McConnell tops chilly Nitro RX qualifying at Trois-Rivieres

Fraser McConnell emerged as top qualifier from Nitro Rallycross’ first snow and ice event at Circuit Trois-Rivières in Quebec.

The Jamaican, who had never driven on ice with studded tires until last week when he headed to Finland for some last minute training, defeated Dreyer & Reinbold stablemate Andreas Bakkerud in the final of the head-to-head “Battle Bracket” to take his second TQ of the 2022-23 season.

With the conditions not quite cold enough to facilitate optimum track conditions, the series did away with its multi-car battle seeding heats for the first time since their introduction at round two in Strangnas, Sweden, while the head-to-head Bracket races were cut from three laps to two, with the joker being reintroduced having previously been a non-factor in the two-car races.

Both McConnell and Bakkerud struggled for grip off the line in the final, but it was the Jamaican who prevailed to gap Bakkerud into turn one. A brush with the bank on the inside of the first corner allowed Bakkerud to close the gap momentarily, but McConnell wasn’t too affected by the brief bump and romped home to a relatively easy victory.

En route to the final, McConnell made light work of World Rally Championship regular Kris Meeke, who slowed with issues in their opening battle. Meeke’s day started with gearbox issues in first practice, with the team needing to replace it ahead of second practice.

McConnell took another comfortable win in the semifinals, defeating Oliver Eriksson, who’d beaten Travis Pastrana in the prior round after Pastrana hit a bank and spun before retiring due to visibility issues.

The early exit compounded a difficult day for Pastrana, who dislocated his thumb in practice after his car’s power steering failed just before he took to the track’s jump.

Bakkerud’s path to the final was less straightforward, resisting a charging Kevin Eriksson in his first race, before overcoming heavy pressure from his Monster Energy RX Cartel team-mate Robin Larsson at the semifinal stage.