Fraser McConnell on his Extreme E debut

Fraser McConnell made his hotly anticipated Extreme E debut at the season-ending Uruguay Natural Energy X Prix last month for JBXE. It had been a long time coming for the Jamaican, who had been the series’ Championship Driver since the NEOM Island X Prix double-header in July. Extreme E caught up with McConnell who reviewed his 2022 with the series, his first X Prix and catching the eyes of the paddock out on track.

Extreme E: You have had quite a year with the series! How did it start?
Fraser McConnell: It all happened so quickly! I got the call from James Taylor (Chief Championship Officer) in the summer just before the double-header in Sardinia, asking if I would be a Championship Driver and then was on a plane!

It all happened at short notice, but it was such an incredible opportunity that I could not say no. As a driver you always look for your breakthrough moment and I intended to grab the chance with both hands. I have loved being involved with Extreme E – it is such a big, important championship and I was honoured to get the call.

XE: You seemed to thrive in the role of Championship Driver. How would you describe the role?
FM: For the NEOM Island X Prix double-header I was able to spend quite a bit of time in the ODYSSEY 21 and then I continued the role in Chile for the next round. With every session I got more acclimatised with the whole team, particularly those on the Sporting side, as well as Continental.

I was really involved and trusted with making sure that the data I was giving back was detailed and useful for the whole team. I even got to carry out Continental tyre development testing in Sardinia, which was a great experience. It offered me a lot of seat time in the ODYSSEY 21 which is priceless – not many have driven the car and I was able to get in it a lot! It was an honour.

XE: When did you start having aspirations to get behind the wheel in race trim?
FM: As a driver you always want to be racing and competing. In Chile I really started to feel it, though. We carried out a pre-event test session with Continental and Spark. Those are just about bedding yourself in to see what’s possible. You are never really pushing too hard for an all-out lap-time in those sessions. It is close to a race simulation, but never flat out.

However, when we checked the data, some of my laps were amongst the fastest of the whole weekend and that spread around the paddock! It must have sparked JBXE’s interest when they had a seat available at the finale in Punta del Este, which was such a great feeling.

XE: Is that how the drive with JBXE at the Season Finale came your way?
FM: Possibly, but also partly with my relationship with Jenson [Button, JBXE Team Owner] in Nitro Rallycross. He had seen me compete already, but my role as Championship Driver helped to confirm it. I was grateful for the opportunity in Uruguay and it was definitely an experience of a lifetime.

I was a fan of Extreme E last year right from the outset – so to go from that to Championship Driver to racer was so special. I did the best I could do when I got behind the wheel in Punta del Este.

XE: Do you think your involvement with Extreme E has improved you as a driver?
FM: I would say that jumping into the ODYSSEY 21 in Italy was the first time I had been in an ‘off-road’ vehicle. I didn’t know what the car was capable of but, after a bit of accelerating and braking, it was incredible to see just what the ODYSSEY 21 could do.

It could manage any terrain – it was fun to me and totally new. With Extreme E there is very little time out on course. You have to extract the most you can and be at 110% all the time.

In Rallycross there isn’t much seat time either, therefore it requires lots of mental preparation so that when you are on track you are confident, especially through the corners. You must focus on being quick and precise minimal mistakes.

XE: How were JBXE to work with?
FM: They were really cool and a solid group of guys. I loved the mechanics and the whole team. Working with Hedda [Hosås] was awesome, too, and we really helped to bring each other along and develop each other’s race craft. I also noticed how feisty Hedda was out on course – we really bounced off each other and complemented each other well in Uruguay.

XE: What did you make of your race debut in Uruguay and what learnings did you take from it?
FM: Despite the end result, I left the track feeling positive. Having the DNF in Q1 did put a damper on us and set the team back quite a bit. Nevertheless, however, we put together a decent run in Q2 and got stuck in. I did not get lots of race time, but still felt we had a solid performance. We enjoyed ourselves on the course.

Overall, I was happy with my pace. We could see we were up there – and I felt that we both got stuck in immediately. With more seat time I definitely think we could have done more and that’s a good feeling to have.

You can never be fast enough and there’s always room to improve – I still look back and analyse, even now – we always do. Hindsight is definitely a big thing as a driver.

XE: What are your hopes for next year?
FM: I would love to remain in the series. I have my eyes on competing regularly and a seat – but let’s see what happens. It has been a remarkable year. Stayed tuned!

The Championship heads into its third season with X Prix rounds kicking off in NEOM, Saudi Arabia on March 11-12 before heading off to Scotland, back to Sardinia, to the US or the Brazilian Amazon, with the finals ending in Chile.

To learn more about Extreme E, visit – www.Extreme-E.com

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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