The history books will show round three of the 2022 Nitro Rallycross season at ERX Motor Park in Minnesota as being Fraser McConnell’s best yet in the series’ top category after a semifinal victory and a maiden podium.
But just one day earlier the story was very different. He’d flipped spectacularly out of timed practice, his FC1-X coming to rest in a pond after catching an unsighted rut on the track.
“It really surprised me, because I’d done so many laps already, I wasn’t expecting it,” he told DirtFish. “And it’s not like we cut the corner – normally if we cut the corner, you know you’ve taken a risk.
Footage from this morning’s crash…
We’re happy to report @AndreasBakkerud and @FrazzzMcConnell have been examined and are medically cleared to race 🙏. We will keep you updated on the availability of their cars for this weekend. pic.twitter.com/jBXw8O6mtk
— Nitro Rallycross (@NitroRallycross) October 1, 2022
“It wasn’t like that in this case, it was the same line we’d been taking and there was just a hole that we didn’t see and didn’t know about. It was unfortunate.”
The incident wasn’t isolated either, with Dreyer & Reinbold JC stablemates Andreas Bakkerud and Robin Larsson both being caught out in the same spot too.
Luckily though, all emerged relatively unscathed: Larsson, after being pitched onto two wheels, kept going; while after a brief trip to a local hospital for routine checks, Bakkerud and McConnell got given the all-clear.
“It was more of a shock than anything,” McConnell said. “Thankfully they’ve built the car really well and other than a bit of soreness in my neck and my back, it’s really nothing.”
The car – or cars – were less fortunate, with DRR JC having to undertake a mammoth on-site repair job to piece together two cars in Frankenstein fashion for McConnell and Bakkerud to race the next day.
“They were knackered the day after. I stayed at the track until 11:30 then needed to go back and get some rest for the next day, but when I came down from my hotel room, they were just walking in to get a shower and leave and that was at like at 7:30,” McConnell recalled.
“There’s a lot of heart and passion in the team, from both drivers and mechanics and engineers, it’s a great atmosphere in the team.”
DRR’s resolve in such situations is nothing new. At the very same track in 2021, Cabot Bigham also endured a car-killing crash, but the team was able to completely rebuild his Audi S1 in time for the next round – “They have a good track history with it,” McConnell noted.
“I’m sure the DRR guys and JC are going to put their heads together and make sure it’s the same chassis, but we never know,” he added, suggesting that his original car could return. “It did take a really big beating.
“It looks really bad because it is bad, but we’ll see. I have all the faith in the world that they’ll fix it.”
Sunday was a new day though, and while a lot was made of Saturday’s events – naturally, it was the biggest crash the FC1-X had seen so far – McConnell wasn’t going to let it define his weekend.
“It was a really good step to even get back in the car and be close to the times,” he admitted. “In our first warm-up we were back to the top of the table with lap times and that took a lot, a lot more which was hard to see from the outside because it’s an internal battle at that point.
“But just trusting my skills and trusting my ability, what I know from the track and the car. I didn’t change much going over that corner to be honest with you.
“We were laughing about it in the tent because we were watching the onboards from the first time back out and Andreas was like ‘man you’re crazy, how’re you doing this? You’re going the same exact line, same speed, same everything, how do you do that?’”
“As a race car driver you always accept the risks of competing at that level and I’m not willing to let a crash affect performance.”
After finishing second in his opening heat, McConnell took a comprehensive win in his semifinal, leading from lights to flag to lock in a Final berth. There, he quickly elevated himself to third in turn two, sneaking up the inside as the rest of the pack all fought over real estate.
Those of us on the outside looking in saw a wrecked car and then a colossal uphill task. McConnell did not.
“It’s the first podium in the main class, which has been a long time coming,” he said. “It did feel like my weekend, before the crash I had total confidence that I was going to win, and when I got back in the car on Sunday, the win still wasn’t impossible in my head but I thought this is going to be a tough one to pull out the bag.
“There’s no time to waste in this championship and the last thing I would’ve wanted was to let the accident affect performance. I would’ve had to be physically injured, knock on wood I wasn’t, to not get back in the car and do as best I can.”
As for the team, with Larsson one spot ahead in second, it capped off a roller coaster weekend in the best possible way.
“It’s something the guys will remember for the rest of their lives – from two totaled cars to two on the podium,” McConnell added.
Attention now turns to Glen Helen in Southern California, a track not too dissimilar to ERX, and one that McConnell likes, despite mixed memories from a year ago.
“I remember leading the heat race [last year] when I had a driveshaft failure,” he said. “I’m a big fan of Glen Helen and I’m really really looking forward to going back.
“It’s a similar track with a kind of motocross-style track and those kinds of tracks suit my driving style really well, I’m looking for good results there.”