From hunter to the hunted: McConnell’s Nitrocross rise

Fraser McConnell is loving life in Nitrocross, and is ready to fight hard for the title


The pause is long. Possibly a touch too long. It’s punctuated by a stifled giggle. Fraser McConnell doesn’t know.

The question was about the take-off speed for a gap jump in Salt Lake City.

“Honestly,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know. I just don’t. None of us will know until Travis tells us.”

Travis is, of course, Travis Pastrana – the man whose dream led us to Utah for this weekend’s second round of the 2023/24 Nitrocross series.

“Travis will hit that gap on his two-stroke motorbike and then we’ll all know it’s good. Before that, I’m as scared as anybody about that thing!

“Two years ago we came to this [Utah Motorsports Campus] track and we raced banked turns for the first time. There we all were taking the low line and out of nowhere Travis just sends it right around the top, smoking us all. It was a hell of a ride.”

McConnell’s passion for Nitrocross is obvious – and it’s not just because he leads the championship standings after a round one win in Oklahoma.

“Nitrocross is something special,” the 24-year-old told DirtFish. “It’s kind of the rebirth of the sport. The [Group E] cars are awesome with 800 horsepower. They feel kind of big when you’re sitting in them, but actually they’re really nimble and their capacity to fly and land is unreal. We have the cars, the tracks and we’re really engaging the fans with some incredible action.

“We all knew this thing could work with Travis, but having Dana [White, UFC president and part of a consortium which took over Nitrocross last year] and the team involved has really given the series an extra push.

“With Travis, you always know he’s going to pull something different and something cool out of the bag. It’s the same here, with Tarmac approaches to the gap jump and things like that. How will that affect things… I just don’t know.

“You stand and look at these things and you wonder how’s it going to be? I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t a bit scary. But then you land the jump and it’s all good. The feeling of exhilaration in these cars and on these tracks is incredible.”

And this weekend will be one of the best as the cars fight for the airspace over Salt Lake City.

“The fact that the cars are all the same is so important,” said McConnell. “You know the car next to you is the same as yours. We’re all equal.”


Some are, of course, more equal than others and Fraser’s opening round win means things have changed for him.

“I guess it does change things a little in terms of going from being the hunter to the hunted,” he said. “But it also changes nothing. My preparation is exactly the same, like it’s always been. Leading the championship doesn’t change my approach at all: race-by-race and round-by-round.

“I want to win this championship and I know to do that I have to stick to what I’m doing and stay mistake-free. I’m hungrier than anybody for this title and if anybody wants it they’re going to have to be prepared to fight for it.”

In a field packed with motorsport icons like Pastrana, Kris Meeke and RX experts like Robin Larsson and Andreas Bakkerud, the battle’s never going to be a bother.

I wouldn’t be where I am today with the DirtFish family Fraser McConnell

Having already defeated Mr Rallycross himself Johan Kristoffersson, nothing and nobody scares McConnell. Now in his sixth season of competition, the Jamaican is flying right now.

Leading Nitrocross and taking Sébastien Loeb’s seat in Lewis Hamilton’s Extreme E team has put him very firmly on the map. The spotlight doesn’t faze him in the slightest – not least because he has a similarly quick countryman who can offer a tip or two about being in the public eye.

The world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt has championed McConnell’s rise and still keeps in touch.

“I’d love to get him in the car,” he said, “but he’s such a busy guy. I still keep in touch with him – I could tell you what he said, but you’d have to beep a lot of it out!”

McConnell’s not short of believers – DirtFish has been there from the beginning.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today with the DirtFish family,” he said. “Going back to the beginning, I was at a race as a spectator in Canada years ago. I was watching and, I don’t want to sound cocky here, but I said: ‘I could beat those guys.’

“I got a test and broke the track record. After that I was trying to get in touch with people, with teams and it was Steve [Rimmer, DirtFish owner] who helped me out. The whole family are amazing. They were all so open, so welcoming and that’s how it’s remained.

“I raced alongside James [Rimmer] and loved that and now to see Josie [Rimmer] competing and being so involved in the business, it’s fantastic.

“From the start of my time racing, DirtFish has always been with me. Look at the car this weekend, DirtFish will be there. It always will be.”

Round two action starts from Utah Motorsports Campus at 4.45pm MDT on Friday and concludes with the Group E final at 9.00pm MDT on Saturday.

Full broadcast information can be found here.

Words:David Evans