It was a commanding victory for Swede Kevin Eriksson after his first ice race win during the inaugural Calgary Nitro RX on Sunday.
Eriksson handily out-competed rival Kris Meeke, putting in 38 second laps to his competitors 40, save the joker where the pair put in 59 seconds and one minute respectfully.
“On the last race, I was P2, so it’s a great feeling,” said Eriksson on his win.
Eriksson’s brother Oliver took the previous series stop win, and the first Nitro RX ice race ever held, at Circuit Trois-Rivières in Quebec.
Going into the final two series stops to be held in Los Angeles, Eriksson said that the focus was to be fast.
“It’s a shame I missed part of the races there with my accident, but I’m going to finish strong,” he said.
The Swede missed the first two series stops for the 2022-23 season, and was sitting in overall eightth position going into the Calgary series stop.
Record-setting attendance, and hopes for return to city
Above-zero temperatures marred the weekend’s races, causing delays to practices and leading to a modified schedule of races from the initial plan.
Brett Clarke, CEO of Nitro RX, told LWC that it was a little bit of an unknown coming to an ice race on a horse track, but the outcome was a positive one regardless for the series.
“You know, if I could have written a script, I would have signed up for that every day. It’s just a great event.”
And in terms of greatness, Calgarians flocked to the inaugural series stop in record numbers. Attendance each day, said Clarke, exceeded 20,000 people and set North American records for the sport of rally cross.
“We were always confident in Calgary from when we originally committed to come here, but this exceeded expectations, and I think next year we go bigger and better again.”
“I mean, this ii our best event ever. I told Tourism Calgary I’d put that on the record that it’s the best event ever, and we want to be back here early next year to make this an annual event,” Clarke said.
Clarke commended the drivers for dealing with the less-than-ideal track conditions, and for giving attendees to the Stampede’s GMC Stadium a great show.
“They knew there’s gonna be challenges, they still want to put on a great show, and that means sacrificing a little bit the championship structure that we’re used to, but they knew that it was important on a good show for the fans,” he said.
McConnell rides highs and lows of Stampede show
Fraser McConnell rode the weekend highs to a pole position on Saturday, to a disappointing first in the consolation final on Sunday after losing out to Travis Pastrana in the quarter-finals.
Still, he said, he was ready to head back to Los Angeles and repeat his clean sweep from last season.
McConnell first came to Calgary to introduce the city to the sport back in November of 2022, and even went so far as to paint the lucky egg from Cool Runnings on his helmet— homage to the movie about the 1988 Calgary Olympics Jamaican bobsled team.
Jamaica’s winningest rally cross driver got a little bit of hometown love in the form of a pair of Jamaican flags that were draped off the grandstand throughout the weekend.
“It’s a big confidence booster, and it makes you want to dig much deeper and find the results that even though it might be hard, you know, you got to really dig deep and know you have that support in the stands,” he said.
He praised the fans who made it out to Stampede Park over the weekend, calling them enthusiastic for the sport. So much so, that they snaked through the GMC Stadium after the races to get autographs from all of the drivers.
“You know, 20,000 fans each day, that’s a big a big crowd and I’m stoked to perform in front of them again next year,” McConnell said.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this without Tourism Calgary or the Calgary Stampede. They really put together a great event, and I’m happy to see that Nitro is working really well with them, and that the sport is well received in Calgary.”