already hugely popular, and has a championship crown to his name a mere two years into his rallycross foray.
Fraser McConnell began his career as a rally driver, but transitioned to rallycross in recent years. After impressing in his maiden season in the Americas Rallycross feeder series ARX2 in 2018, he took the title last year, while dovetailing that with a campaign in the European-based RX2 series that brought two podiums.
Last weekend at RallyX Nordic’s ‘All-Star’ Magic Weekend the youngster moved up to the Supercar class for the first time with Olsbergs MSE. His outing at the double-header in Höljes – where McConnell will return to next month for the RX2 season-opener – was preceded by a two-day test, but still came without any expectation or championship ambitions.
That gave him the perfect opportunity to compare himself alongside some of the world’s best. Despite being a rookie in the top level McConnell gave it as good as he got, racing side-by side with the likes of double World Champion Johan Kristoffersson, World RX race winner Niclas Grönholm, and reigning Nordic and European champion Robin Larsson.
“It was really great. I went into the weekend with no expectations for myself,” he told DirtFish. “There was no championship involved, so it was just minimum stress for me on my party of things and I was just going out there to learn as much as I could as quickly as I could and compare myself to the best in the world.
“The battles were really great, unlike the Lites car if you see a gap you can take full advantage of it and go flat out and it will work. It’s so great to go alongside another 600 horsepower car and drag them out to the next corner and see who is going to brake first.
“Being on that grid in the semi-final on Thursday, I think it was Kristoffersson and Grönholm in front of me and I was thinking to myself ‘you can’t get much better than this!’ These are the best guys in the world and it was kind of surreal in that moment looking at the guys in front and right before the light I was like ‘okay, now I need to try and beat them. I’ve made it to the grid, now I need to try and beat them’.
The Supercar cameo, capped off with a final appearance in the wet on Sunday, will remain only a cameo for now, with McConnell fully focused on his upcoming Lites campaign in RX2. But he does think that the weekend racing the much more powerful Supercar will prove to be beneficial upon his return to the development category.
“If you can drive the Lites car fast you can get up to a decent good pace in the Supercar,” McConnell explained. “But the Supercar requires that much more commitment, especially in a place like Höljes, going down the hill in sixth gear on the rev limiter at 170 kilometers an hour, so much different to the Lites car in that way.
“For sure I think I’ll definitely be more comfortable in high-speed corners now with the Lites, but it’s going to be a lot of readjusting to the speed that the Lites can handle as well – less corner speed, and the Lites car is very unforgiving so if you make a mistake it’s going to show quite drastically, unlike the Supercar, if you make a mistake you can kind of pull yourself out of it will all the power.
“I’m excited to get back in any race car, whatever it may be, and I think the Supercar can’t do anything but help me in terms of my Lites driving.”
“I still have a lot to learn, especially in the different conditions that somewhere like Höljes can throw at you, the rain an example. I just need more seat time.
“For sure [it] will help me a lot, but I think I’ve got off on the right foot. A lot to catch up to these frontrunner guys, they’re really talented and know what they’re doing with the car, and slowly but surely I’ll be on their level soon.”
Olsbergs boss Andreas Eriksson meanwhile was full of praise for McConnell, who not only adapted well, but coped with conditions he hadn’t faced before either.
“Driving a Supercar at 80-90% is hard enough but driving one at 100% like the other guys like Kristoffersson is really hard. He did really well, did everything he was supposed to do,” Eriksson told DirtFish.
“He had some bad luck but that’s rallycross. Sunday was his first time ever in the rain at Höljes, and it was in a Supercar. It was ridiculously slippery and muddy so he did a good job.
“All these guys, like Johan and Larsson, they all have a lot of Supercar experience and they’ve all raced at Höljes. And with Niclas in there as well, it was a world championship level, so if you take that into consideration he coped really well. It was good experience for him in front of World RX people and that’s what he needs to do now.”
With his Supercar debut in the bag, McConnell’s attention now turns back to Lites, and after finishing fourth in the 2019 RX2 season with a brace of second place finishes, McConnell is going all-out for glory this year.
“I will be going for the championship. The guys are really, really fast this year, the fastest ones being some of my team-mates, so it’s going to be some really good battles and respected racing between all of us.”
“That will be my full 100% focus, to try and get that championship.”