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Chinook Blast gets nitro boost with rallycross races in February

Nitro Rallycross coming to Stampede Park on February 4-5, 2023

A different type of horse power will be coming to Stampede Park in 2023.

The Calgary Stampede will be hosting the inaugural stadium stop for Nitro Rallycross during Chinook Blast, putting more than 1,000 horsepower electric rally cars onto the track that normally hosts the Rangeland Derby Chuckwagon races.

The rallycross stop in Calgary on Feb. 4-5, 2023, will be the penultimate for the Nitro Rallycross circuit.

“I think there’ll be some records broken if you’re going to compare it to chuckwagon racing,” said Calgary Stampede President and Board Chairman Steve Steve McDonough.

“Were all about horsepower out there, and I think it’ll be great.”

The February races will be a departure for the series, which has largely featured drier dirt tracks instead of the snow and ice that Calgary promises to deliver.

“We’ve gone from the forests, we’ve gone from small dirt tracks, and we want every single track to be unique,” said Nitro Rallycross President Brett Clarke.

“It goes without saying—cars that fly, tracks that thrill—everything has to be unique about our series and give a different level of appeal, and the stampede does that.”

The competition, which began in 2021, has seen some of motorsport’s top drivers like Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button, NASCAR champion Chase Elliot, and World Rally Championship champion Kris Meeke compete.

In addition to races, the weekend will host live music, food, and other entertainment options. Fans will also be able to visit the race paddock, which will be set up at the Nutrien Western Event Centre, to take photos, get driver autographs, and see the cars up close.

Tickets for the races go on sale on Nov. 18 at www.nitrorallycross.com.

Next generation of motorsport

Calgarians will get to take in some of the highest horsepower rally racing taking place at high level competition today.

Clarke said that the Group E—which is comprised of the 1,245 kg, 1,070 horsepower electric FC1-X race cars—is a nod to the “killer bees” of Group B racing in the early 1980s. The FC1-X does 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than 1.5 seconds.

That series, which was ended by the FIA at the end of 1986’s season, regularly saw cars with massive horsepower compared to their lightweight bodies.

“For us It’s the next generation of motor sports. It’s the next generation of where the automotive industry is going as well with SUVs and EVs,” he said.

“We think these cars are the best illustration of what EVs can be in the future from a performance point of view, and I actually had the luxury of sitting in a car yesterday and taking a ride, and I can assure you it is one amazing experience.”

The racetrack design is planned to be released by Nitro Rallycross in the upcoming weeks. Clarke said that the snow and ice course would present a challenge to drivers.

“I think what our sport does is that it showcases who the best driver is because they all come from different backgrounds of all the different skill sets and then when you add in ice and snow and and spike tires, it’s another dimension that the drivers have to encounter,” he said.

Construction on the race course will begin on Saturday.

“Our teams will roll in straight from Phoenix and start constructing the track, but we’ve got some exciting additions to the track that I think will blow people’s minds.”

Fraser McConnell, a rallycross driver from Jamaica, holds up his helmet with the iconic lucky egg from Cool Runnings, during the Nitro Rallycross announcement at GMC Stadium on Stampede Park on Tuesday, November 15, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Just as exciting for fans as it is for drivers

Present during Tuesday’s announcement was Jamaica’s top rallycross driver Fraser McConnell, who praised the Nitro Rallycross series and Stampede Park as a venue.

“Being in the same city as the debut for Jamaican Winter Olympics [team] is is really special to me,” McConnell said.

“We’re gonna try recreate history and hopefully you know, we don’t end up on our roof like they did in the in the in the Olympics.”

His helmet was painted with a lucky egg, just like the lucky egg from the movie Cool Runnings.

McConnell said he has seen the increased interest in motorsports worldwide, especially as a result of Netflix’s Drive to Survive Series.

“When people do go to a Nitro Rallycross event they leave completely mind blown. To just see the cars flying that that high in the air, side by side of a gap jumps, there’s nothing like it,” he said.

“So for it to be coming here to Stampede Park is going to show we have a lot of Canadian fans at the end of the end of the weekend.”

He called the FC1-X an “incredible beast to drive on,” and given that all of the drivers use the same car, one that levels the playing field.

“It really does level the playing field, making the drivers dig down into the details, and who can perform best on that day is going to have the best result.”

Premiere event for Chinook Blast

The race is being brought to Calgary through Tourism Calgary, which said that they expect about an $11 million economic benefit to the city as a result.

Bringing rallycross to Calgary has been several years in the making, and something the organization said is unlike anything else on the Calgary event calendar.

“We want Calgary to be genuinely an eventful city that people want to come and visit year round,” said Carson Ackroyd, Senior Vice President of Sales with Tourism Calgary.

“This is a truly unique event on the calendar in terms of racing cars on ice, and we think adding that to our winter festival mix will drive that many more people to come and visit our city during the wintertime, and not just the summertime.”

Last year Chinook Blast drew approximately 400,000 visitors to various events throughout February. Ackroyd said that Tourism Calgary forecast an increase in visits as a result of the addition of the races to the Chinook Blast calendar for 2023.

“There will be a whole new group of people that that are race and high adrenaline sport enthusiasts that are going to want to travel to Calgary to come and see this event,” Ackroyd said.

“They’ll come for the race and they’re gonna stay for all the other fantastic activities that are going on during Chinook Blast.”

The Calgary Stampede did not have firm numbers on the financial benefits to their organization as a result of the upcoming race, but said that the economic impact from park visitors over the two days would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

McDonough said that the goal is for the Stampede to host more events year round like Nitro Rallycross.

“I think we have to remember the last couple of years no one was doing much anything, and Stampede Park has always been looking to activate and get people gathering—now’s the time,” he said.

“I think it’s going to add a real spark to the city and I’m looking forward to it, but we are all about hosting and we’re the natural gathering place for Calgary. Happy to have anyone here anytime.”