“This is just the beginning” - McConnell
Fraser McConnell wasted no time in staking his claim for the 2023-24 Nitrocross title with a statement win in the season opener in Oklahoma.
McConnell took an early lead after nailing his getaway from the tarmac starting grid, but had to resist a turn one challenge from team-mate and reigning champion Robin Larsson, and then intense pressure from World Rally veteran Kris Meeke. The competition was just part of the challenge for McConnell though, with the weather and subsequent track conditions adding another layer of intrigue throughout the event.
“It is a super-strong field and I’m more than grateful to take away a win, but this track, when I did the track walk I knew it was going to be an instinctive track with the changing conditions,” McConnell told NitrocrossRacing.com. “Especially in the final with eight cars – that’s 8000 horsepower going around each corner until I see it again, so it’s completely different by the time you come so really trying to read the grip.”
“I’m not the most experienced with that when it comes to knowing the surface, like people like Travis [Pastrana] and Kris Meeke,” he added. “Those guys have been doing this forever so to be able to beat them on such a demanding and challenging track is a real special one for me.”
While McConnell controlled the final from the front after a strong build-up earlier in the weekend, he pointed out that the new format – which does away with the sudden death battle brackets of old – provides drivers a chance of redemption if they don’t perform as well earlier in the weekend.
“This time it came to fruition,” he said. “Whenever something is new it takes a while for people to adapt, but for sure this racing format allows you to redeem yourself. If you have a bad race or have a bad start, you can come back and make up for it.”
“But this one I wanted to stay on top from the start, so it was just grinding it out, hitting my marks, and taking one race at a time, and I was able to do that right through to the end of the final so I’m very happy.”
While McConnell is looking to build on the momentum of his round one win and secure a first Nitrocross title, the hard work began way before the trip to Oklahoma wth a change in mental approach over the off-season.
“I’ve been working hard, whenever I’ve wanted an off day, gym or training, I’ve told myself that I’m coming to Nitro this year to try and win so when I feel like I want another off day, I’m going to remember today for sure,” he said.
“There’s no letting off, nine more to go. Racing against the best guys in the world – and I consider myself to be up there as well but I don’t want to sound cocky when I say that, but I know I have what it takes to win. I know that I have wanted this my whole life.
“To come out here, have Dana White involved, really promoting this all to make other people see how the sport really is, I couldn’t be happier, and representing the best country in the world while doing it at the same time – big up Yaad, big up everybody that’s been tuning in. This is just the beginning.”