One of the little-known facts about Calgary’s mayor is that she’s a big motorsport fan.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek got a chance to fulfill that fandom, and to promote one of the city’s premiere events during Chinook Blast on Friday, with a ride along in a Nitro Rally Cross (RX) rally car.
“It’s kind of like a roller coaster. It’s sort of like if you’ve ever been on the lake to go ice fishing, and you’re out there sliding around, but the amount of control these vehicles have absolutely incredible,” she said.
Nitro Rally Cross, which is taking place at the Stampede’s GMC Stadium this weekend, is part of a broader strategy by the city to attract major events to Calgary.
The rally series was three years in the making coming to Calgary, as a result of work done by Tourism Calgary and the Calgary Stampede.
Nitro RX is the creation of multi-sport athlete and stunt performer Travis Pastrana, who was also the founder of Nitro Circus, which came to Calgary in 2017.
During the day’s ride-alongs, the mayor wore her Nitro Circus hat from that event, fondly speaking of it.
“I went to Nitro Circus in 2017, took my kid and a friend, and it was unbelievable. There was a little Barbie car and all kinds of antics,” she said.
“I dug up my hat from Nitro Circus and brought it out today, and this is just it’s so much fun. This is the way we need to celebrate our city.”
Cool as ice
Nitro RX’s current second-placed driver in the 2022-23 championship, Andreas Bakkerud, drove Mayor Gondek around the course. It was also his first time getting to drive the track.
“I’ve had a lot of people as my passenger, but definitely, I think one of the first mayors ever taken and her smile all the way through was very cool to witness,” he said.
“All the time we are driving alone, but driving passengers and the joy it gives me to see their smiles: it’s pure, it’s honest.”
During the drive, he got up to 190 kilometres per hour, which was enough to propel the custom build FC1-X electric rally car over the 30 metre tabletop jump in high-flying style, but lower than the speeds the drivers will reach on race day.
As for the mayor during the ride he joked about how she took the ride.
“I heard a scream so yeah,” he laughed.
“No, she was good. She was calm, and I told her before we got in the car that ‘hey, you know you’re in safe hands, a lap is very quickly down, so you just need to enjoy that for a short time.'”
Bakkerud even snuck in an extra lap for Mayor Gondek, saying “I have all the permissions with the mayor in my seat, so I think we’re good.”
Doing great things as a city
Mayor Gondek said the addition of Nitro RX to the winter calendar is a sign that we can do great things as a city.
“This just means that the city is ready to evolve into a future that includes so many different things that we never really experimented with in the past,” she said.
“We can do all of these things, we can host some great crowds, we can host some amazing athletes so let’s get at it.”
Like other major events of its type, the City of Calgary provided financial support to bring Nitro RX to the city. Tourism Calgary said when the series stop was announced last year, that details about that cost were unable to be released due to commercial and competition confidentiality.
Speaking to LiveWire Calgary on Thursday, Nitro RX President Brett Clarke said that the series was returning millions of dollars in economic impact, alongside infrastructure upgrades as a result of the race.
“Just alone here at the park, we’re probably investing over a million dollars into infrastructure and getting the track ready,” he said.
“We’re using the time that would otherwise be dormant as well. That’s important. We’re trying to bring not only events to Calgary but also use facilities that otherwise wouldn’t be used outside of peak periods at the Stampede.”
Bakkerud called the Calgary stop a big one for building the Nitro RX brand and building the sport of rally cross in western North America.
“Nitro Rally Cross is a brand new championship, right? We trying to build it now from the ground up,” he said.
“We have raced fueled cars all our lives, and all of a sudden we have 1000 horsepower electric vehicles, and we want to show this to as many people as possible.
“There’s 20,000 sold tickets, probably going to be 15 per cent more coming in buying tickets at the door, so it’s gonna be cool.”