Jamaican rallycross ace Fraser McConnel is taking both the American (ARX) and world rally cross championships by storm. He’s proving hyper competitive in a world of Scandinavian talents who were born and raised with a steering wheel in their hand. And while doing so, McConnel proudly waves his nation’s flag as well as the Dirtfish and Motul colours. We caught up with him after his dream event in Høljes, Sweden.
Fraser, you’re Jamaican, not the first country you think of for a strong racing pedigree. How did you get into the world of rallycross?
Yup, I’m Jamaican, born and raised, and I still live there. I first started out racing dirt bikes, but my parents were having none of it. They didn’t like the jumps and the wheelies, and they considered it to be too dangerous, so they made me stop. But I wasn’t going to abandon my passion for speed. I started racing G-karts and became pretty good at it. From there I decided to enter the local rally championship racing a basic Mitsubishi Mirage. I managed to get noticed by the local Subaru importer who had me race an Impreza WRX in group N. And that’s when I got spotted by Dirtfish.
Speaking of Dirtfish, did they give you any training of guidance?
They were pretty convinced of my prowess right off the bat. They called me in to do a test with their RX Lite and I managed to impress them to the point that my next event for them was ARX at Cota (Circuit of the Americas). I’ve only been to their training facilities a handful of times and it never ceases to amaze me. What a place.
You now race in RX2 in both ARX and FIAWorldRX. What’s the biggest difference between racing Europe and the US?
There definitely is a difference. I think the competition in the USA is focused more on sheer pace, just flat-out every lap. While in Europe they are a lot more strategic. European riders will use joke laps to mess with other drivers’ qualifying times, slowing them down and really thinking about the long game, while in ARX it’s more door-to-door action. Both have their charms but you do feel that Rally Cross is really embedded in the Euro rally culture. They love it over there.
Tell us a bit about the machine you’re racing? What is an RX2?
The RX2 car is a spec-car, so all the competitors drive the same type of car. It’s designed in Sweden by Olsberg MSE and built in Turkey. In essence it’s a mid-engine, four-wheel drive car with a tubular space frame chassis and a composite plastic body on top. The engine mounted behind the driver’s seat is a naturally aspirated Ford Duratec 2400cc four-cylinder that puts out around 300 horsepower and 310 nm of torque fed through a 6-speed Sadev sequential gearbox. They’re a hoot to drive, but they’ll punish you if you go sideways. If you lose traction and start to slide you don’t have the torque low down to push, you back into the game. In essence, it’s a big off-road go-kart.
You’ve raced all over the world now, so what’s your favourite place to race?
Høljes, without a doubt. That track is so special. I don’t think it has a single stretch that’s entirely level. Plus, it’s the “Magic Weekend” for rally cross. The entire event is one big party.
And what’s your next move? What are your ambitions?
I’d love to do some stage rally, but my heart is in rally cross, so I need to get a seat in an RX supercar.