Jhamal Tucker

Fri, 04 Mar 2022

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When you search Google for The McConnell Story, the first result is an obscure 1955 American war movie based on real-life ace fighter pilot Joseph McConnell. When you ask Jamaicans about the McConnell story, at best you’d get a similar kind of niche response about the kid from Bog Walk, St. Catherine. The sort of response only aficionados of the local motorsport scene could give you. 

The 50’s movie featured the titular McConnell – called “Mac” – aspiring to settle down with his chosen girl, start a family and become an airman for the army. Jamaica’s version of this narrative features a McConnell called “Frazz” who aspires to big things having already begun representing his country at the highest level. Neither story is particularly popular in the mainstream; but where the classic film has been committed to tape and print, Fraser McConnell’s story has only just started, and there’s plenty more to come.

The 23-y-o Fraser McConnell prologues his career as an international Rallycross Driver with the admission that he had no intimate introduction to the sport from his family. In fact, Fraser is the son of Peter, one of the many McConnell’s involved in the family’s actual claim to fame  – farming and manufacturing – the proprietors of the Tru Juice brand. Fraser’s grandparents and that generation of McConnells were the originators of the family’s farming business before his father took over and created Trade Wind Citrus Ltd, where he serves as Managing Director. But as is often the case of the youngest child in a family, Fraser dared to be different and began his love affair with motorsport from an early age.

McConnell said, “I actually grew up watching the rally [Rally Jamaica] pass my house every year so, I guess that’s kind of what sparked the whole interest.” 

This interest manifested itself into motocross –  a form of dirt bike racing – but that was soon deemed too dangerous by his protective parents and so young Frazz took to four-wheeled racing with go-karts and never looked back. Most competitors would tell you, karting teaches much of the foundational skills of motor racing, and McConnell is no different. Learning his craft first from veteran racer and former president of the Jamaica Race Drivers Club, Peter Rae, and then the late Peter Moodie at NG Racing; McConnell said his primary education in the sport was crucial to his later successes. 

“The coaching that I received from both of them is priceless. It’s hard to go into a sport like that and just wing it and just do what you think is right, because if you don’t know it and start bad habits from the beginning you become stubborn and you never really improve,” McConnell explained in a recent 876 Stream Instagram Live interview. 

That tutelage paid dividends in a major way just a few years later. McConnell recounted winning “a lot of championships in Jamaica” including storming to a surprise victory at Rally Jamaica, in 2017. At just 19 years old McConnell became the youngest driver ever to win the event. A year later he was making his Rallycross debut in the North America Rallycross series (ARX) which is a feeder championship to the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA; English: International Automobile Federation) World Rallycross Championship.

The following year in 2019, the series folded and is now defunct, but not before McConnell used it to make history. He won the championship and became Jamaica’s first and only winner of the championship. Also in 2019, McConnell began his international rallycross career with Swedish racing team Olsbergs MSE where he took on some of the world’s best drivers. Indeed in his latest season (in 2021) he secured his first supercar victory, defeating three-time FIA world champion Johan Kristoffersson at the RallyX Nordic in Nysum, Denmark. That performance saw him nominated and win the RJR Sports Foundation People’s Choice Performance of the Year – a testament to his growing popularity.

His time in Sweden brought him a first win in the supercar class and rave reviews from his compatriots. While there in Scandinavia he was exposed to a popular form of racing known as “folk racing”. In a nutshell, folk racing is a system of inclusive racing where the barriers to entry are significantly lower than the more advanced form of the sport; to that end, it’s often referred to as the “everyman class”.

Inspired by his desire to grow the sport in Jamaica from the grassroots, McConnell is planning to create a version of this series on the island, to be dubbed “Yaadman Racing”. This form of racing keeps the price of competition down by insisting on a predetermined spending cap, and then further making all the cars available for sale at the end of a race that anyone can purchase – that is, competitors and spectators alike. 

McConnell says he doesn’t want to initiate a person limit on the event and so he’s biding his time waiting for the opportune moment to kick start the series. In the meantime he’s focusing on the upcoming Nitro Rallycross season which starts in June and rolls through to February of next, which would be the first multi-year season of the event. 

“They [title sponsors Nitro] haven’t released the official calendar but as it stands there’ll be a few in Europe, about four in [North] America and then we’re actually going over to the Middle East. I think the last one is either in Canada in February or somewhere else in America around the same time. It’ll actually be the only motorsport live during [Christmas] time,” McConnell detailed.

With the next chapters of his impressive story already in pre-production, it’s yet to be seen just how far this storied journey will take Fraser McConnell, and more broadly, Jamaican motorsport.

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