Kevin Eriksson ensured that Olsbergs MSE swept Nitro Rallycross’ Canadian jaunt by dominating the final at Stampede Park in Calgary.
He defeated Kris Meeke and Travis Pastrana to claim his first Nitro RX victory, although a last-minute format change means his wait for a points-paying win goes on.
Nitro RX’s second snow and ice event was set to be the eighth round of the 10-round 2022-23 season but the Chinook winds that passed through Calgary in the build-up to the event forced event organizers into a radical last-minute rethink, with the unusually high temperatures reducing the amount of ice on the race track.
With a crowd of over 20,000 across the two days – making it the best-attended rallycross event of all-time in North America – series organizers, along with teams and drivers, decided to go ahead with the event, albeit with a revised format dubbed the “Nitro Stampede.”
Needing to maintain the ice on the course, the usual lineup of multi-car races for Sunday was switched out for another round of head-to-head bracket races, followed by a four-car final and consolation race for the remaining five cars.
Eriksson once again made the bracket final, as he had on Saturday, being beaten in the final by Meeke.
The roles were reversed in the main event with Meeke, Conner Martell and Travis Pastrana all struggling for grip off the start while Eriksson rocketed away.
Meeke was quickly swamped by second-row starter Pastrana, but kept the reigning champion in his sights. Pastrana took the joker on the second lap of the race and clipped a wall in the longer route, the conditions turning the ice into slush and reducing the effectiveness of the spec studded tire.
The Northern Irishman’s joker on the fifth lap of six was much more effective, allowing him to emerge in second place, but Eriksson was completely untroubled out front, crossing the line 15.579s ahead.
Pastrana rounded out the podium, with his Vermont SportsCar teammate Martell being classified fourth despite retiring with damage after clipping a wall on the opening lap of the final.
The consolation final, which decided positions five through nine for the overall event classification, went the way of Saturday’s top qualifier Fraser McConnell. He was run close by Trois-Rivières winner Oliver Eriksson, while Oliver Bennett bested the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing JC RX Cartel duo of Robin Larsson and Andreas Bakkerud.
With Larsson and Bakkerud appearing in the consolation final, it marked the first time all season that RX Cartel wasn’t featured on the podium by at least one of its drivers, but with the format change, it had no bearing on the championship, which continues to be led by Larsson ahead of Bakkerud.
In NRX NEXT, which maintained its usual format, Casper Jansson wrapped up the North American title for the second season in a row by beating Jimmy Henderson by 2.323s in the final.
It was Lane Vacala who made the best start to take an early lead, but a lap one joker afforded Jansson some clear air. He subsequently strung together four fast laps before taking the lead on the final lap when Erik Gordon, who inherited the top spot as others cycled through the longer route, took the joker on the final lap.
The 2022-23 Nitro RX season will conclude with a return to Glen Helen Raceway in California for a double-header event for the headline Group E class on March 17-19. Larsson leads by 58 points with McConnell a further 10 points back. Had the Glen Helen finale been a single championship round, Larsson would have wrapped up the title, but with the finale weekend encompassing two points-paying rounds, a maximum of 108 points will be available.
NRX NEXT will also hold a World Final on the same weekend, albeit as a single round format, rather than a double-header as it has at each event during the season.