Nitrocross has changed its winter event in Calgary this weekend to a non-championship exhibition following concerns over track conditions after a recent spell of unseasonably warm weather.
The fan experience will remain the same, however, with gates still opening from 3 p.m. as planned. The new format will forgo preliminary rounds in order to maintain track conditions for the condensed racing schedule in the afternoon.
“It’s always been our goal to deliver the most exciting, action packed racing experience for the fans of Calgary and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Nitrocross general manager Chip Pankow told RACER. “With Sunday’s shift to an exhibition format, we have given our track the necessary time to properly freeze and produce the type of racing people have come to expect, whether that’s our Baja Bugs, NEXT class, or the premier Group E electric vehicles that highlight Nitrocross.
“Safety and race integrity are our top priorities, ensuring the best conditions for both drivers and fans. Despite the weather challenges we’ve fought, the success of events like yesterday’s Fan Fest and last year’s race in Calgary made it clear we had to ‘send it.’”
Speaking ahead of the weekend, Pankow detailed the track build process, which began several months ago.
“We create all the contours of the track when the dirt is still pliable, then we wait for it to snow. At this point we compact the snow, and that creates a nice bedding for the ice, and then it’s all about adding water, and you add water millimeter by millimeter, lap after lap.”
While the Calgary area experienced record low temperatures in January, the more recent Chinook winds and sun have massively changed the situation. A last minute reprieve in the form of overnight snow and a significant drop in temperatures on Sunday morning will allow the revised event to go ahead, but in terms of a full championship round, it’s proven to be too little, too late.
“Snow melts pretty quickly, but ice melts very slowly so it’s not like we’re losing centimeters and centimeters of ice. We get a water layer on the top, and then luckily just about every night we’ve been able to go and replace that,” Pankow said of the weather situation. “Our team gets to the track at and then replaces w ith watering and we can get a freeze happening. It’s actually good to have a little period of warm weather; it actually toughens up the ice a little bit, as long as you can get a good layer of ice in there.”
F or Nitrocross’ snow and ice events – of which this will be the third after a points-paying visit to Quebec last year as well as another weather-affected exhibition in Calgary – the series uses specially-developed Yokohama tires which have 325 12mm long studs in each, which is another reason why the ice needs to be in peak condition.
“The thing with the ice is people always think it’s slippery or you have to be careful, but it’s actually the opposite,” said Kevin Erikkson, winner of last year’s Nitrocross event at Stampede park. “You have to be more aggressive, you have to carry more speed into the corners because that’s what gives you grip. You don’t really look for the grip, you create the grip yourself by throwing the car in, kind of going backwards and getting the studs to dig in.”
Eriksson emerged triumphant after warm temperatures forced the series’ hand last year, but despite the change, he says the Canadian fanbase remained as passionate as ever.
“This was something else and you could really see the passion that they all had, and also it was something brand new for all of them,” he said. “And that was the grandstand, but also the autograph signing after the race… I think we were signing until 11 p.m. and the queue never ended, so it was so great to see that it was such a big passion for motorsport and Nitrocross in particular up here in Calgary.”